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Stress and Anxiety

Insights and practical strategies

Understanding how stress and anxiety are linked can help you solve problems with either. Let's look at those links now, and then cover some strategies.

How stress and anxiety are linked.

1. Some of the strategies people use to cope with anxiety generate additional stress i.e., anxiety leads to increased real stress.

Here are some common scenarios involving avoidance coping.

- You borrow something from a friend and damage it. You're anxious about telling her so you put it off. After a month or so, your friend starts to get annoyed with you for not returning the item in a timely fashion, and this puts some strain on the relationship.

- You messed something up at work, and you're anxious about telling your boss. Every conversation you have with your boss, you wonder if he has noticed the error yet. You realize it would've been better to bring it up straight away but now it seems like too much time has passed, and you feel even worse about it.

- You're anxious about your finances so you ignore the bills you have coming in. Soon you're dealing with late payment fees and collection calls. Because of your avoidance coping, you now have a bigger mess to deal with and feel less confident about handling the situation.

2. Another way stress and anxiety are linked is via anticipatory anxiety.

For example,

- You feel anticipatory anxiety whenever you know you have to give a speech. This leads to feelings of stress. You end up feeling irritable and taking it out on the people you're closest to. Your irritability affects others and increases the stress levels in your household and/or team.

3. Your focus gets distorted.

For example,

You're so hyped up with anxiety about one issue that you forget to take care of something else. You then need to deal with the consequences of having forgotten.

The good news

Many of the same strategies are effective for both stress and anxiety. Some ideas include:

Physical strategies - Slow breathing is a great way to reduce the physiological stress levels in your body. Try taking your pulse and see if you can slow it down by slow breathing.

Dealing with things you've been putting off - Even doing some small steps towards tasks you've been avoiding will likely help a great deal with your feelings of stress and anxiety.

Increasing your skills in areas where you lack confidence - We all have some types of tasks that trigger feeling unconfident. Sometimes these things seem like they should be easy. For example, I'm always surprised by how many people find making phone calls anxiety-provoking. For this type of task, reducing your anxiety is likely going to be just a matter of practicing more. You can create opportunities for more practice, such as making a call when you'd usually send an email.

For other tasks, taking steps to increase your skills can reduce your stress and anxiety. This could be something like taking a class on spreadsheets or practicing speaking slowly if you tend to talk too fast when public speaking.

Want more tips and insights?

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The Anxiety Toolkit - Strategies for Fine-Tuning Your Mind and Moving Past Your Stuck Points.

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Alice's Twitter @DrAliceBoyes. Top image under CC Zero license.

Image: Used With Permission

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