Stress vs Anxiety- What’s the difference

You interact with your environment on a daily basis and while at times you’re able to cope with life’s demands, this may not always be the case. Some things may cause you stress while some situations can cause you anxiety. But do you know the difference between these two? Read this to learn more.

What’s the difference between stress and anxiety?

Stress isn’t always a bad thing. In fact, stress is your body’s way of letting you know how you’re coping with your circumstances. At times difficult circumstances may be overwhelming, which can make it difficult for you to cope. You may feel some strain or tension when this happens – and that’s normal. Things that happen in your environment, as well as your emotional and mental state may be the cause of your stress, which are also known as stress triggers. 

Anxiety is a natural response to stress. Think of anxiety as your body’s alarm system for danger and threat. However, at times your alarm may go off when there is no real danger. That shouldn’t be the case, so if you feel that you’re more anxious than usual, consult a health professional for help.

What’s the difference between symptoms of stress and anxiety?

Stress related symptoms will often make you feel weighed down and tense, while anxiety symptoms involve your adrenal system, which involves your fight or flight response to danger and threat. 


  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Muscle tension
  • Worry
  • Irritability
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Poor concentration


  • Short breath
  • Dry mouth
  • Sweating
  • Fear
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Worry

How can I manage stress and anxiety?


Exercise is a good relief from stress and anxiety. When you’re active, your body releases dopamine (motivation hormone) and serotonin (mood hormone), which generally help you to think clearer. Relaxation breathing and mindfulness exercises have been found to be quite helpful too.

Express yourself 

When you take control over your circumstances you’re able to choose how you respond to certain situations. For example, instead of letting your thoughts run wild, you could keep a thought journal. This way you can keep track of your thinking process and you can use writing as a way to deal with feelings of stress and anxiety.

Speak to an adult you trust for advice or support, this way you can have someone who cares about you to help you think more clearly about the situation.

Stress and anxiety are a normal part of life. Some people may cope better with some situations than you and that’s fine because people are different. But if you’re constantly feeling stressed and anxious then I’d recommend that you speak to a professional. 

For more help, contact The South African Depression and Anxiety Group on their 24hr helpline: 0800 12 13 14 or Lifeline on their 24 Hour Counselling Number: 011 422 4242 or 0861 322 322.

Remember if you or a friend need advice or help, you can contact me here on Ask Choma, send me a Facebook Messagea Twitter DM, or a WhatsApp Message (071 172 3657).