Have you ever noticed that when life throws you a curve it wreaks havoc by affecting you mentally, physically and emotionally? Issues that disrupt us emotionally also have the capacity to cause distress to the physical body. Sometimes even the thought of an upcoming stressful day can trigger a physical reaction such as a headache. Thoughts, beliefs and feelings affect the physiology of our body more profoundly than we give it credit for. Becoming aware of this relationship can help us to achieve a greater state of well-being.
Our bodies are programmed to respond to any emotion that an experience brings. This response is to ensure your safety. If you were being chased by a mugger, the feeling of fear would trigger a cascade of reactions that instinctually cause you to run away before your brain can even interpret the situation.
Our autonomic nervous system is not under conscious control and, when activated, it automatically and instantaneously triggers either the parasympathetic (rest or digest) or the sympathetic (fight or flight) response.
When the amygdala feels threatened, it activates the sympathetic system. The body then prepares for flight or flight by releasing the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol. This results in increased blood pressure and blood sugar. The heart pumps faster and breathing is accelerated. Blood flow is diverted to the limbs. Other systems, such as digestion and reproduction, are shut down. When the amygdala senses “danger”, this chain of reactions occurs before you are even consciously aware of your response. That is why you are able to remove your hand so quickly (before processing the situation) when you touch a hot stove.
Unfortunately, the brain is unable to distinguish whether a perceived threat is real or imagined.. The same fight or flight response is initiated, whether we suddenly see a threatening mugger approaching us or whether we are anxious about having an uncomfortable conversation. Ideally, the fight or flight response should shut off 3 minutes after the perceived stress and the hormones levels should return to baseline after 30 minutes. However, when a threat, imagined or real, remembered or anticipated, is replayed over and over again in our thoughts, the body experiences chronic effects even though the original stress is not actually happening in the here and now. Chronic stress can have health impacts varying from anxiety, pain, illness and disease. This stress response is processed below the level of conscious awareness and often we are unaware that a stress response has even been initiated until it has fully manifested.
Activation of the parasympathetic (rest or digest) system also has an automatic and immediate response. But in this case, it allows the body to relax and repair. Heart rate and blood pressure are lowered, muscles relax and digestive enzymes are released.
Neither system is under conscious control, but calming the amygdala can encourage the relaxation response. When you become consciously aware of what is happening, you can make more appropriate choices and more easily shift your habitual thoughts from being stressful to supportive (even fun!). The gentle contacts of Network Spinal Analysis stimulate the brain’s prefrontal cortex and allows for greater self-awareness. In just a few seconds, we become aware of the tension our body is holding and we breathe deeper. When the body is not reacting in defence, the amygdala is less likely to feel threatened or to maintain a stress response.
An awareness that everything is okay and there no need to feel threatened calms the mind, allows the body to release tension and the breath deepens. Being able to spend more time in the relaxation response encourages a greater state of healing and well-being.
“Something amazing unleashes from within, the moment you realize that you have always had the power to control how you feel.” – Dr. Julie Doobay
Copyright Dr. Julie Doobay 2018