How Acute, Ongoing Childhood Stress Impacts Your Nervous System
When you think of stress, what comes to mind? Most people think of acute, short-term stressors such as a deadline at work, a traffic jam when you’re already late, or a presentation to give. However, what many people with stressful childhoods don’t think about is how that ongoing stress affects them decades later, today. So, what about the effects of chronic stress on our nervous system? Growing up in a stressful environment can create limiting beliefs about ourselves while also having lasting impacts on your physical and mental health as an adult.
Let’s explore how these long-term effects manifest themselves in adulthood (and how to break free of its negative effects on you today.)
How Ongoing Stress Affects Your Nervous System
How Ongoing Stress Affects Your Subconscious Mind
Ongoing childhood stress can cause deep subconscious belief systems that carry through to adulthood. When a child does not feel safe consistently in their home for example, their inner mind creates a command that says “it is not safe to rest” (hello high functioning anxiety)!
That inner belief can link to OCD, self-worth issues, emotional outbursts, and high functioning anxiety as I mentioned, for example. Our inner mind is constantly looking for ways to prove its beliefs correct . When limiting belief systems that encourage a state of anxiety go on unchecked, it is difficult to reset the nervous system and find true mental freedom from chronic anxiety.
The Impact on Brain Structure
If you experienced ongoing stress as a child it also could have had an impact on the physical structure of the brain itself. Studies have shown that high cortisol levels (the hormone released in response to stress) actually change the way certain parts of the brain develop. In particular, when we experience prolonged or repeated exposure to stress as children our amygdala grows larger than normal while our hippocampus (responsible for memory and learning) shrinks compared to individuals who experienced less stressful situations during childhood.
Did you have a hard time learning in school and also experience ongoing stress at home? This difference in brain structure is one reason why chronic childhood stress can result in cognitive deficits, learning disabilities and ADHD, later in life.
Generational Trauma Cycles
Women are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of chronic stress due to hormonal fluctuations throughout their lifetime. During pregnancy, women experience significant changes in hormonal levels that can impair their ability to maintain emotional equilibrium, leading them into heightened states of anxiety if there is already an underlying history of chronic stress or trauma. This is a perfect example of why generational trauma cycles happen: A woman was not conditioned to regulate her emotional state as a child. She becomes a mother and is under constant physical and emotional pressure due to raising children while juggling other responsibilities such as work and managing a household. She is not able to regulate because her brain was not conditioned or developed in such a way – thus putting her children into a constant state of unease and stress.
You can not change the environment that you grew up in. But the good news is that your brain is plastic not metal. Which means you can reprogram your mind for a better reality. You can train your nervous system to know peace. It all starts with healing the root of your belief systems around safety and self-worth.
What Can You Do To Help Yourself, Today
Hypnotherapy can heal the root and soothe your nervous system
Nourishing and time for yourself can be helpful. However, without providing healing to the root (healing our inner child and reprogramming belief systems) the constant state of tension that inhibits you from thriving, feeling joy and forming fulfilling relationships will continue. Hypnotherapy is becoming an increasingly popular way of healing on both a physical and a mental level. By connecting to your subconscious mind, Hypnotherapy can help to get to the root of issues such as anxiety, allowing you to better find peace and manage mental stress. Hypnosis works with the power of suggestion in order to soothe your nervous system and bring it back into balance! Hypnotherapists use deep relaxation techniques to access this level of calmness which encourages positive changes in your thoughts, behaviors, emotions, and various internal systems. This form of therapy offers tremendous potential for achieving transformation.
Despite its negative implications on our emotional well-being, taking steps towards healing childhood conditioning of unsafety is possible through awareness, self-care practices, and seeking professional help. Healing the root of anxiety retroactively resets the nervous system. This combination will set you up for greater success in the future by allowing you to be more resilient against any potential sources of stress that come your way! It is time we start taking our childhood experiences seriously – they have far reaching consequences than we could ever imagine.