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How to recognise if life's pressures are risk to your health

Stress and anxiety are on the rise, but how do you tell them apart? Ella Walker outlines the signs

Stress is a normal part of life, and everybody will experience a sense of anxiety from time to time - but both these things can also be signs of mental health problems, or an indication that we possibly need to slow down or seek some support.

But how do you tell them apart? They can feel and exhibit themselves in a similar manner, so if you're confused as to whether you're stressed or anxious, here are some key signs to look out for.

HOW TO SPOT STRESS

In the simplest terms, stress is caused by a specific factor, or 'stressor' - for example, a major life change. This can include any situation, event or scenario that makes you feel angry, frustrated, humiliated, nervous etc. For example, moving house, starting a new job, a big meeting or exam you haven't prepped for, your mother-in-law has invited herself for Christmas. These are actualities that directly cause you stress, usually because you feel unprepared for them, overwhelmed, or are struggling to find a way to deal with them.

Everyone gets stressed now and again, it's a normal response to situations that frighten or worry you (which are different for everybody), but over time, if you are under constant amounts of stress, it can cause health worries.

Common symptoms (according to the NHS): feeling irritable, fearful, low self-esteem, indecision, difficulty concentrating, headaches, dizziness, tiredness, appetite changes, being short-tempered, racing-thoughts, physical tension.

HOW TO SPOT ANXIETY

Anxiety can manifest itself even when you don't have something stressful to link it to, and instead, tends to present as an ongoing feeling of unease, or sense of impending doom.

It's normal to feel a bit anxious or worried, for example, in scenarios that make you feel apprehensive, like speaking in public, confronting your boss, bungee jumping etc.

However, excessive anxiety - or generalised anxiety disorder - where you worry disproportionately and often without an obvious trigger, can severely disrupt day-to-day life.

Common symptoms (according to the NHS): restlessness, sense of dread, feeling on edge, lack of concentration, feeling irritable, dizziness, tiredness, muscle aches, fast heartbeat, trembling and shaking, dry mouth, headaches, sweating, shortness of breath, nausea, pins and needles.

HOW THEY'RE LINKED

Stress and anxiety often share symptoms, from tiredness and dizziness, to muscle aches and headaches, both are connected to the fight-or-flight response, and neither are remotely enjoyable.

However, both conditions can be eased with the right treatment, from mindfulness and relaxation methods to release pressure and minimise stress, to medication and talking therapies for anxiety.

If you are struggling or concerned about how anxious or stressed you're feeling, always speak to your GP.

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