How to deal with Toxic Stress

“Unhappy childhoods will kill you as an adult.” –  Anon


Here is the article I promised on how to deal with Toxic Stress. The previous article described what Toxic Stress was and how you identify it. Just as a reminder.

The starting point was that there was a series of research programmes that identified the impacts of stress on us as we grow up.  Adverse Childhood Experiences, or ACEs as they are called, comes from the USA CEntre of Disease Control “CDC-Kaiser Adverse Childhood Experiences Study”, a groundbreaking public health study that discovered that childhood trauma leads to the adult onset of chronic diseases; depression and other mental illness; violence and being a victim of violence. The 10 ACEs the researchers measured can be summarised as follows:

  • Physical, sexual and verbal abuse.
  • Physical and emotional neglect.
  • A family member who is:
    • depressed or diagnosed with other mental illness;
    • addicted to alcohol or another substance;
    • in prison.
  • Witnessing a mother being abused.
  • Losing a parent to separation, divorce or other reason.

Of course, there are many other types of childhood trauma — such as witnessing a brother or sister being abused; witnessing violence outside the home; witnessing a father being abused by a mother; being bullied by a classmate or teacher. However, the point was, that only 10 types were measured. with 17,000 people in the survey and 19 years of data.,; it is pretty accurate from a stats perspective.

The study uncovered a stunning link between childhood trauma and the chronic diseases people develop as adults, as well as social and emotional problems. This includes heart disease, lung cancer, diabetes and many autoimmune diseases, as well as depression, violence, being a victim of violence, and suicide.

The good news is that the brain is plastic, and the body wants to heal.

The brain is continually changing in response to the environment. If the toxic stress stops and is replaced by practices that build resilience, the brain can slowly undo many of the stress-induced changes experienced early on.

There is well-documented research on how individuals’ brains and bodies become healthier through mindfulness practices, exercise, good nutrition, adequate sleep, and healthy social interactions.

And this is where I thought about the practices I have undertaken and the groups I have worked with; young people generally; people in treatment and finally; those young people I have worked with in prison.

Any treatment programme you undertake has to have the three core elements – physical, social and mental to ensure it works.

From a mental perspective, mindfulness is one of the NHS recommended programs. Just practicing mindfulness, without the other elements of leading a fuller life is fraught with failure.

You have got to take time to understand what the physical environment is contributing to your stress levels. Where you work; how you commute; how you take time out during the day.

Finally,  from a social perspective, do you have the friends and family relationships that you feel support and encourage you? Perhaps you might need to expand you social group. Join a  group that is looking to support its members in reducing stress. Perhaps joga. Perhaps a sport group? Whatever takes your fancy.

If you would like to take the Resilience Score and find out you would deal with stress, then go to:
I leave you with the following quote:


“When we are true to ourselves, all that is toxic and burdensome simply falls away”  ― Dina Hansen

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