Stress and anxiety are one of the most common reasons people come to yoga and meditation. It effects around about 75% of us in one way or another. Culturally and collectively we seem to suffer from both of these conditions.
Yet, stress and anxiety are not the same thing. Nor if you have one do you necessarily have the other. Stress is caused by a particular situation or event that is happening in your life. Like a heavy work load, a relationship breakup, moving house, changing jobs or organising an event etc. It is actually happening in real time. (Apart from PTSD, which is a past event). Once the event or situation is over, so too should the stress.
Anxiety is a fear or a feeling of apprehension, worry or unease usually about a future event. That event maybe real or imaginary, the brain won’t know the difference! It maybe a particular event, such as a job interview or an exam, where it is natural to feel anxious. In actual fact, it can be helpful in motivating you to prepare appropriately. It may have been caused by a stressful situation, fearing a negative outcome, which is also normal. The problem happens if the event or situation passes and the anxiety doesn’t. However, when we think about someone have anxiety we think more about this general unease about life, its direction and all the smalls things that may or may not be of any real concern.
This type of anxiety is more insidious. It may even just slowly develop without you really noticing. This can be called low grade anxiety can go undetected or misunderstood for years. Anxiety can be unreasonable, worrying about things that don’t even exist and produce debilitating phobias and harrowing panic attacks.
So there are different levels to anxiety as there is to stress. Acute stress occurs when a short term situation arises. Maybe a near accident or a situation where something had to be done quickly like someone choking. The body responds and reacts but once the situation is resolved then the stress too dissolves. There is stress that goes on for longer periods, maybe weeks or months (sometimes years) like a sick member of the family, on-going pressures at work or an unhappy relationship. This is called Chronic stress.
Chronic stress is the one that will cause problems if you don’t find ways to address it. If you can’t solve the situation then measures need to be taken to manage the stress. Both stress and anxiety can lead to depression or other physical or mental ailments.
They can cause high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, weight issues, skin problem and menstrual problems , as well as depression, relationship difficulties, addictions and phobias.
So what do you do to release stress and control anxiety?
Many people use what are called distraction techniques. Things like drinking, collapsing in front of the TV, playing computer games, socialising or even sleeping. Naturally these are not all bad, just that they need limited as they don’t really address the problem or rest the body thoroughly. These techniques should be taken in moderation.
Here are some other healthier ways to handle stress and anxiety and should be considered the foundation practices for cultivating your on-going health and wellness:
- Spend some quiet time in meditation
- Spend some time in nature
- Do some activities that bring you joy
- Take time out to get some body work like a massage, spa or even just a bath
- Do a regular program of exercise, weather that is simply walking, jogging or doing some yoga
- Eat well and go to bed early
- Come to the breath and body regularly throughout the day
- Spend time with people who make you feel good
It does’t sound sexy or exciting, but rhythm, routine and commitment is what will ultimately help you stay on track and keep things in check!
All the best. And let me know if I can help you in anyway.