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Stress and anxiety are closely linked to each other as they are emotional responses to triggers of traumatic events and situations. Everyone experiences stress and anxiety at one point or another, but the problem arises when it becomes constant and negatively affects crucial parts of one’s life.

People who experience stress and anxiety for an extended period are likely to develop chronic medical conditions, such as high blood pressure diabetes, depression diabetes, depression, and panic disorder. Meanwhile, these two conditions are different from each other.

How Coronavirus Increases Stress and Anxiety Level 

People experience stress and anxiety due to many reasons. We live in a fast-paced world that everyone is trying to follow and keep up with. Excess workload, sleep deprivation, and constant exposure to pollution are the order of the day. 

These things, more or less, harm our health and general well-being. It is no surprise that about  275 million people suffer from anxiety disorders. That’s close to 4% of the world population, with 170 million female and 105 million male victims.

Anxiety disorders are common mental health disorders in the United States, affecting 40 million adults (18% of the population), especially during the Covid-19 pandemic. The compulsory stay-in increased the stress level of many people as there was no definite time that it was going to end. 

The initial stressors of anxiety including, apprehension, restlessness, and tension, were compounded with those of a crisis no one had control over at that moment. These significantly had/have harmful consequences on people’s mental health and body, ultimately increasing their stress and anxiety level.

The American Psychology Association reports that the younger generation is affected mostly by the stress and trauma caused by the pandemic. A 2020 survey of stress in America confirmed that these young individuals face unprecedented uncertainty and heightened stress levels, and some show signs and symptoms of depression.

Months after the pandemic, many Americans are still having trouble coping with the disruptions caused by the pandemic. At least 8 in 10 adults report that the coronavirus pandemic is a significant source of stress in their life. Besides, many people are more worried about the effect of the pandemic on the country’s future.

The Differences Between Stress and Anxiety Disorder

Source: Medical News Today

Although the two words are used interchangeably among medical personnel and people, there is a striking difference between the two. To understand the distinction between stress and anxiety, you need to picture your body standing between stress and anxiety. 

When any threat affects the body, the result is stress, while anxiety is the effect of stress on the body. In other words, stress is the body’s reaction to a danger or threat, while anxiety is the body’s reaction to the stress.

Furthermore, stress is a short-term condition and in response to a familiar threat. Anxiety can go on for a long time without any identifiable cause. Stress and anxiety are integral parts of your body’s natural fight or flight response to signs of threat. 

When you feel like you are in danger or a similar situation, your body releases stress hormones in response, which naturally heightens your blood pressure.

Stress hormones make the heart beat faster than normal, resulting in increased blood pumping into vital organs such as the liver, heart, and kidney. This response allows a person to be ready to either fight or run from the threat. Individuals in such a situation also have infrequent breathing, making their blood pressure go up.

Besides, the body prepares you better in this situation by enhancing your brain’s activity. It releases adequate nutrients into the blood to ensure all the body parts have the required energy to survive the moment. The body’s reaction and communication among the body parts happen very fast, hence, the origin of the name stress.

You can view anxiety as the next phase the body goes through after stress. Anxiety usually comes in the form of a feeling of unease, restlessness, restive, distress, or dread that someone has had throughout a significant, often traumatic, event. This condition keeps victims alert and aware of situations that resemble their previous experiences.

Like stress, the fight or flight risk automatically activates when someone faces a perceived threat (physical or emotional). In some instances, anxiety may keep individuals safe from imminent danger, but it interrupts some people’s general lifestyle.

Causes of Stress

The cause of stress depends on the individual concerned and the frequency of thoughts. According to the American Psychological Association, stress may happen due to many reasons, including:

  • Lack of money
  • Work overload
  • Overwhelming family responsibilities
  • Negative and harmful relationships
  • Chronic health issues

Symptoms of stress

 

The symptoms of stress and anxiety may sometimes be alike. When someone is stressed, they may experience physical or emotional signs.

