Newsletter from Employee Health Promotions

September 2018

Stressed out and anxious? What’s the difference?

By Marsha K. Molinari, MSW, LICSW, EAP Consultant for Vital WorkLife

I get a lot of questions in my private practice about stress and anxiety. Questions like, “How do I know if I am just feeling stressed out or if I have anxiety?” “Is there a difference?” I can say with confidence—everyone experiences one or both at one time or another.

Stress and anxiety go hand in hand and are often used interchangeably. Stress can be related to the same ‘fight, flight or freeze’ response as anxiety and the physiological symptoms of anxiety and stress can be similar. Both stress and anxiety can lead to exhaustion, lack of focus, insomnia, irritability, muscle tension, diarrhea and headaches. However, there is one major symptom differentiating anxiety from stress. Anxiety induces an untiring feeling of dread, doom and/or apprehensiveness—stress does not.

What is stress?

Stress occurs when our body and mind respond to life’s pressures and challenges. The feeling of stress can be a warning sign usually associated with frustration and nervousness. When a person is over-stressed, they may or may not know what they are stressed about, but the feeling will usually disappear when there is a reduction in the number or stressors in a person’s life. “Stress is like a spice – in the right proportion it enhances the flavor of a dish. Too little produces a bland, dull meal; too much may choke you.” – Donald Tubesing

Stress can be either a positive or negative experience. If the stressor is dealt with, it can be a motivation to help make a change in how a person perceives a situation or challenge. However, if the stress becomes unreasonable it can negatively impact daily life.

What is anxiety?

Anxiety is a mental health concern, can develop as a negative effect of stress and can continue long after the stressor is gone. Anxiety is not always related to anything particular and often comes from a place of fear, worry and an uneasiness that seems out of control. The symptoms of anxiety do not disappear as easily as the symptoms of chronic stress. Both anxiety and chronic stress can originate from any situation or thought that creates a feeling of frustration, anger or even anxiousness.“Anxiety is a lot like a toddler. It never stops talking, tells you that you are wrong about everything, AND wakes you up at 3 am.” – Author unknown

Both anxiety and stress can have a similar impact on the body and mind. The medical theory for the development of anxiety is due to internal and/or external stressors over time. The brain and body attempt to compensate for these stressors by altering the production of neurotransmitters and hormones, which makes the body more difficult to regulate. Similar to anxiety, chronic stress can cause changes in brain chemistry, physical health and the ability to cope with life’s struggles.

What are the negative impacts of chronic stress and anxiety on the body?

  • Disrupted hormone function

  • Increased stress on organs

  • Weakened immune system

  • Increased risk of cancer

  • Memory and concentration issues

  • Increased likelihood to develop mental health disorders

  • Insomnia

How to manage stress and/or anxiety

  • Deep breathing exercises: Structured breathing exercises or simply focusing on your breath while breathing fully helps your body go from the fight-or-flight response to your relaxation response.

  • Regular exercise: Helps release important brain chemicals, enhances the immune system and increases your body temperature protecting you from the effects of stress and anxiety.

  • Turn towards the positive: Every night, take a piece of paper and draw two columns. List the troubling things in one column and favorable things in the other. Make at least one favorable entry for each troubling one!

  • Practice mindfulness meditation: Train your brain to focus on the present instead of anxieties about the future or regret about the past. Try meditating for 15 minutes every day. Every practice will get easier.

  • Do a “digital detox”: Disconnect from technology by putting your phone away for short periods; take a break from social media and email.

  • No matter what you are struggling with, you never have to deal with it alone. Talking to others provides us with meaningful social support and forces our concerns out making them easier to understand and work through.

We Can Help

If you are looking for a place to start, call VITAL WorkLife any time, day or night, at 800.383.1908. Anxiety is a treatable condition. As part of your EAP you have access to in the moment phone support, counseling and more. If you’re having thoughts of harming yourself or others, please seek immediate medical attention.

1 Kicking Your Stress Habits: A Do It Yourself Guide for Coping. Donald Tubesing.

2 Moss, Gabrielle. “4 Ways to Tell the Difference Between Stress and Anxiety.”, Jan. 2016.


Alnuweiri, Tamim. “Stress and Anxiety101: What’s the Difference Between the Two Mental-Health Issues?”, March 2018.

Calm Clinic Editorial Team, November 27, 2017.

Healthline Editorial Team, May 25, 2017.

Holmes, Lindsay. “The Difference Between Stress and Anxiety”. Huffington Post, Dec. 2017. /stress/fact-sheet-on-stress.shtml

Vital Worklife Employee Assistance Program

Vital Worklife Employee Assistance Program. This service is geared toward recognizing an employee's life situations and helping to find appropriate help. It is confidential and is available to both the employee and members of their household - at no cost to the employee.

Examples of services available:

  • Phone Coaching

  • Online Seminars

  • Chemical Dependency Assessment

  • Face to Face counseling

  • Legal and Financial discounts

  • Click HERE for a complete list of services offered by this provider.

Phone number is: 1-800-383-1908.

Website is: username-mankatoschools, password -member

MAPS Family Academy will Address the Topic

Poster advertising opportunity to participate in a free fitness class at Lincoln Community Center.  Offer is open to all employees of Mankato Area Public Schools.  If interested contact Tia Dupont at

Other Resources for Your Wellness

  • MAPS Community Education and Recreation classes and events are advertised in the seasonal brochure each Fall, Winter and Summer. Employees are eligible for a $10 fee reduction for a class in each brochure. Each individual must register and provide their employee email address and work site. Contact the CER office at 507-387-5501 for more information.
Current Fall Brochure

  • READY! for Kindergarten. At the time of a requested paternity/maternity leave, an employee is entitled to two (2) years of READY! for Kindergarten Classes advertised in the seasonal Early Childhood Brochure. Registration is conducted through the Early Learning Office by calling 507-625-4620 or stopping by the Family Learning Center, 820 Hubbell in Mankato and completing the paperwork process.
Current Fall Brochure

  • The Omada program is now available to all our health plan participants and adult dependents. Omada® is a digital lifestyle change program that inspires healthy habits that last. It combines the latest technology with useful information and ongoing support from a health coach - an approach shown to promote weight loss and reduce risk for type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Watch a two-minute overview at Individuals can find out if they're eligible for the program by taking a one-minute risk screener at

  • Vitals SmartShopper is another new program. It’s a health care shopping and savings program that works with your medical benefits. With SmartShopper, you and your covered family members shop for different medical procedures and tests via phone, web, or mobile device. When you choose to have your procedure at a facility on the SmartShopper list, you earn cash. You also save money on what you pay out-of­-pocket for the procedure. Register by calling the SmartShopper Personal Assistance Team at 1-866-285-7452 or go online to

  • 2019 MAPS Employee and Dependent Flu Shot Clinic - August 29th 11:30-5:30 PM
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