The 12 Thrive Days of Christmas – 9 – Anxiety and Stress

A series of 12 brief articles, published daily from 25th December to 5th January (The traditional 12 days of Christmas).  Today, Anxiety and Stress

They’re the same thing aren’t they?

Anxiety and stress are two terms used so frequently that the distinction between them has been lost in the public mind.  They have, however, two different, distinct meanings and it is important to recognise them.


Anxiety includes the thoughts, worries and feelings you create in relation to a perceived threat. In previous articles in this series we have discussed control, limiting beliefs and unhelpful thinking styles.  All three of these influence the degree to which we cause ourselves anxiety.  Yes, you read that right, we cause our anxiety, it does not happen to us.

There are two ways in which you can feel in control of potential challenges.

Firstly, you may believe you can prevent a potential threat from happening. This is direct influence and, as a result, you will not feel anxious.

Secondly, well developed coping skills mean you feel able to cope if the worst does happen so, again, anxiety does not develop.Many things happen in life that are wholly, or partially, beyond your control but if you feel able to cope, no problem.

Anxiety and Stress- Symptoms-Cycle


Is all Anxiety the same?

No.  Anxiety is easiest to understand if we break it down into two component parts:

  1. Real Time Anxiety.  This is happening now and you are anxious about it.  You may be suddenly faced with a vicious dog, or a potential attacker – the key point is there was no warning.  You were not anxious in advance as you were not expecting anything to happen.
  2. Anticipatory Anxiety.  Yes, you’ve guessed it, this is about a future event.  You imagine it is going to be stressful, unpleasant, frightening etc., and you worry/ brood about it.  Many people are more anxious in advance of, say, a trip to the dentist than they are once there.

Some people experience more anticipatory anxiety than others.  This is common among those with brooding or catastrophic thinking styles, or high social anxiety.  Many everyday fears, phobias, and other symptoms are created and maintained by anticipatory anxiety.  Read back and you will realise anticipatory anxiety is underpinned by a lack of confidence in your ability to cope.

Whether you are suffering from real time, or anticipatory anxiety, the psychological and physiological effects are similar.


Stress is the physiological response in your body that occurs in response to a stimulus (stressor).  This response could occur due to anxiety, or other pressures or situations.

Our stress response is triggered when we interpret a situation as challenging, threatening, or unpleasant. Not all stress is bad, for example the stress of competing in a race helps the athlete’s body reach optimum performance.

Brief periods of stress may not be a problem, but if the stress response is maintained there can be an impact on your immune system.  How often have you become unwell during a stressful period?

Anxiety and Stress-faint-shaky-wobbly


What can you do?

It is possible to control your anxiety and stress levels, and keep them to a minimum, by managing your thinking.

Remember you create your anxiety and stress – it doesn’t happen to you.  Feeling powerless or out of control, and doubting our ability to cope increases anxiety and stress. So you need to be looking at any unhelpful thinking styles, beliefs, and language, in order to feel better and Thrive.


Anxiety and Stress-o-meter


Anxiety and stress are enormous topics and affect many people in adverse ways.  It is not possible to cover the subject fully here, but it is addressed in detail in The Thrive Programme.  Thrive With Ian can help you fully understand how anxiety and stress impact your life, and teach you techniques to reduce the problems.

Ian Crosswell – Thrive With Ian



I’m Ian and I’m a qualified Thrive Programme Consultant. Using the professionally developed Thrive Programme – a proven, evidence based, positive psychology training programme – I work with people from all walks of life, providing the insights and skills they need to change their lives for the better.

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