IN order to help promote frank and open conversations about issues that might be affecting mental health and well-being, it is important to understand what many of the common terms we may hear, or even use, actually mean.

Have you ever felt stressed or anxious? Do you know the difference between the two? Many people think they are the same thing, possibly because they have never been explained fully. So, this week I thought I would explain the difference between the two.

Firstly, it is important to understand that stress and anxiety are both normal responses to challenging situations, but they differ in a few notable ways.

Stress is typically a response to a specific, identifiable source of pressure, such as a deadline at work, an upcoming exam, or a difficult conversation with a loved one.

Stress is a normal part of life, and can even be beneficial in small doses, as it can help motivate you to take action. Stress can be managed by identifying and addressing the source of the stress and finding healthy ways to cope with it, such as exercise, meditation, or talking to a therapist.

Anxiety, on the other hand, is a general feeling of unease or worry that is not always linked to a specific trigger. People with anxiety may experience physical symptoms such as a racing heart, muscle tension, and difficulty sleeping, as well as mental symptoms such as worry, fear, and difficulty concentrating. Anxiety can also manifest in various disorders such as Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Panic Disorder, and Social Anxiety Disorder. Anxiety is not always a bad thing, it can protect us in certain situations, but when it becomes excessive, chronic, and affects our daily life, it can become a disorder.

Another key difference is that while stress is often considered a normal response to a difficult situation, anxiety is considered a disorder when it is excessive, and affects a person's daily life on an ongoing basis. People who experience anxiety may benefit from therapy, medication, or a combination of both, to manage their symptoms.

So, there you have it in plain English, stress is a normal response to a specific, identifiable source of pressure, while anxiety is a general feeling of unease or worry that is not always linked to a specific trigger.

My column is here to help you understand more about mental health and well-being, and the things that affect how we think, feel and act. Next week I will be taking a look at why some people may turn to drug use.

If you run any type of mental health support group in the York area, please get in touch, so I can include details in a future column:

Martin Furber is a therapist qualified in various disciplines and is an Instructor Member of Mental Health First Aid England.

Please remember if you are in any kind of mental health crisis contact your GP, go to A&E or call the Samaritans on 116 123