Negative effects of toxic stress

All negativity comes from a state of stress within our central nervous system. Stress can be an emotional, mental, physical, or chemical stimulus that is prolonged, unpredictable, and/or overwhelming to our body and mind. Stress can come in the form of having big and conflicting emotions at once, lacking skills and not knowing how to handle the situation appropriately, or having unmet needs like nutrition, rest, connection, etc. Any stress that goes on unexpressed, unprocessed, and/or misunderstood can become toxic and traumatic.  Naturally, experiences that involve actual or perceived death or serious injury increases the potential for toxic levels of stress and trauma. Toxic stress and trauma lead to dysregulation which is being in a state of STRESS beyond one’s window of tolerance and does the following:

  • Alters the chemistry and functioning of your mind/body/heart connections;
  • Creates unconscious emotions of fear;
  • Activates stress hormones and flight/flight/freeze mode of reactions;
  • Decreases ability to access higher brain functions (i.e. problem-solving, planning, language, knowing right from wrong etc.)
  • Decreases our tolerance level and increases sensitivity to stress
  • Creates more rigid, inflexible, incoherent, temperamental and chaotic reactions
  • Click the following link for more information on Effects of Toxic Stress

Our natural stress response exists on a continuum from hyper-aroused to hypo-aroused with mild to extreme reactions. Hyper-aroused is when we are over-active, on alert and in fight or flight mode. In this state, we may act out aggressively or feel anxious. Hypo-aroused is when we shut down and are in a state of freeze or collapse mode. In this state, we are disconnected within ourselves and with others. We tend to withdraw and feel numb, empty and/or depressed. Just as we are all different, so are our responses to stress. There are many contextual layers that influence the variance in our responses and the likelihood of negative effects like our window of tolerance, temperament, environment, genetic expression, the availability of protective and supportive relationships along with the presence of risk and resiliency factors.

Our experiences, especially the ones in childhood, create our templates and filters for how to process stimuli and stressors and how to respond. The first three years of life creates the blueprint for all future relationships. Most caregivers do not realize how impactful their reactions, mood, and behaviors are on their children. Children depend on caregivers for everything so if a caregiver is unavailable, angry, depressed, neglectful, out of control or acting in a way the child doesn’t understand, then the child will perceive this as a threat to their livelihood which will activate their stress response system. It is important to note that it doesn’t matter if the stress is a real threat or not as our central nervous system just has to perceive it as a threat. Our perception and interpretation of a current event instantly get filtered through our past lens of experiences and developed belief system. I highly recommend learning more about how Adverse Childhood Experiences affect our health.

From my experience, negative consequences such as conflict, “disorders” and “diseases” are the result of an overstimulated, fearful and dysregulated central nervous system which manifests itself through different reactions and symptoms dependent on our interpersonal neurobiology. This is why they’re so many new diagnoses, disorders, and diseases as they keep evolving along with the dynamics and increase of toxins within our minds, bodies, relationships, environment, and our world.

As a society, we have failed to promote sustainable, compassionate ways to get our vital needs met. We all have vital needs to feel safe, love, connected, heard, and understood. When we meet these needs, then we can naturally calm our central nervous system which allows us to access our higher brain functions and innate intelligence as well as integrate new positive experience and coping skills and even heal past trauma. When we consistently meet these vital needs, our central nervous will become securely integrated. When our brains are well integrated then we can optimally process stimuli, self-regulate, connect as well as enable more intricate functions to emerge like insight, empathy, intuition, and morality. This in-depth level of integration results in greater kindness, resilience, and well-being. We need to be child-wise and relationship-rich society.

To learn more how you can promote sustainable, compassionate ways to get your needs met in your family, check out my post Promoting Resiliency and Connection Tips

You can learn more about me and my online therapeutic services at WeCounsel

Take Wonderful Care,

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Disclaimer: Positive Reframe shares resources with the intent of the positive progression of informed decision making related to issues associated with emotional, relational, physical and spiritual wellness. While I share personal and professional perspectives, my writings reflect my personal opinion and not intended to substitute professional advice, diagnosis, and treatment thus the content shared on this page is for informational purposes only. This online medium does not lend itself to the level of detail and rapport building required for thorough assessment and therapeutic intervention. To make well-informed decisions that best meet your family’s unique needs, I highly recommend exploring and researching available options, consulting primary health care providers and seeking referrals from a trusted source for professional counseling. I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapy in the state of Illinois, USA

11 rules for Being Human

Positive Reframe...

Rule 1: You will receive a body.

You may like it or hate it, but it will be yours for the entire period this time around.

Rule 2: You will learn lessons.

You are enrolled in a full-time informal school called life. Each day in this school you will have the opportunity to learn lessons. You may like the lessons or think them irrelevant or stupid.

Rule 3: There are no mistakes, only lessons.

Growth is a process of trial and error: experimentation. The “failed” experiments are as much a part of the process as the experiment that ultimately “works”.

Rule 4: A lesson is repeated until learned.

A lesson will be presented to you in various forms until you have learned it. When you have learned it, you can then go on to the next lesson.

Rule 5: Learning lessons does not end.

There is no part of Life…

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Positive Reframes and the energy you transmit

I have found that shining a light on others’ strengths and positive intentions or traits cultivates more positivity and connections for all.

Positive Reframe...

The energy we choose to direct at children will be absorbed, internalized, and reflected back out. This process is dynamic and rapid especially when you consider the following:

  • The quality of attachment between the primary caregiver (most often the mother) and the child during the critical and sensitive period of a baby’s development becomes the blueprint for all future relationships.  (Attachment Theory by John Bowlby
  • Our bodies are made up of mostly water with babies having the most, being born with about 78%. Water molecules have been shone to change shape depending on the messages it receives. Messages of love lead to beautiful, crystallization yet molecules became disjointed and darkened when messages of hate  were expressed (see
  • Much of early human development and learning is done through implicit learning, that is learning from experience without intention or awareness 
  • Children (under age 6) are process most information using delta and theta brain waves…

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How couples can thrive through parenting…

Positive Reframe...

I actually feel grief when I hear a couple who have young children say they are divorcing. I have to process the loss of the transformative and healing potential that too many know nothing about. I honestly wish no one would get divorced when they have kids under the age of seven. From conception to age seven is most intense and sensitive period of development. The first three years of life sets the blueprint for all future relationships. The loss of a parent through a divorce along with the intensity and frequency of potential conflict can significantly affect development and life-long well-being this, of course being more negative if there are no healthy ways to process and cope with the stress, grief, and conflict.

Now before I go further, I can imagine that those read this who have divorced with young children may likely feel some defensiveness and want to explain all the valid reasons you had to divorce.  Your reasons are completely…

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I have something magical I want to share

There are many proactive and respectful ways to respond that reduce stress, promote healing and connection as well as and maximize human potential.

Positive Reframe...

You know when you have discovered something that brings you vitality, peace, and joy and you just want to share it with everyone you meet?…That’s how I feel about parenting and committed partnerships. Yet I have noticed that sharing my expertise is sometimes like a double-edged sword. These relationships are a deeply personal and often laden with landmines. The slightest expression of a contradictory belief often sets off a chain of reactions and defense mechanisms. Even sharing a positive reflection or experience can incite unconscious triggers, insecurities, and fears.

My relationships with my children and partner have become a sustainable source of peace, love, trust, security, and nurturance. Now, don’t get me wrong, my kids still go through all the challenging stages of development, yet instead of judging their behavior as something is wrong with them or as a result of something I have done (or not done), I am now better able…

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