Harness Stress

Is stress and anxiety the same thing?

October 25, 2021
min read

In my role as a coach to inspiring entrepreneurs and startup leaders, I hear so often statements such as:

“Running a startup equals never-ending anxiety.”

I used to subscribe to the same way of thinking. However what has become apparent to me over the past few years is that while stress might be inevitable, anxiety isn’t. That stress and anxiety are not the same thing.

Increasingly research highlights that our body has at least two stress responses – the CHALLENGE response and the THREAT response. The former is activated when we feel that we have sufficient resources to meet the demands placed on us – we feel capable and motivated. The latter is triggered by the opposite feeling – our perception is that we don’t have what is needed to overcome the difficulties we’re facing. This is when we start feeling overwhelmed, panicked and anxious.

Turns out that the ‘challenge response’ is overall associated with better ageing, physical and mental health despite us still being in a state of stress.

A quote to keep in mind

“Stress is what arises when something you care about is at stake.”

– Kelly McGonigal, ‘The Upside of Stress’

How to tweak your stress response

Let’s start by acknowledging that stress is not all bad – it’s a mechanism that our body uses to help us overcome many physical and emotional difficulties.

Switching from feeling THREATENED to feeling CHALLENGED can make or break how we perform on a daily basis when running a business. Here are a few questions that can help us make that switch more easily over time:

💡 What’s within my control in this situation?

💡 What personal strengths & experiences can I use?

💡 What information, guidance & support can I seek from others?

As you go through your week, keep an eye on your stress response – are you feeling threatened or challenged? It all starts with awareness 😉.

Author Portrait
Written by
Mica Vaipan

Performance & wellbeing coach, entrepreneur. Formerly startup founder, tech startup COO and investment banker.

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