31 Jul How Your Nervous System Can Affect Other Areas of the Body
Think back to a time when you were extremely angry, afraid, worried, or ecstatic about something. Try to go beyond how you felt emotionally and see if you can remember how you felt physically in those moments. Were your palms sweating? Did you feel your heart pounding?
That was your nervous system in action.
When we feel intense emotions like rage, fear, anxiety, or joy, our bodies react in a variety of ways through our nerves. There are billions of these fibers that connect our brain and spinal cord with the rest of the body through nerve impulses and hormonal cascades.
Sympathetic vs. Parasympathetic Nervous System
There are two main divisions of the nervous system as a whole: the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) and the sympathetic nervous system (SNS).
The PNS helps us to slow our bodies down and aims to restore a sense of calm. It decreases your heart rate, relaxes your muscles, and assists with digestion. It’s commonly known as the “rest and digest” or “feed and breed” mode.
In contrast, the SNS is active when we are in “fight-or-flight” (survival) mode. It’s a fast system that causes our bodies to become tense, alert, and ready to deal with any perceived threats.
But this also means that heart rate increases, muscles contract, and adrenaline is released throughout our body.
The Link Between Physical & Emotional Pain
Even though we may no longer be in a hunter-gatherer society, our bodies still have a system that aims to protect ourselves first and foremost — and it doesn’t quite know the difference between a real physical threat and the ones we feel emotionally.
So even if our fears or anxieties may be focused on things like money or relationships, our nervous system can often go into survival mode . . . and that’s not always a good thing. It’s normal for our SNS (“survival mode”) to activate during times of stress, but when this stays this way over a prolonged period of time due to chronic stress, our bodies can become damaged from stress hormones.
Since all areas of the body are controlled by the nervous system, our emotional stressors can (and do) impact the way we feel physically, causing tension and pain.
Healing Pain Below the Surface
The biggest thing with chronic stress is learning not only to shift your perspective, but learning ways to manage and even control that stress. Allowing our bodies to be in long-term SNS activation basically creates a hormonal recipe for damage (increased adrenaline, cortisol, and other hormones that wreak havoc long-term) and creates pain in different areas due to prolonged muscular activation which leads to tension and pain.
The goal of body work and mindfulness practices is to pattern interrupt — to learn how to recognize your reaction to stressful events and how to break the pattern of staying in that state so you can determine when you go back to baseline and relax, allowing the PNS and SNS to balance out and maintain homeostasis.
Like anything, it takes practice to break those habits and neurological/hormonal patterns. Having bodywork done can release stress, while mindfulness practices can help you break those patterns on your own. Learn more about our in-office chiropractic and reiki sessions or our distance healing package by reaching out to us today to take the next step in your healing journey!