Stress is a normal part of coping with everyday life. It can be brought on by menial tasks, such as getting stuck in traffic when you’re late for work, or by bigger events, such as losing a loved one or getting into a car accident. There really is no escape from daily stress, but biologically, stress has a very important purpose when it comes to human evolution.
Stress acts as a defense mechanism for the body and is designed to alert you to dangers or predators that may be lurking by. In modern society, predators that your ancestors may have had to run from are not an issue, but those stress hormones are still in your body, helping prepare your system for a confrontation. The stress response is commonly referred to as fight-or-flight because it helps you decide if you need to run for your life or confront what is threatening you. But when does stress become an enemy as opposed to a friend? And can stress cause anxiety?
Read on for all you need to know.
What is stress-induced anxiety?
Stress is natural reaction to certain triggers, but sometimes people can become overwhelmed and overloaded with long bouts of stress. When this happens, the body responds by releasing the hormones cortisol and corticotropin.
When these two hormones are released in high amounts regularly, and are present in the body for a long period of time, it is referred to as chronic stress. Chronic stress can affect the body in many ways. It can lead to an increase in widespread inflammation, a weakened immune system, and even mood disorders such as anxiety. This is referred to as stress-induced anxiety.
Can stress cause anxiety symptoms?
Stress and anxiety can cause similar symptoms to occur. In periods of mild stress, the symptoms may not be as bad or as prevalent. When that stress becomes chronic, it can change the way the body handles the sudden release of hormones and trick the brain into thinking that there is a threat nearby, even when nothing is going on.
The symptoms or signs that are often associated with stress-induced anxiety include:
- Stomach aches
- Tense muscles
- Rapid breathing and heartbeat
- Shaking or trembling
- The frequent need to urinate
- Appetite changes (eating too little or too much)
- Insomnia or other sleep disturbances
- Feelings of fear or impending doom
- Panic and nervousness that may become worse in social situations
- Difficulties with concentration on tasks
- Anger and unwarranted irritability
When someone is facing stress, they may experience one or more of these symptoms, depending on the level of stress they’re coping with. In stress-induced anxiety, these symptoms are almost always there, regardless of the situation.
Someone suffering from stress-induced anxiety is more likely to develop chronic health conditions such as heart disease later on in life because of the way stress hormones affect the body. They are also more susceptible to developing depression and other mood disorders, or even panic disorder. Some other stress-induced anxiety related disorders include:
- Generalized anxiety disorder
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Social phobia
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
This is why the progression of stress-induced anxiety should be halted with stress management techniques.
How can I combat stress-induced anxiety?
There are a few things you can do to help combat stress and anxiety. The first step to coping with stress is by making some lifestyle changes. For example, eating a healthy diet that is balanced with nutrient-foods can help to relieve anxiety. Limiting consumption of things that can make it worse, such as caffeine and alcohol, is also a good idea.
Exercise has also been proven to be an effective agent against anxiety and stress. By getting regular exercise, you can help reduce the overall levels of stress hormones in your body, which will help to cope with stress and relieve anxiety. You will want to aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise every day for it to be effective. No one type of exercise is better than another, just so long as you do it! The best exercises are the ones you continue to do. If you’re looking for that extra boost of stress relief through exercise, yoga and Pilates have been shown to be effective at helping calm the mind and reduce feelings of anxiousness and stress.
Meditation is another good method of combating stress. It is designed to help a person get better control of their thoughts, and become more in tune with their emotions and how to cope with them. Combating stress also requires you to be able to recognize your triggers. When you know what drives your stress-induced anxiety, you can figure out specific ways to avoid those triggers or deal with them in a way that makes them more bearable.
Getting enough sleep is also vital to combating stress; as the body rests, stress levels become reduced. If you have trouble sleeping, you can develop a sleep hygiene routine that you do every night. Eventually, that routine will help prepare your mind for sleep. If these methods don’t work, you may want to consider seeking professional help for your stress-induced anxiety. There are many different types of therapy available. Some therapists may suggest you get an emotional support animal, as ESAs have been proven to help reduce the symptoms of stress and anxiety.