Why do some adults struggle and feel overwhelm, while others thrive in stressful environments? Recent research conducted by the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child suggests that the answer may lie in the early stages of childhood development.
Between the ages of birth and 14 months is when a child’s brain is developing the fastest. It is during this period that the brain requires two things – a stable environment and a committed relationship with at least one primary caregiver. These two factors allow the portion of the brain responsible for executive function – where self-regulation is housed – to develop properly.
What does this have to do with you and your ability to be resilient?
Your lack of resilience may not be your fault. Instead, it may lie in your early childhood experiences. If your family moved several times when you were very small, you may have perceived those experiences as threatening or unstable. If you spent an extended time in the hospital due to a premature birth or due to an illness, your interpretation of those events could be that life is frightening and unsafe. When an infant experiences events that are interpreted as unstable or constantly changing, the limbic brain gets activated. The limbic brain is the portion that is responsible for our fight, flight or freeze response. When this portion of the brain is accessed repeatedly it causes it to develop faster than other areas, because the child feels like his life is in survival mode.
Although there is little that you can do to change your early childhood circumstances, you can develop skills that will allow you to change your current-day response to stressful situations. In fact, you can easily and quickly learn techniques that will build your resilience-muscle, so that you are less affected by the daily challenges of work deadlines, traffic jams, demanding bosses, family responsibilities, and the never-ending list of to-dos. It begins with intentional breathing.