Our nervous systems have two primary parts, the parasympathetic nervous system and the sympathetic nervous system. Essentially our sympathetic system is responsible for fight or flight. It gets you focused, accelerates your heart, increases energy and basically gets you ready to go. This is great and incredibly essential for our survival. If you’re out in a sketchy part of town, your senses are typically heightened as if there are shady characters around, you’re ready to get out of there asap. Makes sense, it’s vital for your survival.
For our ancestors, this made sense in terms of heightened awareness when they were out in the wilderness, but more relaxed when they’re with their tribe, at home. As much as our lives have improved for the better, our nervous system really hasn’t been able to adapt. Things like a notice for an unpaid bill, an upset partner, a fight at work, even a weird glance at you by a stranger can cause the fight or flight systems to activate. As much as they’re great for equipping you with focus, energy and strength, spending sustained periods in this state can be catastrophic.
On the flip side to the fight or flight system, is our rest and digest systems. Our rest and digest systems are great for when we’re relaxing, it slows down the heart rate, relaxes the body and ultimately let’s the body recover. This rest allows recovery, so that when we are in fight or flight mode, we’re recovered and ready to go. A balance is essential for healthy functioning, but sadly a lot of people are constantly in fight or flight mode.
One of the fastest and most common ways we get into the sympathetic system, is by checking our phones. Studies show we check our phones upwards of 150 times a day, with most over atleast 4 hours of daily screen time. Something that activates the sympathetic nervous system is scanning the environment for dangers, and as some notifications can cause stress, our brain perceives that it can be a threat and thus activates the sympathetic nervous system with every notification. Along with that, many things can trigger it, when was the last time you were stressed or anxious?
So now, let’s get to work on relaxing the nervous system and activating the parasympathetic nervous system so you can get the rest you need, and finally feel recovered. Slow, rhymtic, diaphragmatic breathing really helps. Deep breathes to the bottom of your lung is one the best indicators to your nervous system that there’s nothing to worry about, and that you’re safe. Doing yoga is also something that has been proven to engage the parasympathetic nervous system. When breathing, ensure the exhale is longer than the inhale, as this helps to activate the parasympathetic nervous system.
Laughter and spending time around positive people can also significantly improve your parasympathetic nervous system response, so go spend time with people that make you happy, and that you make happy. Also do not multitask as this can set the sympathetic nervous system crazy, focus on one task at a time only.
Lastly, ensure you’re getting nutritious, healthy foods that will help the body naturally relax stress levels and combine a healthy diet with regular exercise. As a simple way into it, go for a walk everyday. Keep it light and our parasympathetic nervous system will find it a delight.
Take care and catch you next time,