The Anxiety Nervous System
THE NERVOUS SYSTEM
The human nervous system has two separate parts.
The Voluntary and the Autonomic System.
The Voluntary system
This is concerned with movement and sensation. When we lift our hand up it's the voluntary nervous system coming into action and lots of nerves (motor and sensory nerves amongst others) are moving.
The Autonomic System
This controls areas which we have less control over. These include heart rate, digestion of food, blood pressure, etc. Basically our nerves leave the spine to connect to our major organs and glands. The nerves either stimulate or inhibit them.
THE AUTONOMIC NERVOUS SYSTEM HAS TWO BRANCHES
The sympathetic nervous system sounds like it has a calming influence, but in fact it’s the complete opposite. The sympathetic helps to prepare the body to defend itself by activating glands and organs. This is called the Fight or Flight response.
Nerves send more blood to the muscles and the brain. The heart rate and blood pressure increase, whilst blood flow to non-essential organs and the digestive system decreases. When you’re experiencing a Panic Attack or high anxiety this is basically what’s happening. The thyroid and adrenal glands are activated to provide energy to run or fight. That’s we you may feel your heartbeat, your mouth goes dry, difficulty in swallowing, etc. Stress, panic and nervousness is what you feel when the sympathetic nervous system ‘kicks in’.
If the sympathetic nervous system is constantly being activated it is not good for our bodies. The body’s energy should be used to provide nourishment, repair the body, elimination of waste. But if most of our energy is being used to prepare us to fight or run we start to feel run down.
A good example is imagining having all the nations’ resources being placed to defend the country. In a short term emergency it’s very helpful, but should it go on for too long the nation becomes depleted, poorer and weaker.
The adrenaline rush of a panic attack is always followed by a feeling of being tired and irritable as the body is depleted of resources.
There is an answer to this ……………..
The parasympathetic nervous system
This is concerned with healing, nourishing and regeneration of the body. Its nerves stimulate the immune system, digestion and organs that promote wellbeing.
The parasympathetic nervous system can be activated by relaxation, rest and happy/positive thoughts. This is promoted by a balanced life and looking after oneself. If you can do this, it will promote your body to heal itself.
If you can activate the parasympathetic state as much as possible its helps to heal ill heath, both mental and physical.
At certain parts of the day or after a hard day’s work you may feel fatigued or lethargic. This is not something you should fight or believe is unhealthy. Rather, it indicates a state of rebuilding and repair in progress.
THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW –
- The sympathetic and parasympathetic system cannot both work at the same time. Either one or the other is working. The sympathetic is the one that will always take over if there is a perceive threat of survival.
- The goal is to try and turn off the sympathetic nervous system in order to promote balance and healing. Simple ways to do this is rest, meditate, relax, hot bath, happy thoughts, good diet, exercise, message, etc. If you are always stressed, angry, negative, resentful, push yourself above your endurance, eat a poor diet, then the body will shift towards the sympathetic side.
Think of your body as a car. The sympathetic is the accelerator pedal on the car. It gets you all ‘revved up’. The parasympathetic is like the break. However, unlike a car, when the brake is applied is begins to heal oneself.
In today's frantic life more and more people are experiencing anxiety and panic problems. These people do not have balanced autonomic systems. The fight or flight response has been developed over thousands of years when we were cavemen in prehistoric times. Back then it’s was useful if we came across a saber toothed-tiger or another tribe we needed to run or fight.
But today are threats are more physiological.
-Your boss has just shouted at you
-A car cuts you up on the motorway
-It’s getting near the end of the month and you’re short of money again
-Your neighbour has just put a shed up in the back garden and its blocking the view you use to have.
All these scenarios cause worry, anger, resentment, and fear – negative thoughts
The balanced individual
When the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system work together (as they should), a person can rest and relax easily, and quite often. If the need arises the person can also perform quickly and competently. If a challenging, stressful situation arises they are able to respond with energy, enthusiasm and dynamism.
A balanced person can choose to rest easily and sleep deeply. The parasympathetic system will take over and reduce the activity of the brain, muscles and glands.
ARE YOU A SYMPATHETIC/ANXIETY TYPE PERSON
Some people are more prone to remaining in a sympathetic state. This is generally caused by two things
- Some sort of prolonged state of stress like the loss of a loved one, stressful job, financial pressures, etc.
- Not looking after one’s body and burning the candle at both ends. So this could be lack of sleep, poor nutrition, too much alcohol, drugs, not relaxing and enjoying yourself as much, etc.
Anxiety and panic can affect any person although a genetic disposition and how we were brought up is also a factor.
People who tend to be more outgoing, aggressive and hostile at times, often sweat more, have higher blood pressure and sugar levels, and more frequent bowel movements.
