How Does Stress Impact Anxiety?
Stress and anxiety tend to go hand in hand. However, you can be under stress and not develop anxiety. Conversely, you can have anxiety without being stressed out. So how does stress impact anxiety exactly? These mental wellness enthusiasts discuss the relationship between anxiety and stress.
Allison Adams, is a Certified HeartMath Coach, Trainer, Yoga, and Meditation Instructor at Sacred Leadership Global.
Unmanaged Stress Leads to Anxiety
Anxiety is a byproduct of stress we hold in our mind-body system. Our stress response can be mild or extreme, but regardless, the sympathetic nervous system has been triggered, and how we deal with it matters.
Humans are wired to be highly adaptive. However, not recognizing or managing stress properly impacts us over time and can result in mild to severe anxiety. For many people, maladaptive stress response behaviors, like drinking, tv and social media binging, and over-eating, develop to deal with the pressures and uncertainty of life that threaten our well-being.
Our mental, emotional, and physical well-being are important factors in our personal and professional success. Managing anxiety is a critical component of one’s overall health and ability to live a life feeling calm, confident, and connected to themselves and the world around them.
The benefits of living life on the other side of anxiety are freedom and well-being, so allow stress and anxiety to be a signal to transform your life and your future.
Stress Worsens Anxiety
During times of stress, our body releases hormones (adrenaline) creating an increase in energy, designed to manage the stressors. When our bodies feel that increase in adrenaline, the part of the brain that controls fear (the amygdala) begins to take over. When this happens, our fear center is turned on, meaning our body goes into “fight or flight” (the Sympathetic Nervous System). This results in us wanting to get away or to turn and fight. This increases hormones and chemicals in our body, making our heart rate and breathing faster, which makes anxiety worse.
Additionally, when people who struggle with stress have more and more stress piled on top of them without any release of this built-up energy, anxiety slowly builds. People start to become worried and preoccupied about their stress, either increasing or leading to anxiety.
Miriam Frankel, founder of Bloom – an innovative online learning platform, offering video toolkits, blogs and free online resources of proven strategies to help struggling children and their families
The Stress Response Leads to Anxiety
The nervous system is made up of two parts. There is the sympathetic system and the parasympathetic system. When someone is experiencing intense emotion, especially stress or excitement, this cause[s] the sympathetic system to activate, pumping a hormone called adrenaline through a person’s bloodstream. This causes a person’s heart rate and thus their breathing to accelerate, leading to further emotion – a good feeling like excitement or a negative emotion like anxiety.
Chronic Stress Affects Mental Health
When people are under a lot of stress, it manifests in their physical health, mental health, or worse, both. Continued stress can cause high blood pressure and heart palpitations. This then can lead to increased sensitivity in your senses. You tend to see more, feel more, hear more, and [this] makes you more worried. Constant stress leads to an imbalance in hormones which affects how you feel.
Chronic stress can also lead to poor neurotransmitter response and release, which ultimately affects the mental health of a person. Neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin may be either underproduced or overproduced, which then leads to increased anxieties and depression. Hence, stress levels must be always under control.
Stress Can Become a Chronic State of Mind
When a person is stressed, the body responds in a ‘fight or flight reaction’ that induces anxiety. If the stressors remain present, depression might start developing, giving room to more anxiety that becomes a chronic state of mind.
Stress Triggers Anxiety
Stress can take a toll on your mental health and trigger anxiety. In people who have an anxiety disorder, stress can make it more difficult to manage the symptoms of anxiety. Stress causes increases in the hormone cortisol, the stress hormone. Increases in this hormone are related to anxiety.
Stress can also impact your personal relationships, as well as school and your job. The problems that this causes can also increase anxiety.
Stress and Anxiety Perpetuate Each Other
Stress stems from a particular situation after which you go back to normalcy. Anxiety, on the other hand, can be triggered by anything that causes you to fear or a memory of a traumatizing situation.
Stress can be a symptom of anxiety and vice versa. It can therefore lead to the worsening or further deterioration of an already anxious person. Patients who have chronic anxiety are advised to stay away from stressful situations and people and also to manage their stress levels.
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