What is it?

According to this article in Stress is our body’s way of responding to any kind of demand or threat.  When we sense danger – real or imagined – our body automatically responds with a ‘fight or flight’ reaction.  It is this reaction that pumps us with energy and helps us focus.  This response can actually help save us when faced with real danger, giving us the strength to fight back, the endurance to get away, and the focus to make the right choice.

Stress is what allows us to take on challenges in appropriate ways: Pushing us to put aside distractions and study; sharpening our concentration when we are under pressure to succeed; keeping us on our toes when we are performing.  Stress can be a healthy thing.

When should we be worried?

Unfortunately, our stress response does not have the capacity to determine whether its invocation is due to emotion or a physical life-or-death situation.  As a result, we can get stressed about relationships, work, school, conversations, impending assessments, what happened yesterday, what could happen tomorrow and so on.  The more we feel stress, the more our stress response kicks into gear and thus creates the possibility for long term health consequences including depression, anxiety, sleep problems, digestive problems, heart disease and more.

Looking for signs of stress overload?

How do we know when stress is veering into overload?  Unfortunately, it is hard for us to recognise this ourselves as it tends to creep up on us and feel normal.  Meanwhile, others might see changes and recognise that we seem more moody, agitated, overwhelmed, isolated or depressed than usual.  We may also show difficulties concentrating, memory problems, excessive worrying and negative thoughts.  As stress increases we become more susceptible to illness and we may even start to withdraw, procrastinate or use alcohol or other substances to self-medicate.

What about children and youth?

Stress is felt regardless of age.  If young people feel an increased sense of having to meet demands, are confronted with difficult situations or feel overwhelmed by their ‘to do’ lists, they too can develop stress overload.  It is important to know our children, to keep the lines of communication open and be prepared to recognise signs that children and youth may be overcome by stress.  Check out these articles for more information on stress in children and youth.

What can we do?

Some stress is natural.  Learning how to manage stress in our lives is important to maintain balance and physical and mental health.  Some common approaches include:

  • Connecting to others – a good laugh and an embrace daily is said to be good for the body, mind and spirit.
  • Learning to relax – put things into perspective and intentionally choose to not “sweat the small stuff”.
  • Play – opportunities to let loose and have fun can be healthy for all members of the family.
  • Practice healthy routines – proper nutrition and sufficient sleep can help create balance in life.

Want to explore this topic more?

Our next Thrive! Dinner will be June 3rd at Essex United Church beginning at 5pm when we will be making quesadillas and eating together and then breaking off in groups for parents, teens, tweens and children as we explore Stress, Anxiety and Failure in playful and meaningful ways.  All are welcome!

Thrive! A living manual for families uses the tools of social media and food and fellowship to facilitate conversation about the blessings and challenges of being family today.  Check out for more information or visit our Facebook page at