As an acupuncturist I've thought a lot about stress management, because one of the main things I work with is stress release. Obviously we deal with varying degrees of situational stress throughout the many stages of our life but recently I wondered about the impact of 'old' childhood stress. What impact does it have on our health if, in addition to the daily situational stress, we also have to contend with residual stress from childhood?
I got some answers at a conference on Adverse Childhood Experiences: Lifelong Consequences and How to Overcome Them. This conference was based on a study conducted by the CDC and Kaiser which looked at how certain negative experiences during childhood impact our health and well-being later in life (link to study and link to the quiz). Turns out that childhood stress is a very serious risk factor for adulthood disease and social problems.
The adverse childhood experiences this study looked at included abuse (psychological, physical and sexual) and household dysfunction (including substance abuse in the family, mental illness in the family, domestic violence, an imprisoned household member, and loss of a parent). According to the study, these adverse childhood experiences have been linked to risky health behaviors, chronic health conditions, low life potential, and early death. As the number and intensity of the adverse experiences increases, so does the risk and intensity for problems later in life. Some of these effects include (but aren't limited to) alcoholism, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, depression, poor work performance, financial stress, risk of experiencing sexual or domestic violence, ischemic heart disease, and unwanted pregnancies.
It is sad that the effects of childhood stress is so powerful because, but it makes sense because children's brains and patterns of behavior are still developing when these events occur. The stress they experience shapes the neural connections that are being made as well as the behaviors they are adopting to cope under stressful conditions.
If you recognize that you have experienced stressful events in your childhood, it is essential that you take steps to protect your health. Acupuncture excels at reducing stress and protecting the body against its harmful effects. Other modalities such as Chinese herbs, yoga, exercise, and talk therapy are also valuable tools in this process. If you need help, let's explore how acupuncture might support you and whether to connect you with practitioners of other therapies in my network of amazing colleagues.