The effects of Stress on Brain Development
The effects of stress on the developing brain is something that has been highly researched and more evidence comes to light each day.
Here’s what we know about the effects of stress on our babies and children.
Some stresses are GOOD
The brain needs a certain level of stress in order to healthily develop, and some stresses are better than others. We experience the stress of meeting new people, of tests, of going somewhere new for the first time, these types of stress are good for our brains and help us to prepare our brains for future life. We absolutely cannot protect our babies and children from all stresses in life, but we can protect them or support them I dealing with bad stresses.
Bad stresses can also be described as toxic stresses. Toxic stresses include neglect, emotional abuse, physical abuse and these can cause the brain to become stunted in its development. Bad stress can also cause health problems, addiction and mental health problems in future life.
In order to prepare or help to support our children’s brains effectively, we must expose them to ‘good stresses,’ whilst protecting them from bad stresses that can negatively impact development.
Executive Function and Self Regulation
The brain can be likened to a busy watch tower, the air traffic control has to prevent collisions and the brain has the same job. Children need to be able to self regulate, that is to calm, themselves down, to manage their emotions, to know and understand the tools and techniques they need to use to calm themselves. However it is simply not enough in a moment of anger and rage to tell a child to, ‘calm down.’ Instead as parents and caregivers, we must talk through and teach the strategies used to effectively ‘calm down.’ We simply cannot expect our children to know how to do this without being taught.
Children cannot build their brain on their own, they need support and this comes in all shapes and sizes. From caregivers, from parents, from family members, from strong societies and communities. It is our mission at Beautiful New Beginnings to create Generations of Holistically well children and to do this we must support our parents in their own education, knowledge and understanding of child development. We as a community will not see generations of holistically well children develop if our understanding of brain development does not reach our parents. When children’s healthy brain development is promoted and championed, when we gain greater understanding of how to build a healthy brain we will effectively build a brighter future for us all.
If you would like support in building a secure attachment and healthy baby brain in a welcoming, friendly and play based space, join our group – online classes for little ones.
We cant wait to meet you.
There are some stay at home activities and techniques that you can do at home that will help you take care of your own mental health and wellbeing during this time of uncertainty. Giving these activities and techniques will not only help you to support those around you but it will also ensure that you’re monitoring and maintaining your own health and wellbeing. You can’t pour from an empty cup.
Staying Connected Is Important
Staying in touch via telephone, video calls or social media instead of meeting in person has become the new normal. Identifying how it has or if it has affected your wellbeing will be something that you should be checking in with every other day if not every day. Staying in touch with family an friends will help support your own wellbeing and mental health. Maintaining healthy relationships with people we trust will not only help keep communication lines open but it will help those people identify the times when we need them the most. Its healthy to pick up the phone for a chat, even when it seems last the last thing that you want to do. Share Your Worries Sharing your worries with others is sometimes seen as putting weight onto those we love most. I speak to so many people who haven’t shared their worries with others because they don’t want to weigh them down or make them feel bad in this current situation. Think about it like this, if your friend needed to talk to you about their worries but didn’t because they didn’t want to upset you or weigh you down, what would you say to them? Now turn this advice around to yourself and pick up the phone, they want you to.
Helping someone around you will benefit your own wellbeing and mental health. This might be picking the phone up and having a chat about their worries, to it might be picking them some toiletries up from the supermarket when you go this week. It’s important to remember that even though we want to help those around us , we won’t always be able to help everyone. Protect yourself by knowing when a situation needs to be highlighted to a professional who has the training and supervision to support.
How Can You Become Prepared?
Staying at home at the beginnings of Covid19 I became super organised, my house was cleaned from top to bottom and I knew where everyone was and what they were supposed to be doing. This lasted about 3 weeks until I started to feel drained, like I was on a hamster wheel doing the same things every day. My children started to get bored and sleeping in happened a lot. It wasn’t until I noticed that I was becoming unprepared both with work commitments and with keeping my children accountable for their studying. Both have exams over the next two years and I knew something had to change. I started to prepare my food again, I used Saturdays for planning my business and I included a daily walk at a certain time every day while trying to switch up the location so that my children could explore.
Listen To Your body
Our physical health plays a massive part in how we feel throughout the day. If you’re feeling unmotivated try eating a healthier, well-balanced meals while drinking enough water each day. This will leave you feeling full of energy and ready for what ever the day brings. Try and exercise daily, even if it’s just for a short walk in the your local park. This will also help you feel more energetic, it will also help with sleep.
Read The Facts
Find credible source information that you can trust. Please avoid reading blogs or articles that have those negative headings. While doing this please be mindful of how inaccurate information could affect others too. Try not to share information without fact-checking against credible sources. Limiting time on social media will support this.
