In partnership with Stress Health, an initiative of the Center for Youth Wellness.

I have talked about my difficult childhood and how to recognize toxic stress in childhood, but what can you do once toxic stress has occurred?

As a young child, I lived in an abusive household.  The situation was pretty bad, and my grandmother stepped in to care for me. For years, she had custody of me before going through an official adoption process.  It was all very difficult and challenging. In the end, although I still had some challenges as a kid, I was able to overcome the adversity from my childhood.

Marysa baby

The key with toxic stress, once experienced, is to protect and heal.  While I don’t really like to think back to my childhood, when I talk about it, people usually tell me that they are surprised that I came from such an awful situation.  It goes to show that perseverance and care really made the difference in my life. Once I was removed from the traumatic situation, my life changed drastically.

There are several “building blocks” that play a role in health and overcoming toxic stress, which include sleep, nutrition, exercise, mental health, mindfulness and healthy relationships.  My grandmother’s goal was to take me out of a bad environment and nurture me, making sure that I had a well-rounded childhood. Just being in a positive home and having the consistency of a supportive parent was life-changing.

As an adult, I know I have some lingering issues from adverse childhood experience (or “ACEs”), like how I deal with stress.  I have to make an effort to manage my stress because it can be overwhelming.

…you may find that it’s easy to be a calm, empathetic and effective parent even if your own childhood was difficult and traumatic. But even with this help, you may find that your past has left you with an outsize response to stress – one that can sometimes undermine your relationships and your parenting.  Parents with ACEs may find it harder to stay calm in situations that don’t faze other parents.  (

If you are a parent that had a tough childhood and has trouble when it comes to stress, you can continue to nurture yourself to overcome or manage stress issues, from stress relief activities to making an active effort to put in quality time with your children.

I still had my share of challenges even after I was adopted – but it was the nurturing, caring environment that turned my life completely around.  My grandmother was disabled and we had very little money, but we had each other. Our family was small, but every weekend we would drive to my great grandmother’s house and spend the weekend there.  It was about feeling safe, comfortable, and loved, and those are the memories that I think about when I look back on my childhood.

Marysa child

Thanksgiving at my Great Grandmother’s House.

For more detailed information about Stress Health, created to support families and individuals dealing with adversity and toxic stress from childhood through adulthood, visit the Center for Youth Wellness.

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