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The Autonomic Nervous System: Rest and Digest Vs. Fight or Flight

If you’ve been following Arcanum for a while you know that we’re huge proponents of taking care of the autonomic nervous system (ANS); or at least being cognitive of how it works. During these crazy times of physical, emotional, and economic stress; being aware of your nervous system is more important than ever!

You know it’s about to get geeky when we post a key in the beginning of the email, but this is totally worth a quick read so hang tight!

ANS – Autonomic Nervous System

PNS – Parasympathetic Nervous System

SNS – Sympathetic Nervous System

ENS – Enteric Nervous System

The autonomic nervous system (ANS), consists of two states: the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) and the sympathetic nervous system (SNS). When the PNS is engaged it “turns on” the enteric nervous system (ENS).

The Sympathetic Nervous System

In the last email we went over the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system. But in this email we’ll delve into the enteric nervous system and how it interacts with the other nervous system.

You’ve all heard of the SNS- but you probably hear it called “fight or flight.” What you may also not have heard is how devastating the SNS can be when we spend too much time in that state.

In our society today, adrenaline boosters are everywhere. Stress abounds, and stimulation is around every corner. It’s easy to live life in a state of fight or flight. Especially after the past few weeks worrying about loved ones, watching our savings take a dump, and possibly even getting laid off…overnight. Saying that the world is in a current state of “fight or flight” is probably pretty accurate.

Furthermore, the sympathetic nervous system is part of North American culture. Comfort zone? Yeah right, we’re comfortable with the uncomfortable. Siestas? I’ll sleep when I’m dead. Coffee? Oh yes please make it a quad, breve, mocha, frappe, latte! We like being in the SNS, getting pumped up, stressed out, testing new waters, and fighting our way back to the top. The sympathetic nervous system is a great tool, but you must know how to use it!

Here’s the down side to the SNS. eventually your body wears out, you become lethargic, chronically ill, and eventually find yourself in a doctor’s office talking about heart disease.

Why is Too Much Time in the SNS bad?

Have you ever been in a very intense situation? You feel your heart beating faster, alertness heightened, muscles tight, and your pupils dilate. You have entered into a state of fight or flight. Your body has prepared itself to do whatever is necessary to survive. You’re switched into the sympathetic nervous system. (Our body is so amazing!) In this state we have moved ALL our involuntary bodily functions away from any action unnecessary to survival and focused everything on getting ready to kick some butt or run away, lickedee split. Historically you can understand why the sympathetic nervous system was so crucial to the survival of human beings as a species. Today we find ourselves in the SNS because of stress, caffeine, TV, video games, and killer workouts that end in sweat angles.

The problem with the SNS is that all the body’s systems are solely focused on actions that will help you survive, and disregards other functions like digestion, recovery, and slowing down your ticker. Therefore, if you stay in this heightened state for too long you’ll eventually become sickly and your doctor may have some words with you about America’s favorite killer: heart disease. That’s why it's super important to spend a lot of time in the parasympathetic nervous system.

Remember to yin and yang. After a sympathetic nervous system activity, do something to get your body back in the parasympathetic nervous system.

Parasympathetic Nervous System Activities

  • Meditate

  • Do Yoga

  • Spend some time with the fur kids

  • Sleep, lots of deep sleep!

  • Light Jog

  • Light Bike Ride

  • Walk

  • Hobbies

  • Take a good full spectrum CBD product

If you’re worried about spending too much time in the SNS, look into a good heart rate variability monitor like the Whoop Band.

Until next time

Stay healthy, friends!

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