Monitor Your Routine
Concern around the outbreak is perfectly normal. However, some of the calls I’ve received these past few weeks have highlighted the amount of anxiety that the change of routine has created. Try to set yourself and your children a routine that you can follow during the outbreak, this will help you feel more in control which will help support any anxiety around not being in control.
Still Live Your Life
When we feel worried , anxious or low, we might stop doing the things that usually light up our life. Try focusing on a hobby that you’ve had to stop due to the outbreak, how can you still do this hobby at home or what can you replace the hobby for this period? There are so many incredible free tutorials and courses online, and people are coming up with inventive new ways to do things, like hosting family quiz nights, wine tasting sessions and much more. Go online and have a search, if you can’t find what you’re looking for then why not create it yourself?
Mindfulness will help you focus on the present moment, rather than worrying about the future. This can support any difficult emotions while improve our wellbeing. Relaxation techniques will also help you to deal with feelings of anxiety.
Sleep is so important, even during an outbreak where we can’t leave our homes. Think about the current sleep routine you’re in, is it a healthy one that you would recommend to friends and family? Try maintain a sleep routine that is healthy, don’t stay up to late just because you know you can sleep in the next day. Your body clock really won’t thank you for it when we’re out of isolation and expected to get back into the routine we were in pre outbreak. Plus you’ll miss all of the incredible sessions we have over on the Beautiful New Beginnings platforms.
Clare – BNB wellbeing counsellor
What is Journalling?
JournalLing is a written record of our thoughts & feelings. There are really not any rules although most journaling is a daily exercise. Journaling is a way to track everyday life.
Figuring out what makes us tick and happy or upset. Creating a meaningful connection with ourselves is as important as creating meaningful connections with family or friends. Regular journalling strengthens immune cells. And if you struggle with stress, depression, or anxiety, keeping a journal can help you gain control of your emotions and improve your mental health & memory.
What can journalling help you with?
• Managing anxiety
• Reducing stress
• Coping with depression
• Journalling helps you to prioritise your problems & fears
• Tracking your problems daily helps to see what are the triggers
and how to be aware and solve them more effectively
• Journalling helps to identify negative thoughts and behaviours
• Clarify your thoughts and feelings & get to know yourself better.
• Journalling allows us to see our problems with more clarity & a new perspective on things that are happening daily in our life.
Why journalling in pregnancy will support you
Pregnancy can be an exhausting emotional roller coaster ride for many expectant mothers. From the moment the pregnancy test comes back positive to the time the baby makes their arrival, you’re sure to go through some ups and downs. And, over the course of several physical changes, you may discover a surprising new craving for milkshakes or find yourself crying over the smallest mistake. When looking at pregnancy specifically for journalling, here are some of the reasons why
you should start writing as soon as your baby bump begins to show.
• Reduce Stress
Finding an outlet for your thoughts during pregnancy, can help you find solutions to your pregnancy fears and manage the anxiety that comes from negative thoughts. It’s an effective means to access your emotions and rid yourself of stress, which may affect the wellbeing of your baby. You can even go as far as writing down your fears and throw the paper away.
• Organise Yourself
We know how disoriented a pregnancy can make expecting parents feel. It’s no easy task getting everything ready for the little patter of feet, maintaining a healthy lifestyle as well as managing your regular schedule. Apart from organising your thoughts, journalling can also help to coordinate your to do’s, manage your time efficiently and ultimately make
you a more productive parent-to-be.
• Set Your Goals
If you already have a new baby checklist, how will you go about making sure all your tasks get done? Putting this information down on paper is a simple way to organise effectively
and hold yourself responsible for your goals. It gives you the chance to accomplish them noticeably and makes achieving them seem more realistic.
• Track Your Progress
Journalling your pregnancy can be a confidence booster while tracking your pregnancy progress. Your journal will be an inventory of your achievements and successes during your pregnancy. So, if you’re planning to fall pregnant again, you can reflect on your previous experiences and say “I’ve made it through once, I can do it again.”
• Celebrate Your Happy Moments
How did you feel when you first found out that your little bundles was a boy or a girl? What was your first reaction when you saw the ultrasound image of your baby? Describe
these positive emotions in your journal. At the end of each day, scribble down all the things that went smoothly and that you’re proud of. Perhaps you’ve finally finished decorating the nursery room, or you’ve decided on a name for the baby. Treasure these golden moments for the days you’re feeling down. If you need more support with journalling please make sure you’ve found the official Beautiful New Beginnings Antenatal group over on Facebook for more journalling support when pregnant.
Clare – BNB counselling support
What is separation anxiety?
As a parent or carer, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that separation anxiety means I’ve done something wrong.
