Autonomic Nervous System Overview
The Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) automatically regulates the cardiovascular, renal, gastrointestinal and other important systems. There are two sub-categories to the Autonomic Nervous System called the Sympathetic (SNS) and the Parasympathetic (PSNS). Depending on the external triggers sent to the main Autonomic System, it can activate either Sympathetic or Parasympathetic Nervous System. As you will see, there exists a relationship and a necessary balance between the two.
Sympathetic Nervous System (Flight or Fight Response)
Our Flight or Fight response was intended to be used as a survival mechanism in life-threatening situations. Unfortunately, modern society is maxing out our Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS).
The system that was intended to divert resources to the parts of our body needed to fight danger, is now activated because of daily stress and anxiety, like driving, constant noise, financial worry, overworking and other triggers.
If we spend too much time in SNS, our health suffers, symptoms may include:
- Reduced blood flow from the gastro-intestinal (GI) tract
- Reduced digestive peristalsis
- Increased heart rate
- Quickening of breathing
- High blood pressure
- Brain changes leading to depression, addictions.
Parasympathetic Nervous System (Rest and Digest Response)
The parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS) is where our body wants to be when we are not in danger. It lets us conduct the day to day business of life like eating, sleeping, and recovering.
When the parasympathetic nervous system is activated, the changes are rapid. When the danger has passed, cortisol levels decrease and the parasympathetic system slows and relaxes the mind and body quickly. Benefits may include:
- Increased blood flow in the GI tract
- Increased digestive peristalsis
- Reduced heart rate
- Slowing of breathing rate
- Lasting sobriety and reduced urges to addictive substances
The more time we spend in PSNS the healthier we are.
Activating your Parasympathetic Nervous System
It’s relatively easy to activate your parasympathetic nervous system. Removing yourself from stress, even if temporarily, is essential in activating your parasympathetic nervous system.
You can quickly replace stress with rest. There are many techniques you can use to activate your parasympathetic nervous system. Here are some Calm Radio music channels that we suggest to help you add calm and relaxation to your life:
- Listen to relaxing music, like the Calm Radio’s Calming Classical or Peaceful Bach
- Close your eyes, put headphones or earbuds on, and listen to calm music, like our Binaural Meditation channel. Binaural music is therapeutically designed to help slow down your mind and promote slow heart rate, slower breathing, resulting in a relaxed, calm state.
Suggestions to Activate your Parasympathetic Nervous System
- Yoga, Tai Chi
- Touch your lips. Your lips have parasympathetic fibres. Gently run your index finger across your lips
- Visualization. Play Calm radio Beach Waves and visualize yourself on a sandy beach, feel the breeze on your face, smell the salt water, feel the sun on your skin.
- Avoid multitasking. Focus on one task at a time. When eating, only eat. When reading, only read. When thinking, only think.