Taking care of yourself is the best way to take care of other people. -Dr Heidi Hanna

84: Managing Stress Sensitivity in Difficult Times with Dr. Heidi Hanna

I finally get to have my stress mastery professor on the Healthy Parenting Connector!

Heidi Hanna, PhD, is one of the most intellectual, intuitive and compassionate people I know, and I’m honored to host her wisdom today. We had all these stress sensitivity topics planned before COVID-19 turned our world upside down, and I think it’s more important than ever to understand how a highly sensitive person reacts to stress and threats and how to help them through difficult times such as these.

Fill your brain with Dr. Hanna’s research and her personal experience today:

  • At age 10, Heidi was fainting from stress – literally. Find out how to help if this happens to your child, or if they seem to get stomachaches and headaches in uncomfortable situations.
  • Highly sensitive kids actually fare better than other kids if raised in the right environment…but we don’t always get that right as you’ll hear.
  • What research is showing about how stress-sensitive people’s brains work and why Dr. Hanna doesn’t love the term “negativity bias,” even though it’s technically accurate to describe stress-sensitive people.
  • Why HSCs sometimes spiral into thinking like, “It’s all my fault, I messed that up, I’m so dumb, and this is why NO ONE LIKES ME!” (I feel like that’s my whole high school life!)
  • And more importantly, what parents can do to help kids stop that spiral, appreciate what their reactions are trying to tell them, and reverse the reaction.
  • How we can look at the ways in which our kids (or ourselves) are reacting to stress and understand what recharge techniques they need to get more capacity.
  • Dr. Hanna’s encouragement for parents of HSCs and how we can see the positive about our children’s personality.

Watch Managing Stress on YouTube.

No time to watch the whole video? Here are the notes!

Managing Stress Sensitivity Video Time Stamps

  • 0:15: Today I have my Stress Mastery teacher here, Dr. Heidi Hanna.
  • 0:35: Usually I record Healthy Parenting Connector Episodes a few months in advance. Today’s episode was planned months ago but only recorded 2 weeks ago. So we were already in the midst of COVID-19 craziness changing every day. Our topic of stress-sensitivity is very fitting!
  • 1:13: Dr. Heidi Hanna provides brain-based health and performance programs through her company Synergy Brain Fitness.
  • 2:13: Dr. Hanna has an interesting personal story leading to her research on stress which she shares with us. She identifies herself as a highly sensitive person as we’ve talked about these last couple of weeks.
  • 6:52: Mental and emotional health issues can be passed through generations.

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What is Stress-Sensitivity?

  • 7:51: Our culture tells kids they’re too sensitive, too emotional, they need to be “a big boy/girl” and “get over” emotions. This leads to the stuffing of emotions and then physical symptoms of stress, especially in those who are highly sensitive.
  • 8:20: Dr. Hanna shares a few signs that your child is highly sensitive:
    • Are they really creative?
    • Does your child seem to have a special intuition?
    • Are they sensitive to loud noises/bright lights/smells and other sensory information?
    • If your child is amazing and perfect in many ways, but seemingly randomly melts into tantrums and you just can’t figure it out, they may be highly sensitive.

Stress sensitivity is actually a real gift if we know how to nurture it. -Dr. Heidi Hanna

  • 9:34: Many of the symptoms Dr. Hanna experienced (and that your child may be experiencing) are physical: headaches, stomachaches, fainting, and even tantrums can all have physical causes like food sensitivities.
  • 9:53: Dr. Hanna gets into some of the differences between her work and that of Dr. Aron on HSPs.
  • 10:55: Dr. Hanna describes negativity bias. She prefers to call this “threat sensitivity.”
  • 11:42: Stress-sensitivity is a bit broader than being a highly sensitive person.
  • 13:45: As more research has been done, we’re learning more about the physiological effects of stress sensitivity.

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Strategies to Manage Stress-Sensitivity

  • 14:36: You may have already identified yourself or a child as a highly sensitive person. Dr. Hanna shares some strategies to help the HSP or HSC in your life.

Highly sensitive people, even young children, internalize stress when they see others suffering. -Dr. Heidi Hanna

  • 15:58: Dr. Hanna shares a way to visualize how an HSP will process stressful situations and how it affects them physically.