Children who haven’t bonded with their caregiver don’t usually cry, as we see with children who as babies were not held and rocked and snuggled.
These babies stop crying because they know that no one will answer. Children who haven’t bonded don’t experience separation anxiety.
So the crying and clinging that happens when you try to drop off your child at nursery or school is a sign that your child’s brain is developing normally. This was a big weight lifted for me as a mum when my child cried ALOT going into school.
How can you support your child or young person with separation anxiety?
These are my own opinions as a mum that helped but also using some mindfulness techniques I use as a therapist.
Transitional objects, Comfort blankets, teddies etc will help your child by using their senses to be reminded that they’re safe and will provide comfort at the times your child needs it most. You can buy a special object or your child might have something that they’re attached to already. Having a transitional object does not mean in any way that your child isn’t ready or will be picked on by other children.
Pictures are a reminder When my youngest daughter started school the school reception teacher asked parents and carers to bring in a picture on the first day to put in a picture frame in the play house area. This helped my little one remember that we’re not too far away and when my daughter focused on the family picture she felt the love and protection that comes from us all. Any anxiety she may have been feeling will have lifted in that moment from focusing deeply on her loved ones, oxytocin (the bonding hormone) was released. This activated another pattern in her brain that literally released any fear around being in school without us. If your child’s or young persons school doesn’t ask you for a picture you can ask them and explain the positive impact it can have. Some people think that having a picture may cause more upset but after that initial separation at the door it really can help support your child or young person.
Stepladder approach for separation anxiety
It can be tempting to simply let a child avoid situations where she might feel separation anxiety. We can choose not to drop our babies off at the gym nursery, or to keep them out of swimming lessons, or even to home school.
Instead, you can try this stepladder approach. The first step of your stepladder should be the thing your child fears the least. This might be as simple as leaving your child in another room while you take a little break in the bathroom, or leaving her at home with home with dad for 10 minutes while you go to the shops. If necessary, offer a reward to the child when you return but praise usually works wonders so don’t worry about buying a reward as this can become something that your child expects. I would turn up to my sons school with after school snacks as a treat or a little book I had picked up from a local shop. I stopped this the day I turned up after working a little later which meant no time to stop at a shop and my son kicked off massively because I didn’t have a prize for him. Ensure that you use positive praise as well as a little prize like a sticker or a printable certificate you can download from
Twinkl – https://www.twinkl.com
Once your child experiences less fear around the first step, give them even more praise and encouragement! They’ve done incredible so make sure they know it.
Then you take the next step. This might be dropping her off at for 30 minutes at your parents house or for a very short play time date with a friend. If those steps are too far apart, pull back and make very small changes instead.
Play therapy through social stories
Play therapy is designed to role play normal, everyday situations while allowing your child or young person to identify the solutions that may come with tricky situations. Social stories through play therapy is often used when working with children with autism, anxiety, and other similar struggles.
A social story can help a child with anxiety in several ways:
- It shows the situation from a child’s perspective.
- It helps the child have appropriate expectations about the situation.
- It gives the child the chance to have some control over what they will experience.
Social stories can be written for young child, or why not them have some say in how the story will go, that is more likely to will the child or young person a sense of control over their life. This sense of control can be really important to a child with anxiety because they know what’s coming next. Great for when scheduling the days agenda or deciding how the day looks for our children or young people as well as for ourselves.
If you’re struggling with separation anxiety and you would like private 1-1 counselling support please fill in the contact us form and we can direct you.
How Can I Support My Stressed Out Child with Covid?
Be clear about what is going on
Our children and young people want to know and feel that we as parents or carers are doing everything within our power to keep them safe. It’s how the develop the nurturing side of their personalities. Being heard supports this but also age appropriate conversations that are clear about what exactly is going on will help support them and help them feel secure within their home. Please don’t depend on your Facebook feed to give you reliable information about the current pandemic. Use reliable sources such as the NHS coronavirus advice site or the actual government guidelines that are regularly updated and do cover a lot more than any other online source. We haven’t got all of the answers that our children or young people present to us and sometimes lying to them will only make the situation in their minds more stressed from the confusion. If you don’t know sorting and you can’t find the answer then just listening to your child or young person will help them feel supported.
Should I limit the news and conversations about coronavirus around my child or young person?
Age dependant I think it’s really important to not overwhelm our children with the reminder of the virus. If it’s out of their control then do they really need a daily reminder that it’s still there? Sometimes I will say things like “Enjoy your time off and If anything changes I will make sure you’re the first to know”. I think this helps with younger children but for young people who have access to their own social media or the news it can be a little be tricky to stop feeds of false information coming through, all you can do is use your active listening skills to reassure your children or young person so that they feel secure and safe.
