We all have a nervous system, but why do we have nervous system, why is it so important, and why would a Life Coach blog about it?
We have a nervous system to enable us to be alive, function and survive. The nervous system is comprised of many parts of the body including your brain, your spinal cord and your nerves. I like to compare the Nervous System to a built in computer, this built in computer allows us to automatically do things without thinking about it. For example, I am typing right now while processing these thoughts, therefore my fingers are automatically using the keyboard. Another example would be that we often use our hands when we talk, without telling our hands to move. This allows us to communicate verbally and nonverbally simultaneously. I find it quite fascinating that we can think, speak and move all at the same time quickly and efficiently unless our nervous system has been compromised in some way.
Parts of the Nervous System and how they function
For the purpose of this article, I will write about the Autonomic Nervous System and the two branches known as the Sympathetic and Parasympathetic Nervous System.
Autonomic Nervous System:
This is responsible for organ functioning, breathing, healing, urination and sexual arousal etc.
Parasympathetic Nervous System (Rest and Digest):
This is responsible for sleeping, slowing down, rest and digest, conserving of energy, as well as social engagement which is the unique part of the human experience and allows us to connect and love, learn and engage with our environment.
Sympathetic Nervous System (Fight or Flight):
This is responsible for and allows us to survive threats (harm) by a built-in ability to flight, fight or freeze. This happens without us thinking about it, it just happens in a split second, it happens suddenly without warning.
Examples of Flight, Fight and Freeze
You are walking through a park while two people are playing catch with a ball, suddenly you hear ‘heads up’ you see a baseball out of the corner of your eye coming straight at you, you automatically respond, you don’t stand there pondering your options of what to do, you will either move out of the way or cover up, or catch and deflect the baseball; this will happen automatically, in an instant otherwise you would get hit in the head with a baseball and get hurt.
This is your flight response, this is your nervous system working for you, it’s keeping your head safe from injury.
You are walking in the same park, when an animal comes running at you out of nowhere and your cornered, no time to run, in an instant your hands clinch into fists and you start punching and kicking this animal until the attack stops and the animal leaves.
This your fight response working for you, your adrenaline kicks in and you fight until the attack/threat is over with.
You are walking in the same park, when you approach a bad accident, someone was hit by a car while riding their bike. Police and paramedics are on the scene, so you have no need to help or respond, as you walk by you can see the person that has been injured on the ground. It feels horrific, even though it is tough to look at, you kind of stare and fixate on what you see. Your body kind of goes numb and you don’t really feel anything even though you know you should feel something.
This is your freeze response working for you. It’s not allowing you to feel the horror that you are witnessing, to enable you to process this horrible scene slowly enough to avoid immediate overwhelm.
Survival Responses are essential but can create problems
As you can see the fight, flight, freeze responses are essential for human functioning and survival. However, individuals can run into problems and issues because these survival responses are not meant to be activated for long periods of time, they are meant to be activated in short bursts. These survival responses need stress hormones such as cortisol to engage and keep us a safe and alive.
Once the event that created the threat is over, our bodies desire to return to normal easy functioning that is relaxing and not in ‘high alert ‘ Our body does not function well when the nervous system is in a constant survival response such as fight, flight, freeze. When we stay in the ‘high alert’ response, we become imbalanced, sick, and unhealthy because our stress hormones such as cortisol start to negatively impact our body.
Unfortunately, in the year 2020, we live in a society where stress has been accepted and tolerated as just part of life. (see my blog titled “Plan for Stress by Building a Capacity)
Many of us are constantly in ‘high alert’ and suffer from chronic stress and never engage in self care.
Does this sound familiar?
Perhaps, your health is suffering from chronic stress?
Perhaps, your nervous system is constantly engaged in fight, flight, freeze?