Did you know that a foundational part of emotional regulation is not stopping dysregulation in its tracks, but instead completing the stress cycle?
In the simplest terms our systems need more than just tools to stop the progression of big emotions, they need to learn to ride the wave of emotion and bring their stress response into completion.
Let me break it down like this - the fight/flight response is activated when there is something in the environment a person’s body deemed threatening or dangerous leading to the nervous system gearing up to run away (flight) or fight for safety and survival.
This could be actual danger (needing to jam on your breaks to miss a traffic accident or the way our bodies keep us safe during times of trauma, abuse, or neglect) BUT for a lot of kids and teens we work with, their amygdala’s have a difficult time sorting out what is dangerous or safe in an environment.
This is especially true for kids with a history of trauma where their body's alarm system is highly sensitive and triggered in an attempt to keep them safe.
In the typical day of a teen or a child so many things can set off the fight/flight response that aren’t actually dangerous or life threatening - needing to brush their teeth, get off device time, a math test, or needing to empty the dishwasher. AHHH! They totally did that last time and it’s not fair they have to do it again!
And so, the stress response cycle begins. During this response our body produces chemicals like adrenaline and cortisol to help us have enough energy to fight or run away. Unfortunately, in situations where that is not possible and kids and teens need to be still, these stress chemicals build up in a child’s system leading to fatigue, exhaustion, irritability, and some pretty dysregulated feelings.
Completing the stress cycle requires more than just deep breathing (although deep breaths are definitely part of the equation!). Completing the stress response also involves working off the physical chemicals as well as showing our bodies that we are actually safe.
The book Burnout: The Secret To Unlocking The Stress Cycle by Emily and Amelia Nagoski is an absolute must read for therapists. Not only to prevent your system from burning out in a very challenging field, but to do a deeper dive into the nervous system and emotional regulation - oh and it’s a great recommendation for parents too! They even have a guide for therapists when using this book with clients!
Emily and Amelia argue that the cure for burnout isn’t self care - it’s actually completing the stress cycle. And I would say this is true for our kid and teen clients too.
Based on their list of how to complete the stress cycle I created a 7 page FREE Downloadable guide that includes 70+ kid and teen friendly ways to complete the stress cycle.
You absolutely need this free download if you have ever struggled with teaching and having kids and teens follow through with emotional regulation techniques, tips, and strategies. On this list of 70+ strategies there is bound to be at least one or two your most challenging clients are willing to try!
Grab your copy of Completing The Stress Cycle for Kids and Teens HERE!
I'm Ann Meehan, an LPCC,