Not sympathetic as in feeling or expressing sympathy, the actual part of your nervous system know as the sympathetic.
There are two parts to the nervous system that we will reference here, the sympathetic and the parasympathetic.
These two main parts of your nervous system work like a teeter totter. When one increases in activation, the other gets less active. As stress in our daily lives increases, the sympathetic nervous system responds. When you are in a state of relaxation where you can rest, and things like digestion and healing occur. This is parasympathetic nervous system in action. For some people, the sympathetic response is constantly activated. These people are perpetually always on edge.
The fight, flight, freeze response is a physiological reaction that occurs when something feels threatening, either mentally or physically. The chain of rapidly occurring reactions inside the body help to mobilize the body’s resources to deal with the threat.
However, this integral system cannot differentiate between the threat of a rabid dog, the threat of a traffic jam or an angry boss. No matter how you slice it, dice it or try to ignore it acute stress is around us and unresolved or repressed stress causes dis -ease in the body and has detrimental physical repercussions.
“Chronic stress is linked to the six leading causes of death: heart disease, cancer, lung ailments, accidents, cirrhosis of the liver and suicide”
~ American Psychological Association
Chest tightness? Shortness of breath? Headaches? What does your body tell you when it is getting activated? Do you know? When you are in the throws of a stressful day, stressful month or stressful LIFE are you attuned to the unique language your body speaks? If not, it’s time to learn. When you’re in a personal state of high alert and the sympathetic nervous system is active, there is more blood delivered to your muscles to prepare you for fight or flight, this means less oxygen is delivered to your brain. Less oxygen equals lower cognitive function which means MORE STRESS.
You are at work, putting extra hours to get work done before leaving early and finally reach your vacation destination after a week of little sleep and little food only to end up sick as a dog at the hotel.
Your physical body is alert to your discomfort long before your conscious mind catches wind that there is a problem. That means you must attune to it’s cues or this cycle will continue on.
How can you tell you are getting activated into that sympathetic? Learn your body.
First signs that stress is building:
Prolonged states will mean:
Regardless or how it shows up only YOU can learn those more subtle cues that let you know that you are creeping into a state that becomes reactionary and devoid of an ability to choose differently.
Think of it like a tornado…if you get too close, you get sucked it.
Have you ever had a moment when you started saying mean or cruel things in a tone that was very angry and you couldn’t stop it? Maybe you said things that you regretted and then felt guilty or ashamed afterwards? The key to evolving and breaking old habits is to become attuned to your body so that you recognize when things begin to escalate and can act according to how you WANT to respond versus falling prey to the reactionary state of a trigger.
What can you do to keep your conscious mind online and steer clear of the rabbit hole of old patterns and habits?
Literally PAUSE from what you are doing and open your awareness of yourself and everything around you. This is the most critical skill you can develop when it comes to learning the unique language your body speaks. It is the only way to allow yourself to learn what your body is trying to tell you before the overwhelming sensations of fight or flight kick in and take over.
Pausing is the first step to help you to attune yourself with what is actually going on within you and can break the habitual nature of your body’s past experiences. Working on being present in where you ARE will ensure that you don’t get sucked into that tornado that is the fight, flight or freeze part of your nervous system!
Prolonged states of the fight, flight freeze response can cause havoc in your body. Your body is the experiential vehicle in the moment of now and how you experience your body will always impact your life and how you experience EVERYTHING.