These people are more prone to feeling, irritability, nervousness and anxiety. The sympathetic nervous system is more active and firing off the adrenal glands.
However anxiety can also affect less outward people. If you tend to internalize everything, over analyze and tend to be a deep thinker then it can happen to you as well. If social situations are difficult and you may have been a shy anyway, then any unusual sensation can be magnified into something catastrophic.
As I have stated when the sympathetic system dominates your body it can lead to a person being sensitized to certain situations. So standing in a queue of people now becomes a nightmare and a panic attack waiting to happen. This is more a mental and lifestyle tendency than anything else. The sympathetic system is exhausted and the world they perceive continues to stimulate it. As a result, the body is not sent back to the parasympathetic state to rebuild and heal. Eventually the body becomes nutritionally depleted and the person becomes literally ‘burnt out.’
Unfortunately in today’s society children are also suffering more panic attacks and anxiety due to poor diets, stress, difficult upbringing and nutritional deficiencies.
Causes of panic attacks.
There are several causes as I have stated above. It’s mainly a life style pattern. Some people analyze too much or worry excessively, others have too much work. These are lifestyles issues.
Others spend too much time thinking negatively. They live in fear, anger or resentment. They walk, eat, talk and think at a rapid pace, faster than what their bodies can cope with. They have poor nutrition, which adds to their feeling of panic and anxiety.
With today’s 24hrs news (which is mainly bad) this promotes fearful thinking. Also we live in an age where we have more knowledge about the world – good or bad.
If you take the above along with the pollution and toxic chemical in our food, air and water, you can see how our nervous system is being disturbed.
The cycle of fear
A person can become so used to feeling anxious and tired that when they get a good rest one day, they use up their energy the next, instead of continuing to rest. In doing this they are not allowing their bodies to use the energy to replenish and heal. They tend to stay out of balance and feeing nervous.
The early sign of your body being in a sympathetic or anxious state is much of the time you will be feeling tired and irritable. As the condition develops you may find yourself feeling depressed, lethargic or moody. Other systems will include, insomnia, rapid heartbeat, sensitivity to light, disturbed digestion, headaches, etc. If this stage continues then this can lead to full blown panic attacks. At this stage you can be paralyzed and crippled by fear and panic. Functioning as a ‘normal’ human being becomes impossible.
The Symptoms Of Anxiety
A balanced person
Well this doesn’t happen very often and this is what I’m working towards and you should be. It tends to be seen more commonly in spiritually developed people. I’m not saying that you have to go to church, but you have to learn to meditate and believe in something higher than just everyday moans and groans. A balanced person will live for today and not worry about the future or regret things they did in the past. They will almost always be relaxed, and not react to stress. Their mind, body and spirit will be in a state of peace and contentment.
By doing this you can learn the discipline to think and live differently and change your lifestyle for a better, happier life. One can reduce stress and strain on the body through rest, so the body can rebuild and replenish.
HOW TO LIVE A BALANCED LIFE TO CURE ANXIETY AND PANIC ATTACKS
Ways to keep you nervous system functioning properly.
Practice Forgiveness. This will place you in a position of power and compassion. If you allow yourself to feel like a victim, you will lose your self-confidence and encourage the fight or flight feelings.
I did not name this website POSITIVE PANIC ATTACKS FOR NOTHING! You must remain positive and keep thoughts and emotions uplifted and optimistic as possible.
Improve your diet. One the easiest things to do that will make dramatic changes to your health. You need to cut out the coffee, tea and alcohol. These are stimulants and will give you a lift initially and then you will feel the drop in energy later. You must cut out the sugary cakes, sweets, chocolate, etc. Keeping your blood sugar balanced is essential in overcoming panic attacks. Ideally you should be eating 5 mini meals day. Make sure you eat breakfast – as the saying goes, breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Your meals should contain a mixture of a protein, complex carbohydrate and fruit. Its sound complicated but it’s not. Please read my post on diets here.
Find inner Peace. I’m not asking you to walk around with a fake smile of your face all day. As you know happiness can be short lived and you cannot possibley be happy all of the time. People who walk around with fake smiles are often covering up their inner feelings of unhappiness. Inner peace is a state in which you are totally content in your own skin and the world around you. Even if the world is not to your liking you can choose to let go. Finding inner peace is letting go of your demons inside and not trying to control things.
Reduce your stress. Sounds like common sense which it is, although most us just get caught up in life and don’t see how stressed we have become. Stress is an activator of the sympathetic nervous system. Amongst other reasons, stress and anxiety can arise in the body due to tiredness, fatigue, poor nutrition, lack of exercise, not enough relaxation, etc. Stress can also come from psychological pressures such as a heavy workload, family stress, bereavement, etc. You can also get stress from the environment, such as noisy neighbours or polluted water, air, etc. Just think of the amount of chemicals you put on your body this morning – deodorant, shampoo, soap, makeup, etc.
