Is it stress, anxiety or panic?

While we often think of stress and anxiety in the context of mental health, they can affect physical health, as well. Anyone who has experienced anxiety understands how it can feel physically when you’re stressed or anxious; your heart may race, you may have headaches, or your stomach can feel like it’s in knots.

If you find yourself stressed and anxious on more days than not, or if you have a hard time keeping your worry under control, you’re not alone. Most people experience anxiety at some point in their lives, and more than 18% of adults in the U.S. have an anxiety disorder.

The good news is that together with your doctor, friends and family, you can find ways to manage your stress and anxiety so you can maintain a healthy mind and body.

How to manage stress and anxiety

If it’s hard to control your stress and anxiety, find someone to share your feelings with and be sure to talk with your doctor. You can also try these tips for keeping stress and anxiety at bay:

Eat right

balanced diet and plenty of water can help your body better process stress. Avoid too much caffeine, alcohol and processed foods, such as candy, chips, and fast food.

Stay active

During exercise, your brain releases endorphins that trigger positive feelings and make you feel better both physically and mentally.

Try meditation or yoga

Yoga, meditation, deep breathing, counting to 10, music and massages can help you step away from your stresses and allow you to clear your head.

Get enough sleep

Sleep is an integral part of a healthy lifestyle, and during times of stress, it is essential to refreshing your body and mind. Most adults need between 7-9 hours per night.

Understand your triggers

Try using a journal to keep track of your activities and feelings and identify what triggers your stress and anxiety (but don’t stress about journaling!).

Stay positive

During stressful moments, remember: We cannot control everything in our lives and no one is perfect.

Ask for help

Don’t be afraid to talk to a doctor, friend, relative or therapist. You don’t have to tackle this alone. If you don’t have a doctor, you can find one in our regional directory.

How stress and anxiety affect the body

Your body responds to stress with increased heart rate, blood pressure and hormone production. While these responses are normal, they can cause problems if they last for multiple weeks or months.

Eventually, this can put a strain on your heart, arteries and blood vessels, leading to possible risk of hypertension, stroke and heart attack. Anxiety can also cause muscle pain, digestion issues, immune system response, and sexual and reproductive health.

What is the difference between stress and anxiety?

Stress is your body’s response to a tense or difficult situation. Anxiety caused by stress lasts longer than the stressful event.

Many find it hard to keep anxious feelings under control and have excessive worry outside of a specific stressful event (for at least six months); this may be generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). If left untreated, GAD can cause irritability, concentration problems, muscle tension, insomnia and fatigue.

What’s the difference between an anxiety attack and a panic attack?

If you have GAD, you’re probably no stranger to anxiety attacks and symptoms like sweating, rapid heart rate, and trouble breathing. These can be uncomfortable but are not uncommon.

Panic attacks are like anxiety attacks but usually happen without warning. Frequent panic attacks may be caused by an anxiety disorder called panic disorder.

Whether you’re experiencing anxiety for the first time or managing an anxiety disorder, remember you’re not alone. Your friends, family and doctor can help you cope with symptoms and maintain a happy and healthy life.

If you are looking for a primary care doctor, you can find one in the links below. Otherwise you can search for the type of doctor that’s right for you in our regional directory.






About the Author

The Providence Health Team brings together caregivers from diverse backgrounds to bring you clinically-sound, data-driven advice to help you live your happiest and healthiest selves.

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