The Difference Between Stress & Anxiety

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Stress and anxiety are the most common reasons why people seek wellness services, whether it's psychotherapy, massage, yoga or acupuncture; stress and anxiety. We are so stressed and we are so anxious, and I have some thoughts about the difference between these two things.

To me, stress tends to be external. For example, I'm stressed when I spend a whole day assembling IKEA furniture for The Cove. I can feel it in my body, it’s like my body has been through something, that's stress. Or, I'm stressed when business problems come up, such as difficult conversations. I feel stress.

Now this isn't black and white at all, but stress you feel it in your body, you're tired, you're jangled, your nerves are jangled, you have too much overwhelm, too many personal responsibilities, too many work responsibilities. Everything’s all over the place and your phone's blowing up! Stress.

When somebody is stressed, what they need is to calm down, their nervous system needs a break. So, they need the beach, they need nature, they need physical touch, they need to breathe, eat healthy food, they need things like massage, meditation and yoga, anything that helps you come down and your body heal from the jangled feeling. It's like it going to a big crowded event - that's stressful. You need to come down and have a hot bath.

So, then what's anxiety? Now again, it not black and white, they're not two discreet things. To me, anxiety comes from the inside. Freud talked about free floating anxiety, and this is incredible when you experience it, it’s anxiety from the inside that then attaches to things. I'm sure you can think of an example of a person in your life who no matter what is happening, they are anxious and their perception is that it's about the things in their life. It’s actually anxiety from the inside. They are anxious and so they're anxious about all the things.

This is why it's not black and white because stress, as we develop our awareness and our hearts, less and less will stress us. We have better boundaries, we know where to stop, we know what to ask for, we know what our needs are. We’re also less permeable, stuff doesn't get to us as much. So, it's not black and white, anxiety is always present, it's even present on the beach.

Usually, when people come to see a health care professional for stress or anxiety, the first level is dealing with the stress, helping them calm down. Then the second piece is dealing with the inner anxiety, and this is a much tougher nut to crack. This is the one that can be life changing when we get to it. For example, what is that primal anxiety? What is it expressing? It can be about your early years; it can be about other pieces of trauma that you didn't even know were trauma, it can be about intergenerational things, it can be something you've picked if you're very sensitive, that something you've picked from around you.

With stress, I would recommend massage, yoga and meditation. I would also recommend those for anxiety and I would recommend that we must go a whole level deeper, go a level into expressing feeling, into discharging energy. That could be acupuncture, that could be spiritual healing, that could the cathartic work, expressing your feelings. That could also be psychotherapy, it could be a whole range of different things and probably a combination. That's the level where you're working to express what's in your body constantly. The thing that's making you not able to sleep, the thing that's making you not able to rest and to see what's so beautiful around you, the thing that's causing you to latch onto everything that's anxious.

That’s how I see the difference between stress and anxiety, obviously, they go together and I think it's important to have some sense of where you're at and what you're needing. Everybody who feels stress needs to calm down and then look at what is the next layer? Is there a next layer for you in terms of getting at that constant worry that'll come up at the most beautiful time? Often it does come up at the most beautiful times, and what can we do about that?

I encourage you to think about that and I would love to hear your thoughts about stress and anxiety and what has worked for you in helping you work through some of these things. If you do need to de-stress, we have Friday nights at The Cove, we have acupuncture, we have meditation classes, private lessons and classes. These are amazing for de-stressing.

Then on the anxiety side, we have acupuncture, Chinese medicine and naturopathic medicine. Working on lifestyle, herbal supplements, homeopathics to support you in opening some of these things up. We have psychotherapy, including movement therapy, we have EFT, tapping, and hypnotherapy, another great one to get at what's underneath. We have emotional bodywork which is cathartic work that helps you to express the emotions in your body in a really, really, safe place. We also have spiritual healing because sometimes the anxiety gets into, it comes from a place that needs some spiritual or energetic work to move it.

I also have a plunging session where you can come in and talk about all the layers and what's happening so we can figure out what type of plan might be best for you for stress and anxiety.

I hope you have a wonderful day, stress free and anxiety free if possible. If it's anxiety, just breathe, just breathe and know that there are people holding the hope for the anxiety and the stress of our culture. There are people holding hope that this will be reduced and we will be able to find our natural selves more readily.


Alison Crosthwait