To know yourself


Ridiculous, of course I know myself!

To understand ones reactions and feelings in different situations is not a given, but it would be very helpful to understand, right? How come that the same situation one day makes me irritated and angry, while the next day it does not bother me at all?

Our body only wants what is best for us (see blog 22 of March) and everything that happens inside us comes out of the will to keep us in balance, feeling good and safe. In your body there is a constant monitoring of the state of things. Information about your current wellbeing, or ill-being, is gathered and actions are taken.

The system that takes care of us in this amazing way by gathering information and adjusting things is our autonomic nervous system. This is the part of our nervous system that is beyond our willpower. It takes care of the function of our breathing, heartbeats, digestion, feces, blood circulation, blood pressure, metabolism, fluid balance, genitals and so on. How lucky that we do not have to think of or regulate all these functions....

Even if this system is functioning without our involvement we are responsible for the circumstances that it has to deal with. We can make its work easy or very hard. Those of us that have experienced fatigue syndrom and been burned out know that the system goes out of balance when we stop listening to the signals our body gives us. If we keep on living on high speed with high workload like a car driving in second gear at a 100 kilometers per hour...It just does not work for long, if ever.

Why does the body stop working?

The autonomic nervous system consists of two parts. The sympathetic part helps us to prepare for fight or flight and the parasympathetic part helps us to recover, that is to rest and digest. Both of these systems are crucial for our survival and every day life, but they need to be in balance.

When thinking about this it is notable that we are mammals and that our bodies have been developing during 100 000 s of years. Between 70 000 and 12 000 years ago we lived as hunters and collectors with no specific place to live, we were nomads, who hunted animals and gathered seeds and plants.

From about 12 000 years ago we started to become farmers and to live in one place. It means that we during a very long period of our existence were dependent on being able to notice threats in our environment and to take action, fighting or fleeing. As we became farmers we developed new social skills and needed to be able to tell if the people we met had good intentions or not.

In those times we were triggered and stressed out from encountering a wolf or someone who wanted to take over our farm, and needed to be ready for a fight or to run away. Today the things that stress us out are quite different, but our body reacts almost the same as back then!

Todays sources of stress come in multiple shapes and forms. They consist for example of high workload, overload of impressions, lots of social connections, hatred on social media, constantly trying to make the life puzzle work, the feeling of having no choice and of being insufficient.

When we experience stress it triggers the sympathetic nervous system. It senses danger and starts producing adrenalin, noradrenalin and cortisol in our adrenal glands. And the physical effects are no news... Our pulse and heartbeat increases, the blood pressure goes up, the pupils ar widened, we start sweating, the blood flow to our muscles increases and decreases to the gastrointestinal tract, the blood sugar level goes up. We are ready to fight or to run away!

In the era of us being hunters and collectors the danger would pass and our body could go into recovery by using our parasympathetic nervous system. Today we often stay in the fight and flight mode because of ongoing and reoccurring stressors. And we stay there for a long time. When exposed to this we stay in a high level of cortisol and we sooner or later get weaker immune system, difficulties to sleep, high blood pressure, lower cognitive ability, problems with digestion and so on. Can you relate to this?

Is there a solution and if so where?

Change and understanding! The one thing we know is that the future is not going to look like today or yesterday, we live in constant change. And through understanding yourself you can give yourself the conditions for the right kind of change for you.

Our rest & digest system needs love and space. You need love and space. When the parasympathetic nervous system is given space it results in the following nice reactions in your body: Your pulse goes down, the heart beats slows down, the pupils retract, the blood pressure is lowered, your digestion and feces is working and the blood sugar level is down. In short, you are feeling calm, safe and relaxed.

We need our stress hormones but we also need their opposites to be in balance. And they exist! When we experience kindness, a physical touch like a hug our body produces Oxytocin, our wellbeing hormone. Oxytocin makes the levels of cortisol to go down and makes us able to connect to others in a better way. And then there is Serotonin which also is a feel good substance, produced primarily in our stomach.

You can actually give your parasympathetic nervous system room and yourself the possibility to recover and enhance the connections where the information travels in your body! In addition you can get a body that feels less stiff, you can experience less pain, sleep better, digest better and lower your blood pressure.

What it takes from you is an effort and willpower. An urge to understand, to feel better and to be curious.

I would love to take a part in stilling your curiosity and at the same time arouse the will to know even more about yourself and your body!

The next blogpost will continue on the subject: Where is the solution?

Hope to see you then, a big yoga hug / Petra