What is the Difference Between Stress and Anxiety?
Although stress and anxiety share many of the same physical symptoms, there is a difference between them. Basically, the sources of the two emotions are different. Feelings of stress usually come from concrete problems such as having to prepare for an important exam, fear of losing one’s job or worry about a possible serious illness, for example. The source of the stress can be identified. When the event or events that are causing stress are identified, they can be dealt with one at a time.
Anxiety however, does not always have a concrete source. Many people who suffer from anxiety cannot always pinpoint the cause of it. People with ongoing anxiety can experience the day filled with worry and tension that can be intense, even though there may be little or nothing obvious to cause it. They anticipate disaster and are overly concerned about money, health issues, work problems or relationships. Sometimes just having to wake up in the morning and get through the day produces anxiety. Anxiety often comes from a feeling of fear. The person may not always be aware of the source of the fear but the feeling builds on itself nevertheless.
Sometimes anxiety can occur after a major life change, such as retirement, loss of a loved one or other important events. For some people, not having a goal each day can lead to a loss of direction and self-esteem. This can set up a state of free floating anxiety and depression.
These intense feelings are not necessarily about an outward event, but are often about some inner experience that may not have been identified nor dealt with. When someone is faced with a stressful situation, there is the possibility of resolving it. With anxiety, because of the ongoing nature of the feeling, there can be a sense of helplessness in ever being able to reduce the intensity of the experience or even figure out why it is happening.
Another way of looking at stress is to see it as the way we have been programmed physically to defend ourselves. It is the fight or flight response that protects us from danger. On the other hand, anxiety is a more modern experience where what we think, whether we are aware of it or not, triggers the same physiological responses. In the case of anxiety, the physical responses do not subside very easily or quickly. They tend to be persistent and long lasting. The two emotions can feel the same, but stress deals with the situation at hand whereas anxiety consists more of an ongoing series of negative predictions and mental churning over events, people or situations.
Ericksonian Hypnotherapy for Stress and Anxiety
Because chronic and persistent anxiety can affect a person’s life style and activities, it is important to reduce the intensity and the persistent nature of this condition. One of the first steps in this process is to use Ericksonian hypnotherapy to help people experience a calming and quieting of their thoughts as well as physical relaxation. As people begin to experience the sensation of deep relaxation, it is often a surprise to them. Many believe that they cannot be hypnotized. Once they have the experience of calming, they realize that it is possible to feel a different way. They want to get back to that feeling over and over again. Self-hypnosis and the use of a relaxation CD are helpful in achieving this ongoing experience. Another important part of handling on-going stress and anxiety is to shift way from negative expectations and predictions to ones of empowerment and success.
However, if there are some underlying issues that contribute to the ongoing state of anxiety, it is very important to identify the causes and do the work of inner healing. Ericksonian hypnotherapy is a very gentle approach to trauma and unresolved problems that contribute to ongoing anxiety. Self-hypnosis is a very powerful tool that anyone can learn and utilize in situations that cause anxiety and stress. Self-hypnosis can be used to prepare for an important exam, a performance or presentation, an MRI and many other situations where it is important to be able to calm oneself. The more one practices self-hypnosis, the better one becomes at experiencing it on a daily basis.
Brigitte E. Lifschitz, LCSW
Past President and Former Co-Director of Hypnosis Training at the
New York Milton H. Erickson Society for Psychotherapy and Hypnosis (NYSEPH).
EMDR Levels 1&2.
Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT).