Stress can be either helpful or unhelpful.
For example, for some people, procrastination creates the stress needed to focus.
Unfortunately, the procrastination used in cultivating the stress that spits out a term paper at the last minute is a road paved with anxiety.
So what is anxiety?
Anxiety is worrying in advance. It is a state of fear in response to a future event or occurrence. Anxiety is generated by worry, and worry, simply put, is an abuse of the imagination.
Ergo, unlike stress, anxiety is never useful.
So if you find yourself worrying a lot, you’ve got anxiety.
If you’re cranking something out for twelve hours straight day after day because you find yourself in either a state of hyperfocus or an inability to slow down and relax without the aid of intoxicants, you’re stressed.
In the above case of negative stress, you’ve probably set yourself up with a lot of anxiety leading up to execution, versus planning well in advance and working incrementally.
A little eustress is good. You can’t win a race without it.
But the distress we often find ourselves in is what leads us to quit before we finish something. Leaving something incomplete due to distress only reinforces that pattern.
That’s a problem.
In a way, the answer to the question “Am I stressed or is it anxiety” is the wrong question because you’re probably not asking it just to satisfy your curiosity.
What you want is an antidote to both.
The antidote to both stress and anxiety is called planning. Planning time for the steps and stages of a project. Planning time with family. Planning time to meditate. Planning to get away and recharge.
Planning is a learnable skill. If you don’t think you’re good at it, then that just means you need to find a teacher and start to practice.
A coach is a teacher of planning, but not just any plan, your plan. The plan hidden inside you. That’s the plan we coaches are trained to help you excavate and execute.
So whether you’re stressed or anxious, chances are your plans could use an upgrade. Time step outside and take a look at your modus operandi, if you have one.
If not, it’s time to call an expert.