From Greater Good Science Center, UC Berkeley
JAS: Let’s say you’re an adult and you have an ACE [Adverse Childhood Experience]. What should you do?
NBH: There’s a tremendous amount. On this front, I find this science incredibly hopeful.
One of the most important things an adult can do is just recognize what is going on. So, getting your own ACE score—that is the first step in the right direction. Number two involves figuring out whether you have an overactive stress response—and then understanding what situations activate your stress response.
Next, you have to put into place some of the evidence-based interventions that we know make a difference in toxic stress. This is what I talk about in my book, The Deepest Well. Things like regular exercise, which helps reduce stress hormones, reduce inflammation, and enhance neuroplasticity. Things like having good sleep hygiene, which is really important for our immune system. Things like mindfulness meditation. One randomized controlled trial of meditation-as-intervention found that patients with chronic heart disease had better performance on an exercise treadmill test after the intervention. All of these kinds of interventions go a long way toward counteracting the biology of toxic stress.