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Can stress make your Anxiety Worse?

I like to think of anxiety and stress as being closely related to each other. After all, both are related to various hormones being elevated such as cortisol and corticotropin. So yes, stress can make your anxiety worse, especially long-term chronic stress. Stress can cause the anxiety to begin, and can cause anxiety you already have to worsen.

What is The Difference Between Stress and Anxiety

Although related, stress and anxiety are different monsters. Stress mainly is a response to a particular situation, whereas anxiety is an internal response to worry. Stress is a reaction to something happening outside of you, like a bad day at work, getting caught in traffic, or your kid screaming in the store. Anxiety is caused more by things going on internally- things you worry about. Anxiety can happen even when there is no external stressor present. This is what makes it so frustrating for many people. There’s nothing they can point at and say, “this here! This is the reason for my anxiety!” So yes, they are very similar, yet different. Clear as mud, right? But this means that learning to manage your stress can help you with your anxiety as well.

The good news is that many of the techniques that will help you to manage your stress will also help you manage your anxiety.

Tips to Manage Stress

  1. Eat a healthy diet. I think we all know the deal here- eat a variety of fresh, colorful foods with lots of fruits and veggies and aim for lower-fat proteins like fish or legumes. Don’t forget to drink lots of water too!

  2. Sleep! Americans are chronically short on sleep which is so bad for our health in so many different ways! If you’re having trouble sleeping, check out my blog on the subject here.

  3. Deep breathing. This is great for anxiety, stress, and for your overall well-being so if you aren’t already practicing deep breathing, try it today. Here’s my blog on it.

  4. Exercise. Even taking a walk can be helpful. It doesn’t have to be a monster workout, just move your body. If there’s a sport or activity you enjoy that makes you move your body, do that! Making it fun will help you to do it regularly.

  5. Play with your pet. Animals can really help us to decrease our stress and feel calmer.

  6. Give someone a hug. Physical contact with another person will release the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin. These neurotransmitters help you to regulate your mood and will help you to relieve stress and anxiety.

7. Spend some time in nature. I’ve just heard of this concept of “nature deficit disorder” though it looks like it’s been around for years. It is not a diagnosis, but the idea of an author who believes that we don’t spend enough of our time in nature and that this has a negative effect on our psyche. Studies actually show that spending time in nature can decrease feelings of anger, anxiety, and stress while increasing your well-being. And this doesn’t mean you have to go to a huge forest either. A small city park with green scape works wonderfully.

8. Practice Meditation or yoga. We’ve known for years what a difference this can make in our lives. Enough said.

9. Work in the garden. There is something about feeling soil on your skin whether that’s on your feet or with your hands, that helps to literally ground us and bring us a sense of peace. And what you grow can also bring with it a sense of satisfaction that helps reduce stress as well.

10. Meet up with a friend for coffee. Socialization will release the hormones Oxytocin and dopamine which will help you to manage your stress. They also will increase your confidence in your ability to manage stress! Double bonus! And the quality of the interaction makes a definite difference- meeting someone that you are close to will help more than meeting with a group of people that you hardly know.

11. Do something nice for someone else. Again, this will activate your neurotransmitters helping you to feel an increased sense of well-being and help to reduce your stress & anxiety.

Closing Thoughts

I hope some of these suggestions help you to better manage your stress and your anxiety. If you want to talk further with someone about anxiety treatment, please contact me at the link. I’d love to hear from you.


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