Early exposure to chronic stress sets us on a collision course with all sorts of negative physical and mental health outcomes:
And all of these create a vicious, self-reinforcing cycle of more stress over time.
This is validated by research like that of Nadine Burke Harris on the long term effects of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs).
But what most exhausted, tense, adult high-achievers fail to realize is how many of their own experiences qualify as ACEs, or chronic developmental stress.
They had to minimize and look past their own suffering to make it out of a tough situation when they were young. They got used to defending and hiding what was really going on. So they keep that pattern up, and remain confused as to why they now feel like they’re barely keeping it together.
When they casually drop tidbits like “oh, well I spent most of my childhood in foster care” or “we didn’t really have food around much” or “my parents divorced” or “my mom was severely depressed for many years” or “I was left to fend for myself most of the time,” the magnitude of what they’re sharing doesn’t even register for them (see items 2 and 5 on the list above).
It requires a TON of courage to slow down and acknowledge that you went through some really hard stuff, and that it’s probably having ripple effects today that you might benefit from some support with.
All that difficult stuff – that high achievers compartmentalize away in order to survive – is loudly demanding your attention.
THAT’s what’s driving you to go nonstop, to try to be perfect, to surround yourself with unsupportive people, to crash physically and emotionally without warning.
It’s not whiny or lazy or snowflake-like to acknowledge that. It’s a recognition of very firmly established science of how our bodies and minds work.
If you’re serious about charting a healthier and happier course for your life, the underlying stress has to be named and faced courageously, without minimizing it anymore.
Let’s get real and stop telling ourselves that the source of our pain is a mystery that can be solved with a meditation app and yet another iteration of your massive to-do list.