Are You Worried, Stressed or Anxious? What is the Difference?

Posted on March 11th 2020 by Laura Armstrong

Your heart is racing, palms are sweating and your breathing is shallow. You are anxious.

Or are you stressed? Worried even?

If you find it hard to distinguish between stress, worry, and anxiety, you are not alone.

With symptoms that overlap, knowing which one you are experiencing at any given time can be tricky, but there are subtle differences.

Read our guide to the differences between anxiety, stress, and worry to see which one you are experiencing and what you can do to overcome it.

Is it worry?

Worry is the thoughts, emotions, and actions driven by negative thinking.

Some people worry about everything. You can probably identify people in your life who are constant worriers. They appear to be the eternal pessimist – always expecting or preparing for the worst.

Most of us worry from time to time but when it becomes chronic, worry can interfere with your daily life. The pattern of negative thoughts can become an uncontrollable cycle which escalates into irrational fears if left unchecked.

How to stop worrying

If you find yourself fixated on a problem, do not let your worries get the better of you.

With over thirty years of experience, award-winning therapist, Marisa Peer, reminds us that something is “only a problem if you make it a problem.” Marisa advises considering The Three Ps to get perspective on a problem.

It must be permanent – it never goes away
It must be all-pervasive – occurring at all times, every minute of the day
It must be personal
Asking yourself these questions will enable you to feel empowered and help you feel in control of the situation.

Is it stress?

While worry is caused by our internal thoughts, stress is a reaction to external pressures. Examples of stress triggers include moving house, going through a divorce, becoming a parent or an important interview.

Stress has an impact on both the mind and the body.

What happens when we are stressed?

Stress is not just in your head, it is in your body. 77% of people report experiencing stress that affects their physical health.

Symptoms can include:

Difficulty sleeping
Muscle tension
Clenched jaw
Chest pains
Digestive problems
Shallow breathing
When the cause is external, we can feel at a loss as to how to overcome it. However, you have the power to deal with stress as this article demonstrates.

When we are stressed, we trigger our sympathetic nervous system. This means we are constantly in ‘fight or flight’ mode. To free yourself from the effects of stress, you need to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system – this is where healing and renewal occur.

Make time for calming activities, which slow your heart rate, like meditation or listening to soothing music.

You can free yourself from stress.

Listening to a guided meditation or hypnosis audio can help you feel calm both in the moment and long-term by providing you with practical, empowering techniques to manage stress.

What is anxiety?

While stress is caused in response to external factors, anxiety is characterized as a “persistent feeling of apprehension or dread” in a situation where there is no threat.

If you hate your job and you are stressed, once you quit, the symptoms of stress will go away on their own. However, anxiety lingers after the problem has been resolved.

With anxiety, you will envisage a threat where there is none. Reading too much into an email from a colleague and fearing that your job is at risk is anxiety. The threat is imagined but feels very real to you.

Anxious feelings can manifest into an anxiety disorder which has a significant impact on your day-to-day life and wellbeing. Anxiety disorders include panic disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), and social phobia. Find out more about different anxiety disorders.

How to overcome anxiety

You do not have to live with anxiety. You can rewire your mind to think and respond differently to the situations which cause you to feel anxious.

It does not need to be a complicated process either. Marisa Peer has created a highly-effective hypnosis audio to enable you to overcome anxiety and lead a life free from racing thoughts.

Worry and how it affects the mind.

I don’t think I have seen a better illustration on how worry can affect our minds. The late Alan Watts narrates this short video.

Alan Watts was a 20th Century British philosopher known for popularising the Zen and Buddhist teachings in Western Society, moving them from a religion to a way of life. Writing over 25 books and holding over 400 lectures, Watts became one of the most popular philosophers of his time.