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How does our nervous system react to stress?

Sytène nerveux autonome face au stress

The Autonomous (or Vegetative) Nervous System is the activation of our entire body to deal with a situation of stress. It consists of:

  • The sympathetic nervous system, the accelerator.
  • The parasympathetic nervous system, the brake.

It is through their opposite actions that they control the activity of most of our organs and their functions. These two systems inhibit each other. They cannot work at the same time.

The sympathetic nervous system

Activation of the sympathetic nervous system prepares the body for action. In response to stress, it orchestrates the response known as fight, flight or inhibition (“fight or flight”) which causes dilation of the bronchi, acceleration of cardiac and respiratory activity, an increase in blood pressure, dilation of the pupils, increased sweating to cool the body, a decrease in digestive activity…

It is recognized by the following signs :

  • Increased heart rate
  • Feeling of emergency
  • Quick reactions
  • Dilated pupils
  • Muscle tension

This system is associated with the activity of two neurotransmitters : noradrenaline and adrenaline.

The parasympathetic nervous system

Our body is an organism which always tends towards balance. Thus, activation of the parasympathetic nervous system corresponds, conversely, to a relaxation response (“Rest and Digest”). It induces a general slowing down of the body’s functions. Heart rate and respiratory activity are slowed down and blood pressure is lowered. The digestive and sexual functions are favored.

It activates the vital processes of the body to regenerate it.

  • physical and mental relaxation
  • peaceful breathing
  • good digestion
  • good circulation of fluids
  • restorative sleep

Balance of systems, for good health.

These two systems inhibit each other. They can’t work at the same time. On the other hand, over-stimulation of one system causes the other to weaken.

Nowadays, the sympathetic system is overused, which puts us in a state of permanent stress, with muscular tensions, insomnia, anxiety,….

The parasympathetic system becomes weakened and we lose the balance of these two systems.

It is therefore necessary – and vital – to activate our parasympathetic system.

Sophrology, meditation, a good time with friends, abdominal breathing are all solutions to rebalance your autonomic nervous system.

Véronique About

Véronique

An entrepreneur and sophrologist, I graduated from CEAS in Paris and from the Sophrology Academy in Ashford, which is a member of FEPS (the Federation of Sophrology Centers), I specialized in issues of stress and burn-out. Do not hesitate to contact me, for any questions or request for support in sophrology.