In her article in UConn Today, Christine Buckley references UConn researcher in “Understanding Balance In The Nervous System”, Angel De Blas, who stated, “Our nervous system couldn’t function properly if not for a delicate balance of excitement and inhibition between individual nerve cells.”
“‘It’s like driving a car’,” says De Blas, a professor of physiology and neurobiology in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “You have to have a pedal for the gas and a pedal for the brake. In the same way, nerve cells can have excitatory or inhibitory effects.” If these two types of nerve impulses don’t balance each other, he says, “it can cause neurological syndromes, such as epileptic seizures.”
To get a deeper understanding of how the brain is connected with our nervous system, we have to understand the difference between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems.
The biologydictionary.net defines the sympathetic nervous system as part of the autonomic nervous system, an extensive network of neurons that regulate the body’s involuntary processes. “Specifically, the sympathetic nervous system controls aspects of the body related to the flight-or-fight response, such as mobilizing fat reserves, increasing the heart rate, and releasing adrenaline.”
This is sometimes called the “rest and digest system” because it largely controls those functions. “The parasympathetic system conserves energy as it slows the heart rate, increases intestinal and gland activity, and relaxes sphincter muscles in the gastrointestinal tract.” According to ScienceDaily.com.
The sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems rest on either side of a wobbling scale; each system remains active in the body and helps counteract the actions of the other. If the opposing forces are mostly balanced, the body achieves homeostasis and operations chug along as usual. Meg Satinksky MPT, PYT explains the reverse effects,
“When the two systems fail to work together in harmony, imbalance occurs (dysautonomia, or autonomic nervous system dysfunction). The more common imbalance of the autonomic nervous system is sympathetic nervous system dominance where the sympathetic nervous system remains dominant most of the time and the parasympathetic rarely turns on. When this occurs, then the body remains in a state of fight or flight most of the time or at all times. The stress response system never or rarely turns off. When the body remains in a state of fight or flight all the time, degenerative processes begin and if left unaddressed, can result in a variety of chronic health conditions and overall poor health.”
As we have mentioned in our previous blogs, there are many ways we can restore balance within our bodies. We can train our brains and bodies to balance the two, which includes stimulating the vagus nerve.
Consider some of the tips below to help keep your autonomic nervous system in check.
- Rest often
- Eat well
- Practice deep breathing
- Cultivate contentment
- Recognize who and what provides you with energy vs who and what uses up your energy
- Train your mind to stay out of negative emotions such as worry, fear, anger, guilt
- Practice forgiveness
- Keep thoughts and emotions as uplifted as possible