The key is to know that we need to set healthy boundaries. -Dr. Heidi Hanna

  • 16:33: HSPs need to prioritize their basic needs like eating healthy food, getting enough sleep, taking time to be in nature and relax so that they’re able to manage stress and help others.
  • 17:03: Kids are not as in control of their circumstances so they really need their parents to help guide them and model for them how to take care of yourself. Modeling is so important with kids. They will hear what you do much more loudly than what you say.
  • 17:55: In general kids are more sensitive than adults because they haven’t developed logic and judgment yet. We have to deal with our own stress so that we aren’t putting it on them.

Stress is contagious. - Dr. Heidi Hanna

  • 18:43: Especially now that we’re all home more than usual, it’s so important to get your own recharge time and take care of yourself.
  • 19:19: I share an example of how I didn’t manage my own stress this weekend and it impacted one of my kids.
  • 19:47: We are all human, have compassion for yourself. You won’t be able to perfectly manage your stress today.
  • 19:59: Dr. Hanna shares the stress mastery formula she teaches: assess, appreciate and adjust. Listen in here to see how this can help you avoid losing it!

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Helping Stress-Sensitive Children

  • 20:48. We know that high stress can lead to disease. So does being stress-sensitive make you more likely to be sick? Environment has a huge impact on highly sensitive children.
  • 21:33: Trauma doesn’t need to be a single event. Developmental trauma while growing up creates a state of chronic stress. These cycles of trauma can continue into adulthood.
  • 23:01: Creativity, movement, play, and non-stimulating nutrition are all important elements of calming a highly sensitive person.
  • 23:18: We get into some practical steps to help your child who is spiraling. When you’re redirecting a child, getting their hands involved in something like a craft or exploring nature is very helpful.
  • 25:08: There’s a fine line between when we need to do something productive with extra energy or relax and release it. Little sensory cues and adaptations add up over time.
  • 26:56: Dr. Hanna shares a great resource to help get kids moving in an intentional way.
  • 28:52: We leave you with a message of hope.

Kids need adults who are champions for them. -Dr. Heidi Hanna

Resources We Mention for Managing Stress

I’m an affiliate for Dr. Hanna’s courses, but that doesn’t change your price!

Dr. Heidi Hanna is the Chief Energy Officer of Synergy Brain Fitness, a company providing brain-based health and performance programs to individuals and organizations, a Founding Partner of the Academy for Brain Health and Performance and a Fellow and Advisory Board Member for the American Institute of Stress. Dr. Heidi is also an instructor at Harvard at a regular lecturer at Canyon Ranch Resort and Spa. She is a NY Times bestselling author who has written seven books, including “The Sharp Solution,” “Stressaholic,” “Recharge” and “What’s So Funny About Stress?

Dr. Heidi has been featured at many global conferences including the Fortune Magazine Most Powerful Women in Business Summit, ESPN Leadership Summit and the Million Dollar Round Table. Her clients have included Google, Starbucks, Microsoft, Principal Insurance, Morgan Stanley, Ameriprise and WD40 as well as the PGA Tour and the National Football League. Dr. Heidi is also a National Board Member and Certified Humor Professional with the Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor although she won’t admit she’s funny.

Managing stress-sensitivity for yourself and your children

What You Should Do Next:

1. Subscribe to The Healthy Parenting Connector

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About Katie Kimball

Katie Kimball, CSME, creator of Kids Cook Real Food and CEO of Kitchen Stewardship, LLC, is passionate about connecting families around healthy food. As a trusted educator and author of 8 real food cookbooks, she’s been featured on media outlets like ABC, NBC and First for Women magazine and contributes periodically on the FOX Network.

Since 2009, busy moms have looked to Katie as a trusted authority and advocate for children’s health, and she often partners with health experts and medical practitioners to stay on the cutting edge. In 2016 she created the Wall Street Journal recommended best online kids cooking course, Kids Cook Real Food, helping thousands of families around the world learn to cook. She is actively masterminding the Kids’ Meal Revolution, with a goal of every child learning to cook.

A mom of 4 kids from Michigan, she is also a Certified Stress Mastery Educator, member of the American Institute of Stress and trained speaker through Bo Eason’s Personal Story Power.

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