What to do when you’re living with more than one stressful problem

You may find yourself living with more than one problem, for example if your parent has a drinking problem and they have a mental health difficulty. These are known as ADVERSE CHILDHOOD EXPERIENCES also known as ACEs. Living with one of these issues is stressful and living with more than one problem can make things even more stressful, both in the short term, and as you get older.

When something makes you feel unsafe or scared, your body will go into SURVIVAL MODE. You think about how to protect yourself. Your heart starts to pound, your blood pressure rises, breathing increases, and your muscles tense up. When someone is constantly put into survival mode, their brain releases STRESS HORMONES.

When this happens regularly, it can be toxic, meaning it can have a LONG-TERM impact that can affect health and outlook later in life. Without protective factors such as support from strong and caring adults, this toxic stress can lead to UNHEALTHY HABITS and POOR COPING STYLES like overeating, smoking, alcohol use, drug abuse, and unhealthy relationships.


Not everyone who has experienced these stresses will have problems later in life. Building good coping skills, having safe places, and supportive people can help you “BOUNCE BACK” from all of this. The strengths both inside (your confidence, self-esteem) and outside yourself (good support) build RESILIENCE – the ability to bounce back from problems in life.

Support like Steps to Cope will not take away what a young person has lived through; however, so far, our work is showing that it can improve young people’s resilience and can help them develop strengths that REDUCE THE IMPACT of these adverse experiences.