What are ACEs? 

ACEs are Adverse childhood experiences.  The ACEs questionnaire is a trauma-informed look at experiences that may result in a multitude of physical and mental health issues throughout a person’s life if these experiences are not addressed. Some of the most common mental health difficulties associated with ACEs include anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder. It’s important to manage these symptoms so that you can function well on a daily basis.

Managing symptoms

It’s quite simple, really. Notice that I didn’t say EASY. The first step in managing anxiety is to settle the nervous system. With depression, we have to uplift the mood. There are a great many mindfulness strategies that serve to do both. For instance, one particular strategy takes just a couple of minutes: Before you fall asleep at night, think about your day and choose the very best part. Sounds pretty simple, but what does that do for a person? It does settle the nervous system. If we don’t tell our brain what to do, it will do its own thing, right?  This simple exercise is telling your brain what to do. If your intent is to choose the best part of the day, your brain identifies several good things to choose from. This simple exercise also places you in a positive frame of mind just before falling asleep. Over time, this can lead to falling asleep faster, staying asleep longer, and getting better quality sleep while you are sleeping.

Another simple exercise involves gratitude. Before getting out of bed in the morning, think about 3 things you’re grateful for and WHY. The reason you want to include the “why” is because it places you in the attitude of gratitude. You start your day off in a positive frame of mind, which reduces anxiety and depression over time. It also creates the space for you to be able to breathe and think more clearly.  It also increases your tolerance for stress. Over time, things that bothered you a great deal in the past don’t seem to bother you as much.

Grounding exercises

By now, most people know about deep breathing and grounding exercises. They are a great way to quickly refresh and bring you into the present moment. Sometimes, these may not be enough. You may complete a short breathing exercise and then what? Do you just wait for the anxious or depressive thoughts and feelings to return? One of my favorite ways to help people move forwards from anxiety and depression symptoms is to do a short breathing exercise. It’s as simple as lying back, placing your hand on your abdomen, and just focusing on the rhythm of your breathing. Just notice it; feel it. After 7 or 8 breaths, follow it up with reliving a favorite memory. When I say “relive”, I mean keep your eyes closed and think about where you were, who you were with, what you saw, heard, smelled, and felt… like you’re really there, feeling the emotion. Reliving a favorite memory this way is amazing because it does several things. It settles the nervous system; it creates the space to breathe and think clearly; it increases tolerance for stress. Most importantly, the brain does not differentiate whether we are THINKING about this memory or if we are actually LIVING it. Therefore, the brain releases the feel good endorphins. This absolutely reduces anxiety and depression, and it increases our tolerance for stress. It creates the space for you to distance yourself from the anxiety and depression.

Mindfulness

Mindfulness is an incredible way to reduce the symptoms that get in the way of living your best life. Every experience we’ve had is stored in our body, and the ACEs may result in anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder until we release them. Where attention goes, energy flows. When we begin to focus more on the anxious and depressed feelings, we feel terrible. Mindfulness helps focus on the best things in life as you’re working through those past experiences. Over time, you begin to feel much better and can address and release the impact of past experiences.

Contact me today if you’d like to work on addressing the ACEs that hold you back.