Stress, Sick, Tired, Angry…What’s happening to me? Parasympathetic v Sympathetic System Intro

Most of us are trying to find some semblance of balance in our lives.  The balance we are working towards helps us do things like NOT get sick, show up physically and mentally for work, move our bodies in a way that helps us feel great, eat food that keeps us going, sleep well, and breathe...important stuff like that.  Our brains help us automatically (or rather autonomically) balance those things by managing our heart beat, controlling digestion (food and moving food out of our systems), relaxing our muscle tone so that we aren’t tense all the time, creating new neural connections so that we can do and/or learn new things and a flurry of other cool processes. There are two systems in our bodies called the parasympathetic and sympathetic systems which manage all of these processes and are constantly at work to keep us alive.  We don’t consciously control these systems as they work autonomically and independently of our conscious.  We can, however, influence the effectiveness of these systems.  

Let’s put this into context...ever feel like this?


Bobbi’s sympathetic system was kicked into high gear.  Try squeezing all of your muscles AS HARD AS YOU CAN and holding your breath for 60 seconds.  Then imagine doing that for an hour, or days or weeks or months, or years!!  The sympathetic system, in this state, is dumping out the hormone adrenaline. This poor business person is probably sweating through her deodorant, she probably hasn’t pooped in 2 days, her heart rate is wicked high, she’s craving high sugar and high fat foods but can’t digest well, her breathing is short, her neck is killing her, every day get it.  Existing in that state is exhausting to both her body and her brain.  Her mood is zapped.  She can’t think well.  She’s had a cold for 2 weeks. She’s on her 3rd cup of coffee and it’s only 11am. And, it’s Tuesday. Her performance at work suffers.  She’s mean to her partner and friends for no real reason.  Yuck!

At the same time, her parasympathetic system is taxed with trying to quiet all of that noise.   For this stressed out business person, her parasympathetic system is politely tapping the sympathetic system on the shoulder saying “Um, excuse me, could you please be a little quieter?”   

There are so many things she can do assist her parasympathetic system. Let’s look at signs and things she (you) can do to combat these.

Breathing is a beast!  We are really good at it when we are little, but, as we age, we get really bad at it. Sure, we breathe - but, we don't take in enough oxygen in our automatic breathing.  And, oxygen is a vital food for our parasympathetic system and our brain.  

So, Bobbi committed to gain back 5 hours of her life for herself, each week and put that towards self care which has helped her decrease stress.  She leaves the office at a reasonable time on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights to exercise.  She makes her own lunches using whole foods and eats them without any noise (no laptop or phone) and she takes walks right afterwards.  She uses her PTO without shame.  And, has been practicing breathing techniques.  She’s a whole new person. Same job - and, actually, she just got promoted while working less because she’s more effective at work and life. Hmmmm...know anyone this could work for?  A blog about breathing coming soon!

Hit me up to talk more about this!