Keeping the Autonomic Nervous System in Balance

Keeping the Autonomic Nervous System in Balance

It is accepted that the Mind, Brain and Body are connected via the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) which regulates many internal processes including heart rate, hear rate variability, blood pressure, breathing and digestion.

It is also increasingly becoming evident that consciousness plays a major role in our character, behaviours and well-being. But scientists still have the odd clash on whether consciousness derives from the brain or whether it is generated outside and merely channels itself through the brain.

Moreover, because of scientists’ lack of proof and exact location, there is some doubt that the mind is actually or solely part of the brain, but that debate is for another time.

What cannot be disputed is the mountain of evidence of how calming the mind can overcome and assist a whole range of poor physical and mental health challenges via the ANS.

Keeping the ANS in balance is key to overcome anxiety, stress and resulting illnesses.

The ANS is divided into two main systems:

  • The Sympathetic system where the network and chemistry are set for short-term survival. This is where the good stress sits that enables us to utilise the Fight or Flight in-built reflexes to get ourselves out of immediate danger.

Although this can be useful when needed, unhealthy people tend to have an over-vigilant amygdala that constantly looking for danger and as a result send stress signals via the hypothalamus to the Sympathetic system. Triggers include struggling with modern day stresses (finance, relationships, career, self-image, etc.) – self-judgement – over-thinking or engaging in a never-ending stream of rumination of the past or the unknown future.

As a result, people have high levels of arousal, find it hard to relax, have poor breathing patterns, poor digestion, become tired, anxious and stressed. This leads to a weak immune system and inflammation throughout the body and then onto serious illnesses.

  • The Parasympathetic system where the network and chemistry are set to enable long-term survival and a prolonged life. This is where our ability to rest, breathe well and digest in a healthy manner stem from. This in turn allows the body to rest, enable good breathing patters, healthy digestion, provide an abundance of energy and secures a strong immune system and assists in avoiding both serious mental and physical illnesses.

Maintaining an optimum amount of CO2 in our bodies is crucial in good breathing and maintaining a balance in the ANS. CO2 is not merely a waste product; it plays an important role in maintaining the acid–base balance within the internal milieu of the body and too little or too much results in a poor respiratory process.

As the respiratory system is controlled directly by the ANS, psychic conditions, e.g., emotions, thoughts, imaginations, etc., can affect it swiftly through autonomic system.

Breathing is a behaviour subject to the same principles of learning as any other behaviour, including the role of motivation, emotion, attention, perception and memory. Your unconscious breathing habits and potential underlying triggers may be influencing your health and performance.

Therefore, our aim will be to discover the links between these triggers, the resulting behaviours and ultimately improve your health and performance.

The techniques that we use all aim to rebalance and maintain the ANS balance by using a combination of getting back to the present moment, reframing, and accepting, and letting go of the emotions, thoughts and imaginations past events and future scenarios. Plus, they will encourage accepting the ‘as is’, reducing the time spent in conflict with what life is currently presenting and support relinquishing the urge to try and control the unknown future.

The Breathing practices, meditations and the range of other tools aim to promote a conscious awareness of and address the root cause reasons of the feelings, beliefs, emotions and the manifesting symptoms and keep the mind, body and life balanced and in harmony.

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Nigel Grimes