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The Difference Between Stress, Worry, and Anxiety

March 12, 2020

"Stress, anxiety, and worry, all have their place in our world, but when they become chronic, they can cause serious health issues."

Stress, anxiety and worry... oh my! As the numbers show, there’s a really good chance that you are experiencing some form of stress, worry, or anxiety on a regular basis — even if you aren’t feeling them right at this moment.  

In today’s episode, Dr. Nancy Lin, PhD, will help us get a deeper understanding of the differences between worry, anxiety, and stress. She will also share a number of research-based tips that have been proven to effectively manage all three, including dietary and other nutritional solutions that can have a profound effect on how your body and mind deal with the anxiety, worry, and stress we face every day.

Video Highlights

  • 01:37: A Stressed, Anxious, Worried Society
  • 06:19: Stress, Anxiety, and Worry Are Not the Same Thing
  • 09:00: Worry
  • 19:01: Stress
  • 30:10: Anxiety
  • 39:23: Wrap-Up

A Stressed, Anxious, and Worried Society

We’ve become a stressed-out, anxious society, now more than ever, and no one is exempt: we’re all worried or stressed out about something – we might be stressed about work, or worried about our kids, or anxious about our health, especially with the rapidly developing coronavirus situation. The list goes on and on. 

If you’re struggling with any of these issues, you are not alone.  In fact, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, over 40 million Americans are currently suffering from some form of anxiety disorder, and over 75% of all Americans reported feeling seriously stressed in the last 30 days. Stress, anxiety, and worry, all have their place in our world, but when they become chronic, they can cause serious health issues — like heart disease, digestive issues, depression, obesity, and diabetes — unless they are managed appropriately.

Stress, Anxiety, and Worry Are Not the Same Thing

Think about the last time you felt nervous or tense — would you say you were feeling worried, stressed, or anxious?  If you struggled with answering that question, don’t beat yourself up; it’s often a really tough question to answer. We tend to lump all three — anxiety, stress, and worry — together, and use them interchangeably in conversation. But it’s important to point out that they are all distinctly different, and the steps we’re going to recommend for addressing each are also distinctly different.

Worry

A Chinese philosopher in the 8th century wrote this about worry...

 "If you can solve your problem, then what is the need of worrying? And if you
can't solve it, then what is the use of worrying?" 

So what is worry? We all know what it feels like, but have you ever really thought about what it actually is? Worry is what happens in your brain (not in your body) when you dwell on negative thoughts, the things that could go wrong, or the unknown. If you’ve read any psychology, you may have come across an idea that “worry and guilt” are useless emotions. Worry is about the future, and guilt is about the past. But is worry entirely useless?

When we worry, we are thinking about pending or existing problems or uncomfortable situations. This stimulates your brain, and actually increases your problem-solving abilities, helping you develop a course of action to solve a problem, or motivating you to take action to keep you safe — all of which are good things, right? 

Yes! But worry becomes problematic when your thinking becomes repetitive and obsessive — like a broken record that plays over and over in your head. Obsessive worrying causes you to feel nervous and restless, and makes it hard to think about anything else other than what you are worried about. And, although worry is not an actual physical reaction, it can lead to unwanted physical symptoms, including:

  • An increased heart rate
  • Breathing rapidly of even hyperventilating
  • Stomach and digestive issues
  • Sweating 
  • Feeling weak or tired

Addressing Chronic Worry

So, what can you do to help with chronic worry? So many of us have that constant voice of worry in our heads, talking to us so often that we sometimes can’t even hear what it’s saying. If you find yourself dealing with chronic worry, try some of the following:

  • Listen! Be aware of your worry. Listen to your inner voice and make an effort to what’s specifically contributing to you feeling this way. Identify what you are worried about.
  • Give yourself a time limit (and a worry limit). Give yourself 15 or 20 minutes to process and worry about a problem and then make a conscious effort to move on to something else.  This may sound strange, but give it a try — over time, and the more you make the effort to redirect your focus, the easier it gets.
  • Do something about it. When you notice you are worrying, what’s your next step?  What is your plan? Remember the quote we just shared: "If you can solve your problem, then what is the need of worrying? And if you can't solve it, then what is the use of worrying?"  That applies here. If you can solve the problem, work on finding that solution.
  • Write down what’s on your mind. Jot down what’s causing you to worry, just to get it out of your head and onto paper. Research has proven again and again that writing about what has you worried, even for as short a time as 5 minutes, helps to calm your mind and ease the obsessive thoughts that come with worry.  Try keeping a journal by your bed so that if worry wakes you up or keeps you from sleeping, you have an outlet for it. Taking a few minutes to jot down your thoughts, can make it easier to get back to sleep.

On a final note, research has confirmed that 85% of what we worry about never happens — so save your energy!

Stress

Stress is your body’s response — an actual physical response — to a stressor. It’s a reaction to something that happens in your environment — maybe it’s a response to an argument with your spouse, or what you feel when your waiting for the results of a biopsy, or maybe how you respond to what’s going on at work. Whatever the cause, it’s how your body responds to an external circumstance. And the stress response is an ancient one, which can be traced back to our earliest ancestors. Back then, the body’s natural response — or stress response — to something in the environment often meant the difference between life and death... between eating and being eaten. 

Our body’s behavioral response to stressors hasn’t changed much at all since then. Upon sensing (or perceiving) an external threat — whether physical, mental, or emotional — our bodies still respond by releasing a huge dose of adrenaline and cortisol into our bodies. You’ve most likely heard the term “fight or flight”. That’s what we are talking about here — your heart beat increases, your hands might get sweaty or clammy, your breathing becomes more shallow… in short, your body is preparing to respond, either by fight or by flight. It’s preparing to defend itself, by fighting, or to save itself by running away.

