The difference between stress and anxiety can often be hard to determine, because the two exhibit very similar symptoms, and can even have the same cause. One of the main differences between stress and anxiety is that stress typically has a clearly identifiable cause set in the present, whereas anxiety may be a more general feeling of fear about what might happen in the future, without a definitive cause.
Stress and anxiety can be caused by similar situations. These might include being too busy at work, having to speak in front of a crowded room, or worrying about finishing a project to the standards of a boss. One important difference between stress and anxiety, however, is that anxiety without cause can be classified as a mental disorder, and can progress to phobias or additional mental disorders.
Stress, on the other hand, is never qualified as a mental disorder. People with persistent anxiety may find relief by talking with a therapist or taking anti-anxiety medication; other options may include relaxation techniques such as yoga or meditation, or by attempting to face certain fears in order to overcome them. Anxiety may be a lifelong condition that needs to be managed.
Stress, on the other hand, is typically a temporary problem, and can be managed by overcoming the sources of stress. For instance, if one is stressed about not having enough time to complete a project at work, a way to eliminate stress might be to ask for an extension. Stress caused by arguing with a spouse may be helped by working on communication techniques. Once the source of the stress is removed, the stress should disappear as well.
Stress and anxiety can be equally debilitating, however, and can cause similar symptoms such as headaches, muscle tension, fatigue, even nausea and a racing heart. Over time, these effects from stress and anxiety can be very detrimental to overall health, so it is important to manage these issues as soon as possible. Persistent stress can lead to high blood pressure, stroke or a heart attack, for example.
One excellent way to manage stress and anxiety is to get some daily exercise. Even a short walk at lunchtime can make a big difference. Cutting back on caffeine and getting enough sleep are also important, as well as eating a healthy diet. Taking steps to managing anxiety and stress can be a positive step towards a healthier lifestyle, and overall mood and energy level improvement.