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Anxiety, panic attacks, nervousness, insomnia, breathlessness, palpitations, jumpy, inability to relax, poor digestion, fear? 

All of these are signs of our sympathetic nervous system being overstimulated.

Our sympathetic nervous system is our bodys fight or flight response to a temporary threat or stressor, a process essential for human survival.  When stimulated by an assumed threat or stressor, our body will release cortisol and adrenaline along with another whole host of hormones including glucose and insulin. Once the threat no longer exists cortisol and adrenaline levels will return to baseline.

And guess what? The body doesn’t distinguish between a threat on our life and needing to run as fast as we can to escape danger to that of an unfulfilling job, argument with a loved one or the feeling of overwhelm when we have too much on our plate. When our body is in a constant or almost always constant state of sympathetic overdrive, over time it takes its toll on our body. Our adrenals are particularly affected leaving us feeling sick, tired, anxious, short-tempered, irritable, overwhelmed and with a low tolerance for anything or anyone.

The opposite to our sympathetic nervous system is our parasympathetic nervous system. Our parasympathetic nervous system is aptly named the rest and digest system. Its role is to slow everything down, from your heart beat to your digestive system. Adding to this when you’re pregnant, hormones such as adrenaline pass through to your baby, so implementing ways to slow down is important for your babies health too!

So how can we activate our parasympathetic nervous system to balance out our constantly stressed out and sympathetic dominated bodies?

I’ve compiled a list of easy peasy ways to de-stress and flick the switch!

  • Moderate exercise
    • I’ve found my mojo with exercise and what works and what doesn’t but this took trial and error. What works for me may not work for you but what my body loves is a combination of yoga, pilates and strength training in the gym (I’m a huge fan of the Kayla Itsines program) and the occasional brisk walk. Running just doesn’t agree with me! Swimming and cycling are great low impact exercises. Find what suits you.
  • Yoga
  • Meditation – check Dr Kelly Brogan article on meditation and the evidence that supports its use for psychiartic disorders such as depression
  • Fun – do something you love just for the hell of it! Your body will thank you for it
  • Correct breathing techniques – below are a few I’ve found quite helpful. With either technique always sit comfortably in an easy cross legged position, with a straight spine (no slouching) – close your eyes and begin to relax your face, tongue, neck & shoulders.
    • Gently poke your tongue out, roll your tongue, then breathe in deeply. Place your tongue back in your mouth and exhale slowly. Repeat 9 times.
    • Inhale through your nose as long as you can, feeling your diaphragm expand and your abdomen move outwards. When you feel you’ve reached your lung capacity, sip in a little more air. Slowly exhale to a count of 20. Repeat a minimum of 5 times.
  • Rest
    • A day of underachievement, I promise it won’t hurt, in fact it will make you more productive in the long run
  • Physical therapy such as a massage, chiropractic, acupuncture
  • Find yourself an acupressure mat, (my partner swears by this mat for a deeper sleep) just 30 minutes on one of these before bed can help stimulate your parasympathetic nervous system and aid in a deeper sleep

In health,

Megan Jane

NATUROPATH | NUTRITIONIST | BIOMEDICAL SCIENCE

BBioMedSci BClinSci

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