The difference between stress and anxiety is not always clear, however, it is essential to know what these disorders are and stress and anxiety treatments to prevent them from complicating your health.
Stress is defined as the state of mind created by the influence of external stimuli known as stressors, which, when they occur, alter or modify the sensation of physical and mental well-being. This state of mind, if it is maintained for an indefinite time or increases progressively in intensity, can give rise to situations or states of anxiety in certain personalities.
Stress can be globally summarized as a complex adaptation mechanism that allows us to adapt to the different and frequent difficult situations that arise in daily life. Oddly enough, the stress in its proper measure is a beneficial situation for the individual, it is completely normal, especially in modern life, as it is the physiological way of reacting to external stimuli. It will be our ability to control these reactions that makes stress affect us to a greater or lesser degree.
Before certain events or stimuli, we initiate adaptation mechanisms in which both the autonomic nervous system and certain endocrine glands (pituitary gland and adrenal glands) produce secretions that help us respond appropriately. This response is triggered by the autonomic or sympathetic nervous system that stimulates the pituitary and adrenal glands and circulates increased amounts of cortisol and adrenaline into the bloodstream.
These hormones, secreted in stressful situations, have actions aimed at adaptation and survival, in order to maintain integrity. They act on the brain increasing the state of vigilance and its oxygenation. In the blood, glucose levels increase, and in the heart and lungs, they influence accelerating the rhythm and improving performance. They produce peripheral vasoconstriction, to increase the oxygenation of the central organs, the pupils dilate and a greater quantity of blood and oxygen arrive at the muscles.
If this situation is maintained for a long time and we are not able to control and master its effects, our body and mind will end up suffering, giving rise to the harmful effects that stress causes in people who suffer from it.
In addition to the alterations that stress causes in the psychic sphere of the individual who suffers from it, we must not forget that it can also be an aggravating factor and trigger of many organic and physical alterations.
Anxiety is a psychological alteration that leads to an anxious state of mind, which can range from a sensation of psychomotor restlessness to a state of intense fear. Having anxiety at some point in life is completely normal. However, when it becomes so intense and persistent that it distorts reality, inhibits thought, and alters the person’s normal activity, we must seek help and see a specialist for psychotherapy or start drug treatment, if necessary.
Anxiety is manifested by the presence of inner discomfort, irritability, unjustified fears, startles, insomnia and psychomotor agitation crisis. Organic disorders are often associated with these psychological symptoms, such as increased sweating, fine tremors in the extremities, palpitations, tachycardia, feeling short of breath, precordial pain, increased blood pressure, digestive symptoms and intestinal and intense fatigue.
Anxiety has different levels of intensity and these give rise to different clinical pictures, which manifest with progressive symptoms.
Personality, character and temperament are the most important determining factors for anxiety. The so-called constitutional and hereditary factors mean that there are individuals with a tendency to suffer from it and, therefore, they will have a greater propensity. On the contrary, others like the phlegmatic and calm will almost never suffer from it.
Environmental factors also have a great influence on the appearance of this disorder. Competitive life, stress, the work environment, tight schedules, interpersonal relationships and life in big cities are often triggers.
Other factors such as lack of sleep, the abuse of alcoholic beverages, tobacco, or the use of substances and drugs are elements that also tend to favor the appearance of anxiety.
Family support. Although it can sometimes be the source of anxiety situations, the support that a stable family can give us and the positive, protective and secure environment that it offers is very effective in reducing stress and treating patients with anxiety.
Positive attitude at work. Competitiveness and instability in the workplace, poor relationships with colleagues and bosses, and the stress of daily routine work are trigger factors for stress and anxiety. A positive attitude, good relationships, and the work that is done can prevent these problems.
Take care of good habits. The quantity and quality of sleep is a very important factors in combating stress and anxiety. Sleeping well and the necessary hours rest the body and mind and help prevent its appearance. Tobacco, alcohol, stimulating drinks, and other substances are harmful elements that increase the risk.
Life regimen. A sedentary lifestyle and living in big cities are triggers for stress and anxiety. Life in the open air, regular physical exercise and the practice of some sports are, on the other hand, very effective measures to combat them. Strenuous and periodic physical exercise is a very effective method to prevent and treat them.
Relaxation techniques. They are all those procedures or attitudes that help a patient to improve her stress and anxiety levels. These techniques range from normal activities such as listening to music, laughing, or walking, to self-hypnosis, yoga, meditation, or self-training.
Muscle relaxation exercises. There are many methods and gymnastics to achieve good muscle relaxation. In principle, it must be learned and practiced in a specialized center, taught by a physiotherapist, so that it can then be done at home.
Breathing exercises. Deep and conscious breathing is one of the best weapons against tension and stress. Learning to breathe well and doing it at the right time prevents the appearance of anxiety states. Slow, deep breaths, using the diaphragm, help and significantly relieve stress.
Meditation. There are many different meditation techniques, but they all pursue the same goal: to achieve serenity, emptying the mind of worries and harmful thoughts that agitate it. All of them reduce oxygen consumption, increase brain electrical activity, and decrease pulse, heartbeat, and blood pressure. Clearing the mind and concentrating on the proprioceptive sensations in the body lowers tension and reduces stress.
Pharmacotherapy and other treatments. Before going to take medication, socially oriented therapies would be useful and positive, assessing and modifying the different situations of each patient. Psychotherapy is also effective in treating these situations.
Medication for stress and anxiety. Anxiolytics are the most widely used medications to treat stress and anxiety. They are drugs that relieve or suppress anxiety without producing sedation or sleep. This group of drugs includes benzodiazepines, buspirone, beta-blockers, and some antidepressants. This type of medication must always be controlled by a doctor and must be limited in time as there is a risk of drug dependency.
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