Prolonged periods of stress can cause depression, suppress the immune system and eventually lead to heart disease and stroke. In certain cases, the stress response is an outburst of anger or aggression and in others it can be depression or panic or anxiety attacks as well.
Just as anxiety is one of the many effects of stress, anxiety can also be caused by various other conditions. Anxiety is the body’s reaction to an endogenous or exogenous demand placed on the system. It is the human body’s response to threat and is initiated by release of hormones that make the heart pump blood faster, increase breathing rate and tense the muscles.
While there is no doubt that the body needs an energy boost and a higher dose of adrenaline release under threat, recurrent episodes can cause an uneasy feeling all the time. Anxiety attacks are marked by unexplained fear, fast breathing and rapid heart beat.
Symptoms of Stress Related Anxiety
While many use the terms anxiety, stress, tension, feeling uptight, jitters, and apprehension interchangeably, anxiety is actually caused by prolonged or acute stress. The symptoms of stress related anxiety are:
- Trembling hands or twitching
- Neuromuscular and muscle pains including tension headaches
- Difficulty in swallowing due to a dry mouth
- Abdominal pain: this may be the only symptom of stress in children
- Increased or irregular heartbeat
- Frequent urge to urinate or diarrhea
- Body jolts or intense body tremor
- Irritability or short temper
It is important to understand these symptoms so as to know when the anxiety attacks can be traced back to stress. This is essential because anxiety has various other causes like drug overdose and alcoholism and the like.
There is also a difference between anxiety and anxiety disorders. For a condition to be considered as an anxiety disorder, the following symptoms will need to be observed and assessed.
- Panic attacks – a feeling of being overwhelmed with fear without apparent reason.
- Mind is preoccupied with fear – an inability to get out of fearful thoughts, for example, house burning or infested with germs.
- Spending too much time every day in doing things again and again – for example, washing hands, counting and checking things.
- Level of anxiety interfering with daily work schedule.
- Restlessness, easy distractibility, tension, irritation and exhaustion.
- Fear of inappropriate level of a situation or an object – spiders, heights, dogs and water – phobias including social phobia.
Management of Stress Related Anxiety
The most effective way of managing stress related anxiety is to identify and address the origin of your stress or anxiety. Take stock of your feelings and try to understand what is worrying you the most. Try and introspect and understand what makes you sad or depressed. If you are unable to understand this easily, keep a diary and note your experiences and see what thoughts are leading stress or anxiety.
Very often finding someone in whom you can confide and share your feelings is all that is needed to relieve stress and anxiety. You can also look for a support group within your community or go online to locate one.
Make sure that you use the following healthy ways to cope with stress and anxiety. These can be extremely helpful in the long term.
- Eat a balanced diet and avoid junk foods and overeating.
- Take adequate sleep.
- Exercise regularly and adopt an active lifestyle.
- Restrict caffeine and alcohol intake.
- Say no to smoking and all types of recreational drugs.
- Learn and practice stress management techniques like yoga, meditation, guided imagery, Tai Chi.
- Indulge in fun activities.
- Spend time with people you enjoy being with.
- Consider herbs for stress and anxiety.
If self help does not work for you then there may be a need for consulting your health care provider. The following symptoms of stress and anxiety are serious. Call emergency if you see the following symptoms:
- Acute chest pain, especially if accompanied by breathlessness and sweating.
- Recurrent thoughts of suicide
- Giddiness, rapid breathing and fast heartbeat if it is for the first time or if it changes for the worse.
A certain amount of stress is an integral part of daily life. It becomes a problem only when you feel overwhelmed by the challenges that life presents to you. The specific aspects that can cause stress to you are individualistic in nature and may be very different from the events that are likely to cause stress to another. And therefore a significant part of stress lies in the mind of each individual.