How to differentiate between stress and distress

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You are nervous all the time. You fear permanent danger. Sometimes you can no longer breathe properly. Are these manifestations of stress, anxiety or distress? Why do we feel them?

Stress, anxiety, anguish. They are three expressions of apprehension to the void. "These three terms group, in different degrees and with different manifestations, the fear of an unrepresented danger, a feeling of total helplessness in the face of something that has no cause", explains Virginie Megglé, psychoanalyst.

What are the causes of these psychological manifestations?

Stress, anxiety, anguish are present in a latent state and awakened by various possible triggers that resurface a primary insecurity. "It can be, as at this time, a confinement due to the coronavirus epidemic and the fear of this disease for oneself and for those close to them, but also for a move, work, an illness, an exam, a divorce," he lists the psychoanalyst.

Stress, Anxiety, Anguish: Recognizing the Symptoms

Stress is the first degree of these psychological manifestations. "Today, almost everyone lives under stress in a more or less accepted way, laments the psychoanalyst. It is a kind of social disease."

"Stress is characterized by nervousness, a feeling of constant tension," explains Virginie Megglé. We can also feel muscle aches in the back, neck, shoulders that can later spread to the whole body.

As for anxiety, "we are talking more of a state, of an anxious nature," says the psychoanalyst. The anxious person lives with a feeling of permanent insecurity, without being able to explain it. "

Anguish is characterized by a painful experience, the sudden sense of endless disorder. It gives rise to crisis. "A person can apparently be in control, putting in place defense mechanisms that make him feel very self-confident. And then all of a sudden, a situation triggers an anxiety attack, and at that moment, no matter how hard you try to reason with the person is useless, "explains the psychoanalyst.

What are the manifestations of a panic attack?

"It manifests itself, suddenly, by difficulty in breathing, the feeling of not having enough air," explains Virginie Megglé. The person may feel a lump in the throat, in the stomach, have nausea, a feeling of disgust, fear that there is no tomorrow, no more future ".

What to do with these different manifestations? One may be tempted to consult the doctor immediately, "but there is no physiological cause", explains the psychoanalyst. Therefore, there is a risk of being drawn into a medical process that will also generate anxiety. "

How to treat an anxiety attack?

There is no point in looking for rational explanations during an anxiety attack, it is better to listen to what is happening. "You have to lie down, let yourself go, do not resist, listen to your breathing, try to breathe as slowly as possible to calm yourself - even if your breathing is shallow -, and close your eyes, which allows meditation, the specialist details. You can also sit in position. fetal or yoga position of the child so as not to be solicited from the outside. "

Are there mistakes to avoid? Yes.

"In the middle of an anxiety attack, it makes no sense to want to breathe deeply, because there is a risk of not achieving it, which will further increase anxiety," specifies the psychoanalyst.

What to do when you are stressed, anxious, anguished?

You have to take advantage of the moments in which you feel good, in which you do not feel (or hardly feel) stress or anxiety to become aware of your fragility, to know yourself better, to breathe easy, for awareness and implementation of strategies. These will be different for each person. "You must know that creation is a good response to stress, anxiety, because it puts us in perspective," explains the psychoanalyst.

So what can we do?

• Writing down your fears helps bring them down.

• Drawing your current fears, moods like "automatic writing" can also be a good remedy.

Especially since drawing is reassuring, it allows you to focus on something specific, and also to be proud of what you have managed to do, says the specialist.

• Playing with the family, especially during this time of confinement, also allows you to relax and calm down. "You can also decide to write a family cookbook, each of which will have a copy or a story," suggests the psychoanalyst.

• Learn to appreciate silence: especially during this period of confinement. "But why not listen to the singing of birds or Mozart, Bach or any other composer of your choice for an hour," suggests Virginie Megglé.

• Reconnect with nature: open the window, look at the sky, the trees, listen to the sound of the wind on the leaves. It is very important to reconnectTake these milestones that are universal and relaxing.

"Especially in a period of confinement", specifies the psychoanalyst. Because we are beings of habit and, for the moment, we have lost our way. You can also be anxious because this phase depends on things that you do not control.

• Smell smells that we are grateful for: "Our nose was very busy in the womb, and since then it has never stopped working", specifies the psychoanalyst. So, to calm down, we can resort to the scents that we like: lavender, orange blossom, green mandarin that we can breathe in the form of essential oil in a handkerchief, but why not, also, the one of the cupcake that we have for tea in the afternoon when we were little. It is up to everyone to find the familiar scent that suits them best.

What about medications?

Anxiolytics, antidepressants. "Sometimes we expect effects of these drugs that do not arrive," warns the psychoanalyst. They can be useless, especially in people of an anxious nature. And instead of a painkiller, it may be worth turning to drugs that revitalize the body, such as vitamins C, D, PP. Nor should we forget the plants. Linden, verbena, chamomile, and valerian have calming effects and are natural.

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