Although they seem somewhat similar and often are experienced together, there is a distinct difference.
Stress is the psycho-neuro-biological response to a feeling of concern, where there is a demand on the system, where there is an activation of emotion (both positive and negative). Technically, stress is a normal response that is stimulated by demand and naturally rises and dissipates every moment of the day. In many ways we have wronly named the disturbing thing we feel as stress. It is actually ‘distress’ or the stress that has gone ‘bad’. This is mostly because the situation - the demand - has not been resolved. This prolongs the time when we are in stress and this soon (certainly after a few hours, but definitely after a day or so) becomes something chronic and triggers stronger responses. After a lengthy time (weeks0 we enter into chronic stress issues that our bodies are not well evolved to handle. 50,000 years ago if you didn;t sort out a demand within a few weeks you most likely died or became severly debilitated and did not reproduce.
Anxiety, on the other hand, is a demand that we becoem stressed about. Anxiety, however, is not a demand of the present moment. It is a fear of the future, of what might happen. When something is happening, you are no longer anxious about it because it is an event creating a demand (which may cause you stress). Anxiety is sometimes described as worry, which is ok to some extent, but worry is less demanding that anxiety. When you start to be anxious about your worries, then you amplify your stress levels.
So, anxiety is fear based and it triggers the stress response. It is not the stress , or the distress, that is the main issue, it is the reasons for the anxiety. In therapy it is important to reduce the stress, but the therapy should focus on the anxiety - what is it about your life, your history or those around you or even the demands of society that take you out of the present and oput your mind into a focus on a fearful future.
If you would like further discussion about your specific issue, feel free to make contact.
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