I did some Brain Gym® movement activities before I sat down to write this post today. I needed to. I was (what we call at Brain Fit) “out of the loop” and I wasn’t able to access my thoughts in order to write.
I will write more about the “Learning Loop” in another post, but for now what you need to know is that I am in the middle of a very stressful time in my life. My son transitions to high school starting tomorrow.
Now, this would be a stressful time for anyone- especially since we are in the middle of a pandemic. But it’s especially stressful for me because my son has special needs and is on an IEP (Individualized Education Plan). This means he receives extra support to help him succeed in school. However, due to the pandemic and pretty much everything changing, we don’t even know what that support is going to look like for him yet. And that- is very stressful.
But this blog post isn’t about me. It’s about stress. You see, I acknowledge that I am in a stressful time in my life. However, there are many kids, teens and yes- adults! that feel this kind of stress and anxiety- All. The. Time.
The stress response (AKA the fight/flight/freeze response) is a natural, autonomic nervous system response that your body has in response to a threat- real or perceived. When your body is under stress, multiple things happen. These include:
- Increased heart rate
- Release of adrenaline and cortisol into the system
- Tightening of the muscles in the back of the body
- Breathing that becomes fast and shallow
- Dilation of pupils
- Slowed digestion
And what becomes harder when you’re under stress? Thinking rationally, for one. How many times have you said something to another person (while under stress) that you later regretted? I know it’s happened to me many-a-time. And not only thinking rationally, but thinking in general. Ever have the experience of getting sick or injured and not being able to do much of anything besides “veg out” on the couch? When I get sick, I can’t even read. It takes too much brain power. Brain power that isn’t there because my system is under stress and trying to fight off what ever sickness I have.
So what if a child is constantly in that fight/flight/freeze state and is in school? Can we really expect them to learn anything effectively? Their brain and body could be working so hard trying to deal with that stress response that there’s not much brain power left for learning. For some, learning is pretty much off the table.
Sometimes, it may be that a child is not necessarily in that extreme fight/flight/freeze reaction, but is still pulling more brain power than should be necessary to do everyday things- such as write or even to sit in a chair easily. Unintegrated (dormant or not “finished”) primitive reflexes can also pull brain power. You see, if those early motor patterns didn’t finish the job they were there to do, then the brain and body is constantly working against those reflexes.
Since the brain and body are constantly working against the reflexes, people build up what we call “compensations“. Compensations are just basically “work arounds”. Ways to get around the reflex activity to help you get by in life, but they aren’t ideal. For example, a child that has sensory issues may choose to avoid things that make him/her uncomfortable. That might be as simple as choosing a different type of shirt or socks because they don’t like the “feel”. Or they just avoid the things that make them uncomfortable.
These types of compensations take brain power. It might not seem like much, but it adds up. Day after day, hour after hour, compensation after compensation. What if that brain power was going to other- more important things like learning, or creativity?
At Brain Fit, we work to help our clients come out of the fight/flight/freeze response by integrating the primitive reflexes. We also integrate reflexes that contribute to the need for compensations in other areas. We finish off the motor patterns that the body is working so hard to fight. And, we empower our clients with tools (such as Brain Gym®) that can help them deal with the regular, everyday stresses that we all have now and again.
Integrating the primitive reflexes helps “free up” that brain power I keep talking about.
Brain power that can go towards learning.
Brain power that can go towards creativity.
Brain power that can go towards the child feeling happier, more settled and less anxious.
I’m using my Brain Fit tools more these days during this stressful time, and that’s ok. In fact, that’s what we want for our clients. There’s always going to be times in life when there’s “not much (brain power) left”.
However, thanks to Brain Fit and reflex integration that lack of brain power can happen a lot less than it used to. And, using the movement tools can help us get to the brain power that before- just couldn’t even be accessed.
And once we access that brain power? Who knows where it will take us!