Several weeks ago, when I wrote an article about how important it is to know that we all are more than our anxiety, I realized that I hadn’t written about what anxiety is.
Although it may seem quite obvious, because we’ve all been anxious at some point, I believe that defining anxiety and sharing basic information about it can be useful. Having this information can help us name what we feel and understand it better by expressing it through words.
Anxiety is not the same as stress.
Although we use them as synonyms, technically they are not the same. Stress is the process that originates when environmental demands exceed the adaptive capacity of an organism. Because of this, stress is usually temporary (although it isn’t always the case) and its cause is more easily identifiable than that of anxiety. Stress also tends to disappear once the individual adapts to the environment or when the stressor is no longer present.
On the other hand, anxiety is considered the emotional response to stress. Usually accompanied by feelings of restlessness, fear, and nervousness. It’s usually associated with excessive worries. It can also be considered as an apprehensive expectation.
These are literally textbook definitions. If you want to know more about stress and anxiety, I recommend this article.
The manifestations of anxiety.
The symptoms of anxiety can be truly worrisome. Muscle tension, shortness of breath, suffocation, tremor or numbness of extremities, stomach pain, and nausea, are some of its most common manifestations. Hence the importance of being able to express what we feel through words. When we do not know very well what we feel, much less why, our body manifests these discomforts.
Anxiety also has a very strong cognitive component. Thinking of the misfortunes that can come knocking on our door, or pondering on the most unfortunate cases we could get to live… becomes part of our daily routine with anxiety. It’s said that anxiety is an excess of future, and I agree.
But of course, since such thoughts can be so negative and absurd, we keep them to ourselves. We try to ignore and control them. And so, the anxiety cycle begins again. Only inhabiting in our own bodies.
A simple step forward is to recognize how our body manifests anxiety. Logically, not everyone has the same symptoms or with the same intensity. If we learn to recognize the signals of our body, it’ll become easier to do something for ourselves.
Anxiety can be treated.
It is completely normal to feel anxiety. It exists to make us alert. To create movement. But what happens when it doesn’t leave?
Anxiety can occur even when there is no apparent triggering factor. That is, someone can be anxious without any reason. And even when the person is aware of this, he or she can’t control that anxiety. When this happens, or when the symptoms of anxiety become incapacitating to perform day-to-day activities, I recommend seeking professional help.
There is no life full of certainties and absolute happiness. Uncertainty and frustration will always be a part of life. And this is precisely why taking charge of strengthening our resources to face this uncertainty is so important. It is in our hands to find the balance.
If you suffer from anxiety or know someone to whom this information may be useful, please share this article. Also, these links below may interest you:
- 6 Self-help resources. A post where I share several guides and free materials.
- 5 Anxiety-Busting Self-Care Techniques You Haven’t Heard Of Yet. A helpful article with some self-care tips.