Keep Contact Open And Regular
If you’re back in work or have time apart from your children or if like me your children disappear to their room without a trace ( teenagers! ) then it’s really important that you keep regular contact with them so ensure they feel secure. Open communication with your children or young people about any arrangements that you have made including work commitments even when working at home will support their wellbeing and ensure they understand your routine and also the boundaries when communicating if you’re out of the house in work.
Routines Have Changed And That’s Ok
Routines create feelings of being safe for children and young people, even with us adults a secure routine can make us feel secure with what’s coming. The fear of the unknown can cause procrastination especially in the minds of children and young people. Have you developed a new routine during this pandemic? Having a routine even if it’s a agenda of that day and you include what time breakfast, lunch and tea in or what time your family walk is. Routines also include the time you have work commitments and when children or young people are expected to do the school work set. Ask teachers what you can do to support a home routine for education but don’t overwhelm yourself , your children or young person.
Move Around And Get Active
Staying indoors can be challenging when children and young people need to be active for at least 60 minutes a day. Plan time outside to go on family walks but being realistic getting my teenagers out for a family walk has been tough! If you can think of games to play with younger children in the garden or safely around the home then great! You can access so many exercise classes now online both for adults and children. I’ve started counting my own steps to help ensure that I’m moving around the house as much as I can because it’s become far to easy to sit and watch a film with a hot cup of tea several times a day.
This doesn’t mean dieting in anyway. I know how tempting to settle a toddler with a pack of buttons or a teenager with snacks and fizzy pop but being mindful about what our children and young people eat is really important right now because it will be released into their moods. If we allow our children and young people to binge no so healthy foods then they’re going to develop habits of binging and become addicted to the amount of sweet level. Having a routine for meals during your day is a great way on monitoring when everyone is eating , what they’re eating and it’s extra time to have that family time. I don’t know about you but my children haven’t stopped eating so I had to replace non healthy treats with more healthier options to ensure their health.
Sleep Is key
Children and young people need sleep even they don’t like to admit it and do everything within their power to stay up later or to get up super early. Developing a new routine for sleep is really important and won’t be the easiest thing on your list but it’s something that you need to identify. Will your child or young person be able to keep the routine they’re developing when school begins or when they get that call for the job they applied for? It might be the easier option to let the day flow and allow children to fall asleep when they drift off but it’s not the healthy option in anyway. Children need routine and young people need to understand how important a set routine is going to be for their future, this routine must include sleep.
Check In With You
During everything that is going on around us we have to ensure that to take care of our children and young people we need to be able to identifying when we need time out or we need to go on a quiet walk on our own if it’s safe to do so. Checking in on how we’re feeling will not only allow us to positively approach any challenges our children to young people bring but it will bring a sense of calmness and confidence as a parent or a carer which again subconsciously creates a sense of safety for our children and young people. You can offer more support if you’ve prepped your mind and fuelled your body because you’re cup is full but if you don’t take care of yourself you’ll become more irritated and sometimes the littlest thing can cause you stress which then flows to those around you. If you need stress management support please don’t hesitate to fill in the contact us form on the website for our counsellor to contact you directly to arrange support.
Supporting Children through Covid 19
Your children or young person may or may not be reacting and responding to this pandemic. You might feel they’re not showing signs until you read the information on this blog and
then the signs may begin to present themselves, we don’t want you to panic becausewe’ve developed a new support system that is online to support parents and carers to spot the signs. This includes any amount of stress that they might be feeling due to the pandemic or due to the home isolation advice that were created due to the pandemic.
Signs of stress that your child or young person may be experiencing may include;
• More emotional
• Upset easily
• Behaving differently
• Become clingy
• Signs of being withdrawn
• Wetting the bed
• Sleep disturbance
Children and young people can feel less stressed when they’re able to openly communicate and express themselves. This is not always easy and can become really frustrating when emotions in the household are high. When children are unable to communicate their thoughts or feelings or indeed, do not know that the reason they are feeling a certain way is due to worry or anxiety this can cause stress in the household. During this time staying calm and as mindful as possible is so important because children often take their emotional cues from the adults in their lives. Sometimes it is easier to ‘openly wonder,’ with your child. ‘I wonder if you’re feeling cross today because you’re worrying about something?’ This can often take the heat out of a conversation and help children feel less in the spotlight. It also means they have the time to think about their feelings and come to their own conclusions. Being open to more conversations, more cuddles, more walks and engaging in some family time will really support anxiety and stress at this time.
You can now access 1-1 support if you’re feeling overwhelmed about supporting your child or young person through Beautiful New Beginnings.
Use the contact us page to get in touch today.
You’re not alone.