The physical symptoms of stress include:

  • Aches and pains all over the body
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Headaches
  • Chest pain
  • Exhaustion
  • Muscle tension
  • Jaw clenching
  • Diarrhea

Emotional signs and symptoms of stress

  • Fast heartbeat
  • Mood swings
  • Irrational anger
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Loneliness
  • Dizziness

Causes of Anxiety Disorders

  • Previous trauma events such as death, natural disaster, or diseases
  • Gradual stress buildup
  • Heart diseases
  • Diabetes
  • Alcohol misuse
  • Drug abuse
  • Personality (some people tend to overthink every situation)

Symptoms of Anxiety

Anxiety disorder symptoms follow a different direction, but the most commonly experienced signs include:

  • Nervousness
  • Increased heartbeat
  • Tension
  • Fatigue
  • Pain in the upper abdomen
  • Dry mouth

Treatment of Stress vs. Treatment of Anxiety Disorder

Treatment of Stress

  1. Exercise: Regular exercise promotes the release of good hormones such as endorphins, which help relieve stress in the body and enlighten one’s mood. Besides, it allows for the free flow of blood in the body. A simple 30-minute walk or jog or skipping will do this trick.
  1. Breathe in and out consistently: One of the top symptoms of stress is difficulty breathing or a tight chest. When you take a few breaths during a crisis or threat, it slows down your rapid heart race and calms your body and mind. You can do this manually by taking in a long deep breath, releasing suddenly, or using a visual breathing tool.
  1. Take some break: Stress sometimes happens when we are overwhelmed because of one reason or the other. It might make you irritable, agitated, or easily upset. Once you notice these signs, it may be time to step away from every activity and do something you love, including reading a book, watching a movie, or doing some house chores. The vital point is to stay as far away as possible from anything that stresses you.
  1. Organize: Work overload has the potential to increase your stress level. Instead of whining or complaining about the issue, take a moment to write down your activities and sketch out a plan to carry them out. Besides, it is an effective time-management skill that will help you focus on each task one after another.
  1. Talk to Someone: Sometimes, what you need is to speak your mind about certain situations. Who knows? There may be someone out there with feasible solutions to whatever you are going through. Talk to a close relative, trusted friends, or professional health practitioners.

Treatments of Anxiety

The two leading treatments for anxiety disorders are psychotherapy and medications.

 1. Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy is talk therapy or psychological counseling. It involves working hand-in-hand with a therapist to reduce your anxiety symptoms. The therapy session may include talking about previous experience with the therapist and answering questions concerning the anxiety symptoms.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) stands to be the most effective form of psychotherapy for many mental conditions, especially anxiety disorders. The therapy focuses on teaching you skills to cope and improve your anxiety symptoms. It helps you build confidence so that you can manage the situation. As time goes on, you will return to the activities you’ve avoided because of anxiety.

2. Medications

Different types of medications are used to relieve anxiety disorder symptoms. The medications also depend on the type of anxiety disorder and other mental or physical health issues. 

These include certain antidepressants and medications such as buspirone, benzodiazepines, beta-blockers, Citalopram (Celexa), Escitalopram (Lexapro), Fluvoxamine (Luvox), Paroxetine (Paxil), Fluoxetine (Prozac), Sertraline (Zoloft). These medications work for only short-term relief of anxiety signs and are not intended to be used long-term.

Summary

Living in a global pandemic, you’re likely to feel stress, anxiety, and even depression regardless of whether you are experiencing Coronavirus infection or not.

These natural body responses are perfectly normal reactions to different situations. However, they can have seriously damaging effects on mental and physical health. 

It’s crucial to manage stress and anxiety through simple coping techniques and medication. National Coronavirus Hotline ( NCH) offers access to free talk therapy for users experiencing mental illness, depression, anxiety, insomnia, or distress as a result of Coronavirus.

Speaking with a health practitioner whether in person or through a platform that offers mental health services can get you the help you need as soon as possible.

If you are feeling overwhelmed by life and current events, 


Jennifer Billings is the Medical Editor at National Coronavirus Hotline(NCH). She is an Integrated medical doctor who has been published on NCH Blog, Medium.com and is a regular contributor at MedCity News, Physician Family, and Psychology Today.