Our nervous system, actual nerves in the body, have 2 main branches: they prepare us for surviving, such as running from a tiger (“fight or flight”), and, they allow us to recover, “rest and digest”.
“Fight or flight” activities are associated with stress, anxiety, fear, uncertainty. These nerves, part of the sympathetic branch, emerge from the spine in the middle part of the body. They feed/innervate structures in our body that allow us to deal with difficult, seeming dangerous situations, such as the virtual tiger (in this day Covid). These nerves tighten our muscles, activate the adrenals so that we may literally run from the tiger. Since we don’t have an actual tiger to run from, but a virus that is literally threatening our survival, our body responds to this threat with physiological symptoms such as increased muscle tension, headaches, digestive disorders, insomnia.
“Rest and digest” activities are associated with calm, resting, eating and digesting food. These nerves, part of the parasympathetic branch, emerge from the spine at the neck and the low back and sacrum. They help regulate our digestion, breath, feeling peaceful. When this part of the nervous system is activated, you feel calm, your body is able to digest food more easily, your heart rate is steady, you feel able to take deep breaths easily, and your sleep improves.
I know for myself during the current pandemic, my fight or flight response has been highly activated. I’ve had times over the past month where I feel literally like something is after me. I have felt adrenaline course through my body, activating shallow breathing and bowels. I have been able to calm myself through meditation; warm baths (which create a sense of hugging); deep breathing exercise; and just letting myself be as easy as possible on myself.
When you come in for a bodywork session, I am constantly monitoring your breathing and body tension to assess the status of your nervous system. I invite you to start paying attention to your body while we wait for our next time together. Our bodies really process information more rapidly than our minds do. They know what’s up. Try stopping for a minute or two, place your hand on your heart and belly, and take a few breaths. You might find that gets you out of your head for a bit.