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Understanding the differences between worry, stress, and anxiety can help provide a feeling of comfort.
Rather than irrationally suffering with all of these feelings, learning about it can help you deal with it.
Keep reading to understand the differences and develop more awareness around your mental state.
What is Worry?
Worry happens when your mind dwells on negative thoughts, uncertain outcomes or things that can go wrong.
It tends to be repetitive thoughts.
Worry happens only in your mind, not in your body.
How does worry work?
Worry does offer some value to us. It enables us to problem-solve or take action.
When we think about an uncertain situation, such as not getting the job you want or not being able to cover your bills at the end of the month – your brain becomes stimulated.
Worrying calms the brain down, it is a way for the brain to handle problems to keep us safe.
It only becomes an issue when you get stuck on those repetitive, unhelpful thoughts.
What is Stress?
Stress is a physiological response connected to an external event.
For the stress cycle to begin, there must be a stressor. This is usually an external deadline, such as a work deadline, or the end of the month is coming up and you don’t have any money.
When our body faces stress, whether from an internal or external source, a vital response kicks in which is known as ‘fight or flight’ response.
Thousands of years ago our biggest threat that sparked this response was trying to avoid a wild animal attack or wondering when you’d next eat.
What happens to the body in fight or flight mode?
When the body is in fight or flight mode, adrenaline and cortisol is released.
The heart rate goes up and blood gets pumped to your limbs and away from the digestive and reproductive system.
Pupils dilate to help you see and the mind becomes hyper-vigilant.
The blood sugar levels go up too.
What is Anxiety?
If stress and worry are the symptoms, anxiety is the culmination. Anxiety has a cognitive element (worry) and a physiological response (stress), which means that anxiety is experienced in both mind and body.
Do you remember how stress is a response to a threat?
Anxiety acts in the same way, but there is no threat.
To put this in an example: you show up at work and your boss gives you an off look.
What do you do? You start to have all the physiology of a stress response because you’re telling yourself that your boss is upset with you. The blood is flowing, adrenaline is pumping, your body is in a state of fight or flight.
But there is no predator, and your boss isn’t mad at you.
Understanding the difference between worry, stress, and anxiety and why our bodies create the sensation it does can begin to reduce the negative impact that is felt.
Worry happens in the mind.
Stress happens in the body.
Anxiety happens in the mind and body.