What is toxic stress in children's lives

Stress is a normal part of life, and so is our response. The physiological response to stress is internalized in us and is the form of evolution that keeps us alive. In times of stress, our heart beats faster, our blood pressure rises, and there is adrenaline and cortisol (the stress hormone). Stress can make us stronger, faster or even more alert to the environment. In summary, the physiological changes that accompany stress are there to give us physical resources so that we can face any circumstance that comes our way.

But the stress response was intended only for short periods of time. In the right doses, cortisol – the stress hormone – that appears in our body in times of stress, will help us perform at our best. When cortisol turns on and off quickly, it helps us have energy , to improve memory, to have a better immune system.

On the other hand, when we are in an environment of chronic stress, the stress of the body becomes toxic and can cause changes in the brain and in the body. The good news is that when this happens, there are also ways to remedy it.

What is toxic stress

Toxic stress does not It is not only about the tension that is experienced, but it is about the chronic and progressive nature of the tension. All people experience stress, it is a normal and healthy part of being human. For children, however, it is something else. It is through times of stress that children learn resilience, determination, optimism, how to calm down when things start to get too tense, etc.

When stress is managed in a context with loving, stable relationships and with feelings of trust and security where children feel protected, it is possible to overcome stressful moments without leaving emotional wounds. On the other hand, the consequences of abuse, physical or emotional neglect… all of this will leave marks and emotional traces that are difficult to overcome. There may also be other more indirect reasons for stress such as chronic conflicts at home, parental addiction to arguing, maternal or paternal depression, serious illness, etc.

Toxic stress

The stress of these does not have to become toxic but it usually does. The main causes for this stress to become toxic is that there is no support or a loving relationship that can help cushion the emotional impact. The relationship does not have to be with a father or a mother, it can be with any adult who can be a reference for the child.

The brain, the body and toxic stress

When the brain is constantly exposed to toxic stress, it ‘ disconnect’ from this environment. The brain will continue to work, but it will create in children vulnerability to anxiety, depression and lower resistance to stress. Toxic stress affects people of all ages and the long-term effects will be different depending on the age of the person and the stage of development that the brain is in when they are exposed to it. constant tension.

In children’s brains there is more damage to the effect of toxic stress. An infant brain is growing, developing, and absorbs much of what is exposed in the environment. This will make it more vulnerable to some chemical influences such as stress hormones, which can cause long-term changes.Stress during this period should have a broad impact, especially on learning and memory. > Toxic stress during childhood and adolescence will cause problems with attention, impulse and emotional control in the child, since these are the parts of the brain that are developing rapidly during childhood. Ultimately, stress can affect memory, cognition, and emotion.