Last time we learned about the ACE Study and how childhood adversity has long-term impacts on a person’s mental, psychological, and physical well-being, as well as one’s spirituality/sense of Self. Whether in childhood or as an adult, because of chronic adversity (read ‘stress’) elevated levels of toxic molecules (e.g., adrenalin, cortisol, etc. ) are released in the brain.
Stress can come in the form of fear, uncertainty, lack of control, helplessness and even a lack of information. Levels especially increase when the basic needs for protection, support, love and emotional fulfillment are not met.
When stress happened as children, we were often left on our own with a milieu of emotions and thoughts. We were not taught to emotionally regulate (to stay in ‘the window of tolerance’) and thus, the chance of these stress molecules being metabolized in the 12-30 hrs it takes was often not able to occur. Thus, the chronic increased levels of toxic molecules causes wear and tear not only on the brain but trigger a complex inflammatory response in the body – the beginning of disease.
Stress is the common risk factor of 75%–90% diseases – the most common being cardiovascular diseases (i.e., hypertension, atherosclerosis), metabolic diseases (i.e., diabetes, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease), psychotic and neurodegenerative disorders (i.e., depression, Alzheimer’s & Parkinson’s diseases), and cancer (Cohen et al., 2007). Many non-medical symptoms are stress related. [FMI
Although the exact stress-inflammatory metabolic systems are still under debate, what is agreed upon is the over-activated immune system, increased activity of fight or flight pathways, and the alteration of brain neurotransmitters levels work in tandem in the activation of inflammatory responses during stress.
The preventative and maintenance tasks are to learn how to ‘Keep Calm’ and from a psychological perspective, identify what underlying feelings and thoughts drive the stress. Most of the time stress is from worry (about not being in control, being responsible, fixing), not setting boundaries or being assertive, ignoring body symptoms, suppressing our feelings, and being more concerned about other people’s needs than ours [Did I hear the word ‘nice’?].
We may tell ourselves, “I better not,” “Don’t rock the boat,” “I can’t,” “I’m bad,” and “They won’t like me.” When we don’t express feelings and wants they show up in behaviours such as gossip, sarcasm, blaming, resentments, anger, the silent-treatment, lying, and compliance. When we silence our selves so we might not hurt others, we ironically end up hurting our body and soul.