What is resiliency and how does it contribute to health and well being?
Resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress…family, relationships, health problems, etc. Bouncing back from difficult experiences.
American Psychological Association, www.apa.org
I’ve long agreed with the belief that our bodies hold on to the emotional stress of our past. Over the years I’ve been in practice, I’ve worked to educate my clients about this mind/body connection. For example, if a client comes to me for chronic stomachaches, we’ll go beyond addressing diet to exploring unresolved emotional issues that are manifesting in the gut. Then, hopefully, we can practice new ways to manage the stressor.
Recently, though, I’ve been learning even more about the impact childhood toxic stress can have on our bodies, not just as children but also as adults. The more Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) we’ve had, such as abuse, neglect and household dysfunction, the more likely we are to be at risk for serious health problems later in life.
Last April I attended a community screening at the Paramount Theatre in Cedar Rapids of a documentary called, “Resilience: The Biology of Stress & The Science of Hope.” This film explores how toxic stress can trigger hormones that can harm children’s developing brains so profoundly that the effects show up decades later in the form of chronic disease and mental illness. Such factors can lead to a greater risk for homelessness, incarceration and even early death.
While all of that sounds disheartening, the good news is that researchers have also discovered how promoting resiliency can help the brain heal from adversity, even at a young age. By replacing toxic stress with practices that build resilience, we can gradually undo the brain’s stress-induced changes. These resiliency-building practices include:
- Deep breathing
- Good nutrition
- Adequate sleep
- Healthy social interactions
What’s Your Risk?
The “Resilience” documentary grew out of 1998 research into ACEs. The ACE survey asked people to answer questions about their childhoods—from whether a family member was imprisoned to whether their parents divorced or separated. Those who scored three or more ACEs out of a possible 10 were more at risk for serious health issues, such as heart disease and depression. You can find the questionnaire and more information about ACEs online at NPR: What Shapes Health.
Heal Your Past
If you suffered a rough childhood, there’s a good chance that the health challenges you are facing stem from those experiences. If you’re ready to heal from the childhood trauma that is impacting your health, I am here to help. Please email me at email@example.com or call me at 319-631-0824 to schedule a session.