Anxiety is the feeling we experience when our brain is telling us a story that is predicting “a” future we do not want. The future is not specific, just “a” future.
Distress, “bad stress,” is the feeling we experience when our brain is telling us a story that is predicting “a very specific” future we do not want. There is a reason, an “event” you can point to that you are anxious about. Maybe you haven’t studied for an exam, and are expecting to fail it, for example. That is a specific future, a specific event.
The aspect of anxiety used by the experts to define it as a “mental illness” is that those feelings are not about anything specific. Having no cause for anxious feelings somehow makes it an “illness,” so stress is not an illness.
From this point on, I am going to talk about anxiety, because the same process creates all negative emotions, including distress.
Any website offering expert advice about anxiety will give you the same advice about what you should do for your anxiety, AFTER you figure out you are anxious or stressed.
Their tips all say both can be managed by regular exercise, meditation or other relaxation techniques, structured timeouts, seeking support from loved ones, or learning new coping strategies. All these tips tell you to do something other than what you are “stressing” about, and you will feel better.
And they are all exactly right. While you are doing whatever technique works for you, you are focused on what you are doing. Your current focus is distracting you from focusing on the problem that is creating your anxiety.
Distraction techniques work, but the distracting activities have nothing to do with solving the problem that is actually causing your anxious thoughts, do they?
The experts say fear, anxiety, and stress are all “natural, and unavoidable.” They are not correct.
Anxiety and Stress are not the same. They are Not Synonyms.
The differences empower us to use processes built into our brain to prevent anxiety.
To get control of your negative emotions quickly, the next blog will teach you a skill called Change The Channel. It is a quick and easy way to interrupt your anxious or distressing thinking habit and get back in control of your thoughts.