In my last post I introduced you to you, or rather, parts of you to you. These are the SNS and PNS and are two major parts of your nervous system that regulate stress and relaxation. Introductions were made, hands were shaken, notes were taken. The next step is to take a look at what's going on IN you when everything AROUND you is getting TO you! I really recommend going back and reading part 1 before proceeding......
So before I get to some gory details let me give you some gory perspective; so a grizzly bear, a manhunting dinosaur and a dental appointment walk into a bar. Which one do you find the most unpleasant to think about? Well, your SNS doesn't know the difference to any degree, it just registers that you're experiencing stress. That's really nuts! I mean, that's crazy! If you get pulled over by a cop or receive a final cancellation notice in the mail, that cold stress sensation that comes over you is not unlike finding a bear in your backseat! Those stress sensations are your body kicking in to fight or flight!!! Yikes! You've heard this term used over and over but do you have any idea what it means??
Yes there are degrees of stress ranging from discomfort to shock to full panic but it's all the same to the SNS. No matter what the scenario is your SNS is going to be 'stimulated', it's going to switch on and it's going to do these things, all the time, everyday, unless you SHUT IT OFF.
Heart rate increases dramatically so that baby can pump that blood and oxygen to the parts of the body that need it the most: the muscles!! This is so that you can fight to the death or run away! The lungs and parts of the brain are next on the blood list so your breath can continue to oxygenate your body. Blood is directed AWAY from systems that are not really useful for dropkicking a predator and this includes digestion. Your digestive system gets seriously ripped off in this ordeal.
Okay so blood is directed to parts of the brain that are important for acting really fast but activity in the the forebrain is suppressed. To quote a New York Times article what is suppressed is "activity in areas at the front of the brain concerned with short-term memory, concentration, inhibition, and rational thought". Ha! That's why you feel like a blubbering fool in stressful social contexts in which you have to speak or during an unpleasant verbal conflict!
Here's another neat quote, from Pub Med, concerning your brain on stress. It cites a study done on social phobias and the brain. It explains..
"that cortical evaluative processes were taxed by public performance. In contrast, the social phobia symptom profile was associated with increased subcortical activity. Thus, the functional neuroanatomy of social phobia involves the activation of a phylogenetically older danger-recognition system."
This means your relating to other humans via your reptilian "danger" archives.
So to expand upon the whole blood diverted away from your guts thing I mentioned earlier here's a quote from Harvard Health Publications:
During stress "digestion slows or even stops so that the body can divert all its internal energy to facing a perceived threat. In response to less severe stress, such as public speaking, the digestive process may slow or be temporarily disrupted, causing abdominal pain and other symptoms of functional gastrointestinal disorders. Of course, it can work the other way as well: persistent gastrointestinal problems can heighten anxiety and stress."
IBS? Ulcers? Chrohns disease? Acid reflux? An entire nation of gastrointestinal problems? Does this seem okay?
Note: "less severe stress" causes abdominal pain...
This one is insane to me. Your immune system is basically suppressed during stress except for the parts that fight infection. It's brilliant. It's miraculous. It's terrifying. This type of long term suppression can be linked to auto immune diseases to many allergies and even cancer. Why?
The constant dysregulation of the immune system day in and day out. Your immune system is comprised of so many different kinds of cells and during stress they are given rank. This will cause dysfunction eventually. This will cause your immune system to attack your body or will cause the dysregulated release of hormones and in the case of cancer stress will reduce the amount of natural killer cells in your immune system that are known to attack and eat cancer cells. So your immune system cannot properly fight cancer because it's being f**king supressed! The effect of stress on natural killer cells is a fascinating study and one that deserves the wheel.
I implore you to check out the New York Times link below to read the section on the immune system fully.
You get tunnel vision. Your mouth goes dry and your throat tight. Your skin tightens. Bodily tension puts physical stress on your muscles, tissues and organs risking injury and contributing to ischemia (loss of blood flow).
Is this starting to sound like a panic attack yet?
Like I said, there are degrees.
There are those serious and acute episodes; serious accidents, emergencies and other frightening events. This is acute stress. It's hot, pulsating stress. It's different than daily stress.
Daily stress is what I'm talking about. The kind that hums just beneath the surface.
Ever go through an acutely stressful event and feel that warm feeling wash over you when it's all over with? That's PNS. PNS takes over when the catastrophe has run its course.
It isn't activated when you're dealing with the daily grind or those "less severe" instances. You have to activate yourself. And know what's nice? You can!
What happens when this SNS system is running low grade day after day? Illness. Of all kinds. Mental, emotional, physical... stress is a part of every illness you experience.
Long term stress will start to act like acute stress. This now becomes a disorder. What happens when your body goes through a stress response meant to rip an automobile off a small child while you're,,,, just,,, sorta,,, standing there? Probably a panic attack. What happens when you go through this everyday? You probably end up on medication being told you have a mental illness. The symptoms of anxiety are totally insane and can bring you to your knees.
There is only one way out. You have to switch if off. There is only one way to do this, you must turn on PNS.
PNS will regulate all of this mayhem. PNS activation regulates blood flow and digestion, heart rate and even has a profound impact on your immune system! Many studies show that activating PNS through massage or a forest walk or deep breathing increases natural killer cell count! WOW! The euphoria felt during PNS activation is linked to homeostasis of dopamine and serotonin! Pain is decreased, tension reduces. That kind of research confirms everything I'm saying.... our daily stress is killing us and we have to take control... and we can. The first step is to know how this works, which is what I'm trying to do.
This is why relaxation techniques have such a major effect on anxiety disorders, because you'r retraining your nervous system to not react with stress. You're ensuring yourself that you are not under bear attack,,,, right now.
PNS response is also called the 'rest and digest' response. This is because you start to digest food again! Ever notice that moment during a massage when your stomach just starts gurgling for no reason? Well, there you go! PNS has begun!
Well I'm glad you're here, at the end of this entry. I'm glad you read it! This is only still a part of the story... we're not done here! These are the facts with a bit of perspective but in the future I would like to offer some philosophy on how we're living and how we need to evolve. We need evolution to take us past this hellish deathtrap of stress and to start to run in harmony with our technology and ourselves. Below are links to the articles I quoted. This is real. This is why, I think, people with healthy lifestyles get cancer or other diseases. I also want to show you the way out. I can help you,,, in 5 minutes I can switch you to PNS, but you can do it too.