Now occasional day-to-day stress typically isn’t a problem for our health, but when this response is the norm — meaning it’s chronic — then it tends to lead to serious health issues, including increasing the risk of heart disease, a weakened immune system, muscle and joint pain, and often chronic body inflammation.

Steps to Reduce Stress

There are a number of things we recommend for reducing stress, and they are not the same as what we recommend for worry or anxiety (in general). When you’re stressed, it’s a good idea to focus on the things you can control, while learning to accept the things that you can’t. To the best of your ability, learn to live and let live, and if you can’t change it, try to learn to be okay with it. We know that’s easier said than done, but doing so is really, really important for your mental and physical health.  

Also, keep in mind that everyone responds to stress differently; what causes you stress, might not even be a blip on your neighbors radar (and vice versa). Keeping that in mind, it’s super important for you not to compare your stress with anyone else’s stress — doing so is only setting you up for one more stress!

Additionally, always keep in mind that stress is a physical response — your body is responding to something by releasing tons of adrenaline and cortisol. That being said, one of the very best ways to deal with stress is to exercise on a regular basis. You need to exercise for at least, 20 minutes daily.  

Study after study demonstrates that at least 20 minutes of exercise can help consistently and effectively reduce stress. For an ideal stress-relieving workout, we recommend that you exercise between 25 and 30 minutes each and every day. 

Equally important as the time you spend exercising, is the type of exercise you choose.  

While any exercise is effective and will help reduce stress, research has demonstrated that certain types of exercise are more effective at relieving stress than others; yoga is one of those exercises.  

Yoga for Stress Relief

Yoga has come a long way over the last few years. It is now recommended for everyone, from kids to seniors; it’s great for your mental and physical health!

The majority of those practicing yoga consistently report experiencing significant reductions in stress after starting yoga. You don’t need to become a hard core yogi to experience its benefits; performing short, simple yoga stretches is often enough to help you start to feel your stress subside and your mood lift. So remember, at least 20 minutes a day of some exercise — it’s your choice. 

Anxiety

So, if worry is a mental response and stress is a physical reaction, then what is anxiety?  Well, anxiety is actually the result of dealing with a combination of worry and stress — with one major difference. Anxiety is very similar to stress in that your body creates a physical response,  but, unlike stress, there is no actual threat. Anxiety often occurs when you assume something bad is happening (similar to worry) but you have a physical response like you experience during real stress — even when there is nothing actually to worry, stress, or be anxious about. In other words, anxiety is an excessive focus on something that might happen in the future (or, excessive worry and stress with no identifiable cause).

Let’s use the coronavirus as an example: sure, it’s normal to be concerned and worry about the coronavirus. But if you aren’t aware of your worry, this worry can quickly lead to anxiety — you watch the news, and as you hear more and more about the spread of the virus you continue to worry more about what’s going to happen or if you are going to contract it. Before you know it, every time you hear the word “coronavirus”, or someone coughs, sneezes, or clears their throat near you, your heart starts to race, your adrenaline starts pumping, your palms get sweaty — your body is physically responding to what your mind is perceiving as a threat, even when the threat isn’t real or isn’t present at that moment — that’s anxiety. 

Natural Anxiety Treatments

Fortunately there are also several natural, effective treatment options that have been shown to calming the symptoms of anxiety, including:

  •  exercise (again at the very top) 
  • Specific deep-breathing exercises 
  • Limiting your intake of sugar, caffeine, and alcohol, 
  • Address nutrient deficiencies. This is perhaps the most overlooked, but still a very important way to reduce anxiety. There is a clear link between deficiencies in specific vitamins and minerals and not only anxiety, but depression as well.

Actually, that last point is also true for worry and stress — one of the most common, but also the most overlooked, contributors to anxiety, stress, and worry are deficiencies in B-vitamins, magnesium, and zinc. If you are deficient in these vitamins and minerals, and most of us are deficient in at least one, your biochemistry is affected. This can manifest as increased worry, stress, and anxiety.

In addition, where you get your vitamins and minerals from also matters, because if they are not food-based and absorbed well by your body then you’re not going to get the benefit you want. You want to get the right amount of your vitamins and minerals from natural whole food, not synthetic “food grade” or “food equivalent" sources, which have such poor absorption rates that less than 5% of that nutrient gets into the body. 

That’s why we recommend throwing that traditional, rock-hard multivitamin tablet in the garbage today because that’s where they belong. Instead, use a food-based multi that provides just the right amounts of the specific minerals and vitamins — like magnesium, B-vitamins, and zinc — required to support your mental health, including helping to reduce worry and lessen the symptoms associated with stress and anxiety.

Dr. Nancy uses the Smarter Multi, which is designed to provide the exact right amount of each vitamin and mineral daily required to improve brain function, helping to regulate your all-important neurotransmitters — those are the little chemical messengers that send messages and signals from the brain throughout the body and contribute to the production of specific hormones that contribute to stress and anxiety.

Smarter multi is also the only multi that delivers all its nutrients in a form you would expect to find in nature. That’s because wherever possible, all its vitamins and minerals are derived from real food — organic, natural fruits and vegetables like fresh okra, spearmint, sesame seeds, dill, plums, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, broccoli, peaches, and pears.  It really is different from every multi, and it’s super affordable too — less than a dollar a day and free shipping within the U.S. if you have a subscription.

Wrap-Up

We hope this has given you something to think about, and the tools to take action if you’re struggling with stress, worry, or anxiety. Remember: worry happens in your mind, stress happens in your body, and anxiety happens in both. 

All three are distinctly different, but left unchecked, all three can contribute to serious health issues over time. You can reduce all three of these conditions by taking the steps we shared today. And do give Smarter Multi a try; correcting nutritional deficiencies is an easy and important first step

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