How Ongoing Childhood Stress Impacts Your Nervous System as an Adult

How Acute, Ongoing Childhood Stress Impacts Your Nervous System

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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

Ongoing childhood stress (even acute going stress) can cause changes in the architecture of the brain, affecting how it works and how you feel as an adult. Stress has been linked to increased risk for anxiety because it affects the development of key parts of the brain responsible for processing emotions. It often creates an overactive nervous system that is constantly in fight or flight mode—that gnawing feeling of unease. Fight, flight or freeze is the body’s natural response to protect itself from danger. When someone’s nervous system is always in high alert, it can be difficult to maintain focus, lack confidence, establish meaningful friendships and they may experience a perpetual feeling of unease.

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

It’s important to be aware of how acute, ongoing childhood stress can affect your mental and physical health as an adult. Awareness is key which can then lead you to taking next steps towards a stabilized nervous system, mental freedom and a deep sense of safety.
Here are some easy next steps you can take towards nurturing your nervous system:
1. Identify activities that bring you joy
2. Practice mindfulness practices like self-hypnosis, 15 minute meditation…
3. Get plenty of restorative sleep
4. Nourish yourself – eat protein every 3-4 hours  and healthy fats to support healing your nervous system
5. Move your bod. In any way. Just move it in a way that feels good for you.
These simple (and free) practices will help you reduce your overall stress and support regulating your nervous system.

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.

If you are ready to address your childhood ongoing stress, book your consult today: https://calendly.com/herworldhypnosis/consult