I have been seeing so many posts lately about anxiety and since we have been in this 14 day challenge about stress and peace, I thought now would be the perfect time to write about the differences between stress and anxiety, the overlap and also how boundaries play a role.
Let’s start with what is the difference between stress and anxiety. According to the APA, stress and anxiety can manifest in similar ways so from the outside, it may be hard to distinguish. However, the root cause is different. Stress is caused by external factors such as work deadlines, sick kids, an upcoming trip, financial struggles etc.
However, anxiety does not have to be triggered by anything external. It is a persistent worry that is not contingent upon outside factors. It can be related to specific areas such as medical anxiety due to a medical show that traumatized you as a kid or social anxiety due to being bullied. For some, it is generalized anxiety where the persistent worry is about anything and everything.
For most cases, what helps anxiety also helps stress and visa versa. Some of those things are deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, exercise, healthy eating, identifying and learning ways to manage triggers, eliminating or minimizing caffeine, meditation, routine and self-care, to name a few.
Of course, there are instances where that is not true. For some people, even if you change all out the outside stressors, the anxiety may be present. Similarly, some medications may help anxiety but not be helpful for stress. In both cases, setting boundaries can help the symptoms so let’s talk about that.
As we have talked about in other posts, in order to identify where we need boundaries, we need to identify our pain points. So, if we look at common pain points with stress and anxiety, a lot of it stems from lack of perceived control, taking on too much, not practicing self-care and distorted thinking. Knowing that, what are some boundaries we may need to set? Maybe we need to set boundaries around how much we commit to and say no to some things we may want to say yes to but we cannot in this season. Or perhaps we need to set boundaries around making our mental health a priority and budgeting in therapy and medication. Maybe we need to set internal boundaries with ourselves that we do not let our anxiety dictate our choices but when we are struggling, we seek support and those to keep us accountable.
Let’s face it, there are a lot of boundaries we can set to help mitigate stress and anxiety through both internal and external boundaries. But it isn’t going to be easy. It is going to take a lot of work and consistency and if you do it, it will help so much in the long run. You will lessen your stress and anxiety and increase your peace. You will be able to be more present for those around you and have more energy for the things that fuel you.
Do you struggle with anxiety or stress? If so, what are some boundaries you need to set today?
Jocelyn is a Licensed Professional Counselor and course creator who desires to help clients heal and grow into who God created them to be.