Part One, In case you missed it..
Elizabeth Gilbert says, "The person in the room who is the most relaxed is the one who holds all the power".
Adrenal burnout, fatigue, the fight/flight/freeze response activation - there’s a lot of ways we identify what is essentially a symptom of a modern life we haven’t evolved to live. It’s a state of being unregulated in our stress response, a place where we can no longer relax, find peace or switch off. The always busy, always on mode of living life is often modelled to us early on, which only serves to make it feel even more impossible to conceive of a different way of living. Yet we all have the inner workings and wisdom to live a different life, to switch into a state that allows us to be more present, more compassionate, more loving – for ourselves and for those around us.
The picture of a burnt out nervous system
The sympathetic nervous system (SNS), which houses the fight or flight response, causes a continuous reaction/overreaction to daily events, overworking and overdoing it. The fact is, our culture is one of relentless indoctrination of productivity and perfectionism. One of the ways we try to gain back our control over the uncontrolled stress is by striving even more – perfecting, working harder, trying harder, being harder on ourselves. When this gets to be too much, we suffer – sometimes in silence, sometimes loudly. Sometimes our bodies do the yelling for us. We create stories about something being wrong with us for not keeping up with a model that is designed to burn us out. Or we begin to blame others. This drives anger, shame, and anxiety – causing even more of a reactive system.
Since our bodies have not evolved to process this modern life of constant over-exertion, we use caffeine to keep pushing ourselves. Our organs, designed for a world of cyclical rest that never seems to come, captures stress as physical illness in the most vulnerable organs. When stress makes a home in the body, it makes your most tender body parts chronically ill.
The long-term stress response
The result of long-term stress is a major cause and driver of:
- wear and tear from rushing and armouring - chronic muscle tightness
- chronic digestive disorders
- chronic pain and inflammation
- chronic hormonal imbalances
- chronic immune dysregulation
- damage from using excessive uppers and owners to cope - caffeine, drugs, alcohol and food.
- poor cognition (i.e. grasping for the right words)
- brain fog
- chronic fatigue
The preferred state of the body
In part one, I discussed healing the wounds of trauma. The body has its own wisdom and its natural set point is one of homeostasis and healing. The body wants to heal itself – often it’s the mind and the environment that stand in its way. The nervous system has a preferred state of healing too, one where it’s able to sit in the ventral vagal activation the majority of the time. The ventral vagal pathway is one of safety, connection, healthy growth and restoration. I discussed that it’s not realistic or even healthy to sit in this state 100 per cent of the time – but the aim is to be able to flexibly transition in and out of other states of nervous system activation in appropriate contexts. So, how do we do this?
10 Steps To Recalibrating Your Nervous System - go to Part Three
- Fulling, C., Dinan, T.G., Cryan, J.F. (2019). Gut mirobe to brain signalling: what happens in vagus. Neuron, 101(6):998-1002.
- Gladwell, V.F., Brown, D.K., Barton, J.L., Tarvainen, M.P., Kuoppa, P., et al. (2012). The effects of views of nature on autonomic control. Eur J Appl Physiol, 112(9):3379-86.