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Trauma & TOXIC Stress

Learning to deal with S.H.I.T.

We've gotta learn to handle the S.H.I.T. It's a crucial part of growing up healthy. But too much of it, for too long, can really mess up a kid's life by putting their body and brain on constant alert. This kind of stress can mess with learning, behaviour, and overall health, sticking around for years. And let's face it, we're all dealing with some level of this toxic stress in our lives right now.


What is Toxic Stress?


Not All Stress is Bad

We must note, not all stress is bad.

Some stress motivates us! It causes us to plan! To prepare! Think about when you are preparing for public speaking ~ we usually feel some positive stress. It’s important to distinguish among three kinds of responses to stress: positive, tolerable, and toxic. These three terms refer to the stress response systems’ effects on the body, not to the stressful event or experience itself:

The three types of stress infographic
Male Student
Positive Stress Response

Positive stress response is a normal and essential part of healthy development, characterized by brief increases in heart rate and mild elevations in hormone levels. Some situations that might trigger a positive stress response are the first day of school or trying a new activity.

Tolerable Stress Response

Tolerable stress response activates the body’s alert systems to a greater degree as a result of more severe, longer-lasting difficulties, such as the loss of a loved one, a natural disaster, or a frightening injury. If the activation is time-limited and buffered by relationships with adults who help the child adapt, the brain and other organs recover from what might otherwise be damaging effects.

Toxic Stress Response

Toxic stress response can occur when a child experiences strong, frequent, and/or prolonged adversity—such as physical or emotional abuse, chronic neglect (isolation), caregiver substance abuse or mental illness, exposure to violence, and/or the accumulated burdens of family economic hardship—without adequate adult support. This kind of prolonged activation of the stress response systems can disrupt the development of brain architecture and other organ systems, and increase the risk for stress-related disease and cognitive impairment, well into the adult years. The recent pandemic and subsequent repurcussions are a direct driver of toxic stress nationwide.

How Toxic Stress Affects Children's Health

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