Stress and anxiety manifest in similar ways but defined differently. Both are emotional responses, but stress is typically caused by an external trigger. The trigger can be short-term, such as a work deadline or a fight with a loved one or long-term, such as being unable to work, discrimination, or chronic illness. People under stress experience mental and physical symptoms, such as irritability, anger, fatigue, muscle pain, digestive troubles, and difficulty sleeping.
Anxiety is defined by persistent, excessive worries that don’t go away even in the absence of a stressor. Anxiety leads to a nearly identical set of symptoms as stress such as insomnia, difficulty concentrating, fatigue, muscle tension, and irritability.
Anxiety disorders can differ severity of feelings of anxiety and in how long they last. Anxiety typically persists for months and negatively affects mood and functioning. Some anxiety disorders may cause the person to avoid enjoyable activities or make it difficult to keep a job.
What stress and anxiety have in common is that it may trigger the sympathetic system or the “fight or flight” response within the body.
Both mild stress and mild anxiety respond well to similar coping mechanisms which try to activate the parasympathetic system or calming system. Physical activity, a nutritious and varied diet, and good sleep hygiene are a good starting point.
When stress or anxiety becomes chronic, the body’s ability to switch off this fight or flight mode becomes more difficult which may result in the body not responding to these management techniques. Studies* have shown that acupuncture may have the ability to help regulate any imbalances between sympathetic and parasympathetic activities.
Management techniques above are like an equivalent stretch for the muscles but for the mind. When these stretches aren’t enough to activate the relaxing/calming system, why not give acupuncture a go?
*Acupuncture Effect and Central Autonomic Regulation.
Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2013; 2013: 267959.
Published online 2013 May 26.
Qian-Qian Li, Guang-Xia Shi, Qian Xu, Jing Wang, Cun-Zhi Liu,* and Lin-Peng Wang