Have you heard of ACEs? These are adverse childhood experiences that impact the way you function in society.
The test to determine your ACE score covers three categories:
- abuse (physical, emotional, sexual);
- neglect (physical and emotional);
- household dysfunction (mental illness, incarcerated relative, substance abuse, violence and divorce).
Studies show most people have one ACE but the detrimental impact increases with each ACE the child experiences.
One of the biggest ways the effects of ACEs shows up is in difficulty regulating emotions and behavior. These are the kids who get in trouble in the classroom.
Or they might present as distracted or withdrawn. That was me as a young child: the model student who never bothered anyone or expressed her needs.
As I grew older, however, the emotional dysregulation came into play. In late high school, I began to drink to cope with my overwhelming emotions.
As it happens, addictive behaviors are common among people with high ACE scores.
I scored 6/10 on the test, which you can take here. Sadly, people with a score of 6 or more are at risk of their life span being shortened by 20 years.
Even ACE scores of 4 or more predispose people to all kinds of problems like increased likelihood of depression and suicidal ideation.
People with an ACE score of 4 are twice as likely to contract cancer than those with a score of zero. They are 460 per cent more likely to experience depression.Adverse childhood experiences can effect you throughout your life if not addressed and dealt with. Click To Tweet
Above all, these adverse childhood experiences can effect you throughout your life if not addressed and dealt with.
ACEs have physical health consequences
These experiences have real physical connotations as well as mental and emotional ones.
For example, they change the child’s developing brain, how they respond to stress, and damage their immune systems.
Much of the chronic illness in our society today stems from adverse childhood experiences.Much of the chronic illness in our society stems from adverse childhood experiences. Click To Tweet
And increased health risks come not only from substance abuse and other negative coping behaviors.
Instead, the health risk comes from the fight or flight responses in children with high ACEs having been triggered too often.
In other words, something that is supposed to protect them in dire circumstances like a bear attack, gets set off daily in a dysfunctional household.
The resulting toll on the body sets the child up for illness later in life regardless of their future lifestyle habits.
And women are more likely than men to experience adverse childhood experiences. As a result, women suffer autoimmune disease at rates three times higher than men.
How to heal from ACEs
It’s possible you’re discouraged by your score. But there are steps you can take to reverse the damaging effects of adverse childhood experiences.
Here are 5 things you can do to start your healing journey.
1. Know your resilience score
Now that you’ve got your ACE score, it’s time to get your resilience score (scroll down after you click).
The resilience quiz will help you understand what helped you withstand adversity in your childhood. After that, you can incorporate those factors into your adult life.
Having had one reliable adult in your life increases your resilience exponentially, for example.
If you had someone outside the home like a teacher or relative who cared about you, that would make all the difference in how you weathered your childhood adversity.
2. Mindfulness training
Meditation can help rewire your brain to feel more calm. Over time, it reduces your response levels to stress and helps you recover from stressful events faster.
Even when you’re not meditating, stop and pay attention to your surroundings. Mindfulness means inhabiting the present moment rather than rushing from task to task.
3. Honor your emotions
Feel your feelings rather than avoiding them. Remember you are not your emotions or your thoughts, you have them. Observe them without judgment.
Resist the urge to classify emotions as good or bad. They all carry information that will help you move forward in life.
Repressed emotions lead to physical illness. Validate your emotions instead.Repressed emotions lead to physical illness. Validate your emotions instead. Click To Tweet
Journal your past experiences and all your feelings about them. Express your feelings honestly without shame. Write to yourself about what you really feel.
4. Self compassion
Speak to yourself nicely when you make a mistake. Encourage yourself and pat yourself on the back when you do well.
Nurture yourself in a way your parents never could. Let God be the father you never had. Unlike your earthly parents, his love is unconditional.
Eat a balanced diet. Take time to shop for and prepare healthy meals for yourself. Good eating habits have been credited with helping relieve brain fog, anxiety and even suicidal ideation.
Reach out to others and create fulfilling relationships in which you can share your heart. Good relationships help you produce oxytocin, also known as the feel-good hormone.
This one may take some time. Forgiveness does not mean condoning what happened to you. It does not even mean you have to see the person.
It’s something you do for yourself, to be set free from the chains that bind you to the past.