The sensation of feeling stressed comes from our autonomic nervous system. This includes our Sympathetic Nervous System (you might know this as your fight or flight response), the Parasympathetic Nervous System (The rest, digest, and repair response), and the Enteric Nervous System (this is also called the second brain as it can act independently from the brain. It controls the functions of the digestive system and produces large amounts of our feel-good neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine).
The Sympathetic Nervous System is responsible for preparing your body for action, for a fight or to run away. It is a FEAR-based reaction in response to the rising levels of our stress hormones adrenaline, noradrenaline, and cortisol.
An acute stress response causes:
This all increases your chances of survival if you have to fight or escape from a dangerous animal but if you are a stressed-out woman with no dangerous animal insight, these elevated hormones, especially if they are chronically elevated can also cause:
To recap your Sympathetic Nervous System accelerates the stress response and may be linked with a more intense menopausal transition, your parasympathetic nervous system, on the other hand, applies the brakes and allows you to rest, and recover. The Parasympathetic Nervous System is a response to feeling SAFE.
When you are in Parasympathetic mode your
The Vagus Nerve (also called the vagal nerves) play a huge role in the Parasympthateic Response. The vagus nerve is the longest cranial nerve. It is nicknamed “the wandering nerve” as it weaves from the brain stem to the pelvic floor* without being connected to the spinal cord.
If you want to turn off the stress response and turn on the rest and relax response the best way to do this is by turning on the parasympathetic response by stimulating the vagus nerve.
Thankfully there are so many ways to do this and best of all most of them are FREE lifestyle habits you can add to your daily routine.
Some of my favourites include
And the list goes on. The key to vagus stimulation is regularity, yes you might feel better after a chilled-out massage or yoga session but when you make these changes part of your regular life it helps to stop the stress response before it even gets started.
If you would like to learn about Vagus Nerve stimulation consider joining the Menopause Makeover Program.