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Podcast & Blog: Managing STRESS in Mom & Child - Part 1

Updated: Jul 7, 2020

2020 has provided plenty of stress for ALL of us.

💟Here's part one of three weeks of heart-healthy goodness to learn some STRESS buffering techniques and motivation to teach these habits to your children of all ages.

Now let's take a look at Amanda's notes for us for part 1 of our discussion...

How to Deal with Stress – In Mom and Child

Guest author, Amanda Colliatie

Everyone will experience stress. It’s a very normal and healthy part of being human. However, it is important to know the different types and levels of stress, as well as helpful warning signs and ways to buffer the effects of stress.

(Source: A Mind Frozen in Time: A PTSD Recovery Guide by Dr. Jeremy P. Crosby)

There Are Two Types of Stress

1. Physical Stress

2. Psychological Stress

The Three Levels of Stress

1. “Normal” stress from minor changes Daily hassles; small, unexpected events; minor disagreements; delays.

2. Moderate stress from major changes Any positive or negative change that affects your life in a big way (a promotion, marriage/divorce, welcoming a baby, moving, the death of a loved one, a medical diagnosis, etc.)

3. Toxic stress from stress overload Chronic, ongoing stress; circumstances feel unmanageable; feel overwhelmed; unsure how to cope; unsure of what to do; feel helpless; thinking about giving up. Toxic stress isn’t so much about the cause of the stress, but about the chronic and ongoing nature of the stress. The fallout from physical or emotional abuse and neglect is obvious, but then there are the more indirect hits, such as the impact of the worldwide corona virus pandemic, chronic conflict in the home, a parent battling addiction, parental depression, or serious illness. The stress from these doesn’t have to turn toxic but it can. A prime condition for this happening is when there is no loving, supportive, attentive relationship to buffer the impact.

For children, a little stress goes a long way.

It is through stressful times that kids learn resilience, determination, optimism and how to soothe themselves when things start to get tough.

When stress is managed in the context of loving, stable and caring relationships, where children feel safe and secure, they can get through stressful, traumatic times without scarring.

(Source: Dr. Nadine Burke Harris’ book The Deepest Well: Healing the Long-Term Effects of Childhood Adversity)

To better understand the impact extreme stress has on your body, imagine you're walking in the forest and you see a bear:

*Immediately, your brain's amygdala sounds the alarm.

*Your adrenal glands start pumping out stress hormones. *Your heart begins to pound.

*Your pupils dilate.

*Your airways open up and you are ready to either fight that bear or run from the bear. Fight or flight.

*Your brain tells your immune system to send inflammation

Now imagine if every night that bear came home with you. This is toxic stress.

Normally, you brain will shut off this fight or flight mode soon after the danger passes, but if the brain goes through too much stress, this shut-off mechanism starts to short-circuit, which constantly sends the brain into fight or flight mode. When your brain is constantly exposed to a toxic environment, it will continue working only to protect itself from that environment. It’s rate of growth slows down, creating a vulnerability to anxiety, depression and less resilience to stress.

(Source: SAMHSA Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's National Child Traumatic Stress Initiative (NCSTI),

Toxic stress affects people across all stages of the life span.

The long-term effects will differ depending on the age of the person and the stage of brain development they are at when they are exposed to the stress.

The younger the brain, the more damaging the effects of toxic stress.

A prenatal and early childhood brain is growing, developing and absorbing so much of what it is exposed to in the environment. This makes it incredibly vulnerable to chemical influences, such as stress hormones, which can cause long-term changes. Stress during this period will have broad impact, particularly on learning and memory.

Toxic stress during later childhood and adolescence will cause more problems for attention and impulse and emotional control, as these are the parts of the brain that are developing rapidly during this period.

During late adolescence or early adulthood, exposure to toxic stress will create a greater sensitivity to anything stressful and a more intense and enduring stress response.

Exposure to toxic stress during adulthood will intensify the ageing process and affect memory, cognition and emotion.

When we are severely triggered, our brain can immediately revert to the half-age we were when we experienced a severe trauma. So, let’s say I experienced a trauma event at age 10 and as a 30 year old I am triggered. My brain will cut my trauma event age in half and I will respond to the current triggering event with the same needs and level of processing that I would have at 5 years old… Often this looks like assigning blame to myself, missing details, poor recall, increased emotional instability, increased need for soothing attention, and dismissing the involvement of others.

Warning Signs of Toxic Stress:

(Source: A Mind Frozen in Time: A PTSD Recovery Guide by Dr. Jeremy P. Crosby)

1. Small things trigger big feelings.

2. Increased levels of worry, confusion, and insecurity.

3. Difficulty concentrating and staying focused.

4. Changes in mood or mental state. a. Depression b. Anxiety c. Frustration d. Hostility e. Feeling helpless f. Impatience g. Frequently irritable

5. Feeling overwhelmed and eventually hopeless or wanting to give up.

6. Trouble sleeping. a. Hard to fall asleep b. Difficulty staying asleep c. Waking up too early in the morning d. Sleep is restless or you wake up tired

7. Consuming more alcohol, tobacco, or other substances more than usual.

8. Life starts feeling out of control and your ability to function each day in your usual capacity declines.

This is just part 1! Come back for parts 2 & 3 as we look at effective ways to Buffer Stress for Mom and Child.


Be sure to listen to part one for lots of Laughter, Truth, and Strategies that I discussed with our guest, Amanda.In part 2 & 3 of Managing Stress in Mom & Child, we'll talk about practical ways to BUFFER stress in ourselves and our kids. A new podcast episode publishes every Monday on the Practically Speaking MOM: Intentional Mom, Strong Family Podcast with Val Harrison, The Practically Speaking MOM.


Meet Our Guest

Amanda Colliatie is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Wichita, Kansas. Her practice at Encounter Freedom Therapy Center is dedicated to providing skilled therapy that is safe, affordable, and practical. She is a business owner, entrepreneur, Jesus follower, and Enneagram 2 wing 3. Amanda is passionate about helping people discover restoration and healing in their lives and in their relationships. Amanda utilizes careful assessment with a brain-based, strengths-based approach that offers hope and encouragement to those who are suffering, struggling, or just feeling stuck in a negative place.

Connect with Amanda:




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