So in short reduce stress by looking after yourself, change your perception of what triggers stress and eat healthy. Try to limit the amount of toxic things you come into contact with.
Research is currently being done into electromagnetic stress from the use of computers, mobile phones, televisions and other electrical devices. It’s best not to use these things too much and not to sleep to close to clock radios.
Practice deep Slow Breathing. You can help switch off your sympathetic nervous system and this reduces anxiety by slow deep breathing. Like any skill it takes some time how to master but it can be very effective to reduce stress.
Vitamins and Minerals. Apart from just eating a more nutritious diet your body is probably run down so certain vitamins and minerals are essential to help it get back into balance. Animal proteins are particularly helpful for the nervous system and brain as it contains proteins and fats which our nerves need. These include the omega 3 and omega 6 essential fatty acids. Foods which are considered vital for a healthy nervous system are nuts, meats, eggs, beans, root vegetables and oily fish such as salmon and sardines.
Supplements that are helpful in calming the nervous system down are Zinc, magnesium and calcium. If you feeling run down it may be a good idea to take vitamin and mineral supplements. B-complex vitamins are also important. They can be obtained through Animal Products (meat, fish, poultry, shellfish, milk, cheese, eggs, etc.), leafy vegetables, water melon, some fruit juices, etc.
Other relaxing inducing nutrients are GABA, L-carnitine and L-taurine. Herbs that have calming properties on the nervous system are skullcap and hops, passion flower, valerian, amongst others. My personal favourite is chamomile tea. Research has indicated this will help and is definitely better then drinking caffeine in tea and coffee.
Exercise. Exercise is one of the best ways to reduce anxiety. It eliminates stressful chemicals and produces the feel good ones, like endorphins. The exercise has to be vigorous though. By this I mean you have to get out of breath. This can produce the symptoms of panic that your try to avoid (like feeling out of breath), but they CANNOT HARM YOU. Challenge your thoughts and the benefits will become apparent. If you think about it the fight or flight response means your body wants to do something physical. In exercising you’re doing exactly what your body wants. Just don’t push yourself beyond your physical endurance. Just take it slowly and build it up one step at a time.
Be aware of who and what truly gives you energy, versus whom or what mainly takes energy away from you.
Do your best to stay grateful for what you have. Just appreciate what you have and who you are. Too often we look at other people and feel envious of what they have or who they are. If you feel like this you will always be unhappy no matter what you have. Be thankful for everyday and just live it to its full potential.
Learn to relax and rest. Makes sure you get at least 8 hours of sleep a night. Do not eat a heavy meal before you sleep and avoid stimulants like tea or alcohol. Learn to relax by meditation, hot baths, relaxing music, etc. Listen to your body. At certain parts of the day you will feel more like relaxing than others. Do not fight this, it’s your bodies’ way of telling you it wants to just slow down and relax for a few minutes.
Do not compare yourself with other people. This causes fear, resentment and anger. If you look at the world it never seems fair from our limited point of view. However there is often much that is hidden. Maybe if you knew more about other people lives you would be less anxious to trade places.
The circle of fear. One the main reasons why panic attacks keep continuing in people is fear of fear. If we strip this down its first fear fuelled by second fear. Dr Clair Weekes was one of the first people to recognize this. If you can learn to stop adding fuel to the panic fire you can definitely heal a lot quicker. So the next time your heart palpitates don’t think “I’m having a heart attack”, take a deep breath, smile and say “Every day I feel stronger and healthier”.
Train your mind to stay away from negative thoughts that induce emotions of fear, anger and guilt. These thoughts turn on the sympathetic nervous system and keep it active. Meditation, challenging thoughts, diet, relaxation, distraction techniques can help. It’s very hard to get better if you’re in a bad circle of friends or relationship. Choose your friends and relationships carefully. Think about whether your work, family and all your activities either help achieve inner peace or are a roadblock to it.
WHAT YOU NEED TO DO……….
Everyone who suffers from panic attacks and anxiety will have an overactive nervous system. It’s essential you understand that your sympathetic nervous system is causing this, and in calming it down you can be healthy and well again. As with my story, panic attacks, anxiety, nervousness, whatever you want to call it, caused me to search for answers and question how I was living my life. This led me to change my lifestyle, the way I thought and my eating habits. This helped develop my inner potential and make me a better person. If you are willing to change your thought patterns and lifestyle, you too can experience a state of contentment and bliss that comes with having a balanced nervous system.
Like what you read?
If so, please join to receive exclusive weekly tips & tools to overcome anxiety and panic attacks, and get a FREE COPY of my eBook, How to Recover & Cure Yourself of Anxiety & Panic Attacks! Just enter your name and email