How many times has someone told you that you just need to “calm down”? Or maybe you’ve been told time and time again that you stress out too much. Growing up, I was the queen of stress – or so I thought. Then I experienced my first panic attack, and I learned shortly thereafter that it wasn’t “just stress”. It was anxiety. So what’s the difference between stress and anxiety, and how do you know where you fall along the spectrum? Keep reading young grasshopper.
The Big Exam
Put yourself in these shoes: it’s May 1st and your teachers have just put your final exam schedule on the board. You have 2 weeks to study, but you know that you need to start prepping now. If you don’t, all hell will break loose. Your LIFE depends on it. It’s been drilled into your head for so many years…must study hard; must get good grades; must get into great college. Before you know it, these exams have stimulated all of the feels. Nothing seems to be more important than these exams. Over the course of the next 2 weeks, you can’t sleep through the night. You are exhausted. Your thoughts are spinning. Your chest feels a little tighter. You are nervous as hell. Then 3 weeks later, all is right with the world and those exams that were once SO damn important are now a blip on the map of your life.
This my badass beauty, is stress.
Stress is our body’s response to a specific situation, usually something temporary. For many, stress is a conditioned emotion that is associated with some external stimulus. For me, exams were a biggie. Job stress. Public speaking. Moving to a new town. Your first college party. A change to your routine. Stress comes in a variety flavors, all pretty crappy.
I’m Afraid Of Everything, And Nothing
Put yourself in these 6-inch heels: you wake up at 9 AM on Saturday morning. The sun is shining through the windows, and a warm breeze gently brushes your skin. Your husband is cooking blueberry pancakes, and the faint scent of coffee dances through the house. You have all the time in the world today. You have the freedom to do whatever you want for the first time in a long time. Sounds like bliss, doesn’t it? Five minutes into the morning, and your thoughts start to turn gray. You begin worrying about everything and nothing all at once. You should be enjoying this beautiful morning, but for some reason you can’t! Your thoughts and emotions simply won’t let you. And just like that, your bliss turns to blah.
What are you afraid of? What are you worried about? Sometimes you have the answer. Other times, you have no idea where any of these negative feelings are coming from. When fear becomes conditioned, you’ve got yourself some anxiety. Sometimes, the fear is valid. Many times, the fear isn’t even real.
Stress weakens the brain’s ability to cope overtime. When stress becomes chronic, anxiety is often the result. Sweating. Stomach pains. Emotional outbursts. Headaches. Weakened immune system. Depression. The highest highs, and the lowest lows. Anxiety does not discriminate – and it also does not look one way.
So what now? Here’s the thing. YOU are a badass warrior. YOU are stronger than you know. YOU do NOT have to settle. Don’t become complacent. DO something to help yourself. Start here.
If you or someone you know is struggling with stress or anxiety, say something. Help is always just a phone call away.