We tend to think of summertime as the time for rest and relaxation. Things like going on road trips, heading to the beach, and having fun at the amusement parks. Summer is supposed to be the time for unwinding and taking a break from life’s usual stress. Some forms of stress are a more difficult to recover from, though. The Brighter Hope Wellness Center blog will be bringing you topics this summer on how you can reduce stress in both your child’s life and your own. We start with what is called toxic stress. Toxic stress is a type of stress that can take a while to fully heal because of how damaging it is.
What is toxic stress?
To understand what toxic stress is, let’s first talk about two other types of stress. Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child discusses positive stress and tolerable stress in addition to toxic stress. Positive stress is considered the form of stress that is beneficial in some way. Think of the nervousness an athlete feels before a big game. Positive stress raises your heart rate and stress hormones for a brief period of time to give you the boost you need to improve your performance. Tolerable stress, then, is one that is more impactful but still relatively short in duration. An example is surviving a natural disaster.
Toxic stress is the type of stress that is “strong, frequent, and/or prolonged.” It occurs over a long period of time. We know that it can lead to enduring change in a person’s physical body. And unfortunately, it can lead to an increase in mental illness such as depression and suicide. Understanding the type of stress your child may be experiencing is an important first step in knowing what to do. This summer we will continue to discuss toxic stress and how to best combat its effects. We will identify sources of stress, the changes it can make in a young developing brain, the long-term effects it can have, and coping strategies to lessen its effects.
Dr. Cindy T. Graham discussed the long-term effect of toxic stress can have on children who have been separated from their parents during the detainment of immigrants coming across the United States border on Good Morning Washington for WJLA/ABC7. You can see it here.