We all undergo stress at some point in our lives. Healthy stress acts like the fuel that moves us through the difficult times of life. It gives us motivation and keeps us from staying stagnant.
Stress is our body’s way of protecting us by sending chemicals that keep us alert, aware and focused in times of danger and need. You may have heard this commonly called the “fight or flight” response.
Stress isn’t all bad, and there is a healthy level of stress that is good—protecting us and keeping us functioning, giving us the energy we need for our daily responsibilities. But how does a person differentiate if what they are feeling is a product of the healthy stress response or if there is something more happening within?
Generally speaking, stress becomes problematic when it rises to a level beyond our control and begins to permeate other areas of life, overwhelming us and stunting us rather than helping us to function. Some signs that stress has reached the danger zone may include some or all of the following:
- Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much
- Loss of appetite or overeating
- Decreased energy
- Loss of interest in things you once enjoyed
- Feeling generally overwhelmed and hopeless
- Difficulty concentrating
- Feelings of guilt
- Suicidal thoughts
If you’ve experienced some of the above symptoms that have lasted longer than two weeks during a season of stress, it’s a sign that it’s time to seek help. Because anxiety and depression many times go hand in hand, it’s important to tune inward and have an awareness of what is going on inside of us. Depression can be a paralyzing experience that can inhibit your ability to function through the normal everyday routine. It’s a dark cloud that can settle into the lives of Christians and non-Christians alike, taking over your thoughts and your feelings and sapping your strength.
The good news is that whether you are stressed or actually depressed, there is a way out. Sorrow may last for a night, but there is always hope for joy to come in the morning (Psalm 30:5). Talk to your doctor and seek professional counseling to combat the symptoms of your physical and emotional depression in the most effective way possible. Don’t allow the tentacles of depression to take hold of your life and bring you down.
Act quickly, and take the necessary steps to walk toward hope and healing.