How do we measure the overwhelm to help calm the nervous system

Has your child ever struggled with overwhelm at school, a social event or when out and about? Do you ever feel your kiddo is like a bull in the China shop at all the wrong times? If you have, we promise you are not alone! When kids have these overwhelming and extreme behaviors it can leave us feeling like we have no control and are helpless if it happens in the wrong environment. As a mom or dad you know in your “gut” something isn’t working right. You think to yourself “my kids don’t want to behave this way… do they?”  And we promise you, they don’t! 

Looking At the External Environment

I have four boys and trust me, I have been there questioning what to do, how to act or how to respond. There’s two ways of looking at this. You can look at what’s coming from the internal environment inside their body or what’s coming from the external environment. A lot of times that external side is easy to look for because that can be the loud noises, big crowds, and overall social stimulation. Overwhelm that comes from the external environment can be more straightforward when thinking about how we can take kids out of those situations to make life easier. 

The challenge is, what if you can’t. If they’re in a big classroom, at a sporting event, or playing a sport, we can’t always take those away. So we have to find ways to help them better respond to those social settings. So what do we do? When dealing with the external environment, we can think about adding something that might help in the situation. For example, blue light glasses to help kids that get overwhelmed by light or weighted blankets, going to a quiet space, getting kids outside to move and run around more. Something as simple as taking away the fast visual input and making them read a book can help calm things down as well. 

But as parents, a lot of times we don’t have the opportunity to do these things because our lives are just busy. So then we need to start thinking about the possibility that all this extra stress and energy is coming from the inside. What if it’s their body over fueling their brain? We’ve had a lot of kids come in with that exact struggle, their body is over fueling their brain. 

Calming the Internal Environment 

There was a seven year old boy we took care of recently who was struggling in school, as well as with sensory and emotional outbursts. We performed what we call Insight scans on him which is a technology we use in our office to measure where the stress is. First there is the EMG scan, which simply looks at the muscular energy and muscular attention that’s in the body, that’s fueled by that nervous system, the body connecting to the brain. When the body is overwhelmed and is holding a lot of energy, that scan lights up with lots of red bars, which this boy’s EMG scan did. That shows there is too much energy and tension which signals to the brain that he needs to go fast, constantly move, and can’t stop or slow down. So chances are if we throw a curveball at him like telling him to clean his room, do his homework, or sit still in class, he’s not going to respond well. 

The Power of Insight Scans

As we start to care for these kids, it’s amazing because we can actually see that tension come off the system and those red lines turn to white. The white lines mean there is less energy and more organization in their body. In response, all those signals going up to the brain are being received better and it’s easier for them to adapt to what’s around them. Transitions become easier, or when we have to take something away, they may not like it, but it will be a quicker transition than that bull in a china shop freak out mode.

The second scan we do is the HRV, heart rate variability. It’s not a heart test, it’s actually a nervous system test. What it does is look at how the body is handling stress from the external environment. There is a green box on this scan and we want the white dot to be inside the green box. When the white dot is down to the left, out of the box, it tells us two things. One, that our body is working way, way too hard to handle the stress in the environment. When it’s over to the left, that means our nervous system is going way too fast, more on that gas pedal. If the white dot is lower than the box, it means it’s tired too. That’s what this seven year old kiddo’s HRV scan looked like. 

What’s really cool is as we started to adjust him and take tension off of his nervous system, off of his body, we could see the white dot start to move up closer to the green box. What that means, is that after a few months he became more adaptable. He’s able to respond to transitions, his behavioral challenges have improved, and he has better emotional regulation. He’s more comfortable sitting through his classes. He’s able to adapt to his environment better and that’s really how the brain and body work together well. 

So if you’re a parent and you’ve been trying to help your kiddo adapt better to things in their environment with glasses and blankets, I’m sure that’s helped, but if it’s not helping all the way. We’d love to connect with you or you can check out our PX Directory to find a PX Doc near you. Get these scans done because I truly believe they can help your family. Just like we’ve helped so many kids within our community calm their nervous systems so their brain can be calm. That’s not only easier for them, but easier for you and the whole family as well. I know that everyone’s situation is unique, so if we can help in any way, we would love to connect, so please reach out! 

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