0-100 over nothing?
0 to 100 real quick, over seemingly nothing. This is something we have heard all too often here at The Wellness Collective from parents of children seeking care. One minute they’re calm and relaxed, and the next they’re screaming, hitting, throwing things, breaking things, and creating absolute chaos. We understand how frustrating it can be for your child to have an uncontrollable meltdown at the worst of times. How confusing it can be to understand why it happened in the first place. And at times even frightening when a child really goes off the handle and gets aggressive and even physical with other kids, siblings, or their parents.
So, what’s going on? What causes children to go from 0 to 100? And how can we help children better regulate their emotions, behavior and self soothe. That’s what we’ll cover in this article so that you can live life confidently and never have to avoid social settings or going out again.
The central nervous system & emotions/behavior:
Just like every other process in the body such as sleep, digestion and immune function, emotional and behavioral regulation are also controlled and governed by the central nervous system. Particularly the autonomic nervous system which runs on autopilot most of the time. Our autonomic nervous system is broken down into two parts. 1. The sympathetic nervous system i.e., fight or flight, stress & survival. 2. The parasympathetic nervous system i.e., rest & digest, calm, relax. It’s this second mode that also has a huge role in regulating emotions and behavior.
Normally we have balance between these two modes. Shifting gears based on the demands of any given moment. At times we need that high energy, fight, or flight mode. If we’re playing sport for example. And at other times we need that calm, rest, and relax mode active to unwind and go to sleep say.
The issues can arise when these two modes become imbalanced. A condition known as Dysautonomia. As pediatric chiropractors we call this Subluxation. And most often it results in the central nervous system running too much on the fight or flight mode. Often referred to as the gas pedal. What this does is it leaves your child’s nervous system ‘idling’ high. If the gas pedal is always activated a child’s brain is going to be constantly running on 9/10 revs at every moment of the day. What happens next is they are easily triggered, and in a lot of cases those triggers go unnoticed because it doesn’t take much to push an already wound-up nervous system from 9/10 to 10/10.
The result? Meltdowns, outbursts, aggression, all out of nowhere, and parents and families avoiding going places, social settings and living a normal life out of fear of the unpredictability of their child’s emotions and behavior daily. Their brain shifts completely into stress and survival mode, with little regard for what’s going on around them. This is because when we shift into this stress dominant survival state, a part of the brain called the pre-frontal cortex shuts down. This is the part of the brain responsible for logical and rational thinking, decision making, self-awareness and emotional regulation.
The key to calming the nervous system, meltdowns, and behavioural challenges:
If your child is struggling with these types of behavioral and emotional challenges you’ve likely tried a variety of different strategies and techniques to help your child. This could be breathing techniques, talking through emotions, avoiding certain triggering situations, even discipline and punishment, reward charts, the list goes on.
But what you’ve also probably found is that it’s virtually impossible to get your child to do breathing exercises when they’re worked up and having a meltdown, it’s beyond challenging to avoid triggering situations when half the time you don’t even know what’s setting them off in the first place. Leaving you feeling confused, frustrated, like you’re doing something wrong, walking on eggshells, and exhausted.
The key in many cases is not to change things externally to suit the child, but to change what is going on within the brain and nervous system. To get their brain calmer and running not at 9/10 as baseline, but closer to 1-2/10. This is where something called the vagus nerve comes into the picture.
The vagus nerve is our brains primary parasympathetic nerve. It plays major roles in sleep, digestion, immune function and so much more. But it also is heavily involved in the regulation of emotions and behavior. Particularly calming emotions and switching off the survival, fight or flight mechanisms when they get activated.
Activating the Vagus nerve through Chiropractic:
At The Wellness Collective one of the most common things we’re helping children and parents through is challenges with emotional and behavioral issues. And the way we’re able to do that is by activating and strengthening the vagus nerve! The vagus nerve originates in the brainstem which is in the upper neck and what we see time and time again is that the vagus nerve is underperforming or injured in kids struggling with these types of challenges. One of the most common causes for this is stress and trauma at birth. Particularly when there are physical interventions involved such as forceps, ventose, and cesarians, there is a significant amount of stress placed on the upper neck where the vagus nerve lives and can cause damage or injury.
Early in life this most often looks like colic, reflux, sleeping difficulties, and constipation. Kids don’t grow out of these challenges but they grow INTO emotional and behavioral challenges later in life as their brain shifts through different stages of development.
The good news is that Chiropractic adjustments are a safe, non-invasive, natural, and effective way of activating the vagus nerve. With the right care plan in place that has enough frequency of adjustments over a long enough period of time, the vagus nerve can become stronger through what is called neuroplasticity – the brains ability to change with repetitive input. The same way you can learn a skill, language or instrument with repeated practice.
We can even measure and track improvements of the vagus nerve using what is called Heart-Rate Variability (HRV) scanning (Pictured below). It only takes 3 minutes, can be done on a 1-day old infant or a 100 year old and show us exactly how well the vagus nerve is performing, and the we can track improvement over time. At the same time parents are reporting that their kid is calmer, having fewer outbursts and meltdowns, calming down quicker, and socializing with their peers, siblings, and other family members better. Resulting in happier, less stressed parents and families who can live their lives normally with confidence!
Want to learn more? Head to our next Empowering Parents workshop where we deep dive into why kids are struggling more than ever before and how to help! Click HERE to register.
If this sounds your child and you want to skip the queue and get straight into scanning, simply click HERE and one of our team will reach out and get you scheduled.
Dr Ben Edwards