Did you say “both”?

You’re not alone, because most people experience stress (the way our mind and body responds when the stress response is activated) as a result of anxiety (an emotion).

Here’s an overview of the automatic process used by our survival operating system to create our experience of stress.


Working down the S.T.R.E.S.S process from the top:

We are constantly scanning our environment and taking in information through ours senses (stimuli). The first thing our brain does with this information is ask the question “Does this information indicate that there’s a threat to our physical and/or emotional well-being?”

If the answer is “Yes!” our survival may be at risk and so our subconscious immediately triggers the stress response and we respond by fighting, fleeing or freezing.

If the answer is “Yes,” but not to the extent that our life is in immediate danger, our brain has time to do a little more processing of the sensory information and to interpret what it means to us. From this appraisal we create our subjective view of reality.

Our subjective reality arouses an emotion.

If we perceive we’re exposed to:

  • “a real and present threat to our physical and/or emotional well-being” the emotion aroused in us is FEAR. For instance, the fear you experience when you’re crossing the road at a pedestrian crossing and a car runs the red light and comes hurtling towards you.
  • “a possible threat to our physical and/or emotional well-being” the emotion aroused in us, is ANXIETY. For instance, you’re running late for an important team meeting and you imagine arriving late for the meeting and getting reprimanded by your boss in-front of your peers.

The fear or anxiety we experience triggers our stress response.

The stress response creates a cocktail of symptoms which we experience as ‘stress’. These symptoms can be grouped into four categories:

  1. Physical e.g. racing heart, shortness of breath, nausea etc
  2. Emotional e.g. feeling apprehensive, feeling nervous, feeling worried etc
  3. Psychological – negative self-talk/negative thinking e.g. “I’m a failure”, “My life is ruined”, “No one likes me”
  4. Behavioural – freeze, fight or flight. e.g. we can choke (freeze) when challenged, move away or tune out (flight) when we’re feeling out of our depth, or snap (fight) at people.

So as you can see, we can experience anxiety (the emotion) and stress (the symptoms) at the same time.

Over the next few weeks we’re going to take a closer look at each of the steps in the STRESS process, because an understanding of how we experience anxiety and stress puts us back in the driving seat when it comes to helping ourselves overcome our anxiety and reduce stress.

What Next?

To find out more about how I can help you reduce your anxiety and stress simply book a free, no obligation 30 min Zoom or phone consult with me, where we can explore how I can help you liberate yourself from your the stress or anxiety you are struggling with. It’s as easy as clicking the button below or calling me on 021 056 8389.

Go well


I’m on a mission to help as many people as possible enjoy lives free of unnecessary stress and anxiety. If you’d like my help, or you know someone who would benefit, call/text me today on 021 056 8389 or email tony@tycoaching.nz

This article contains the personal views and opinions of the author, which may change over time. It is intended to be for information only and does not constitute medical advice. For medical and health advice, always consult a qualified medical professional.