Honestly, that is a very vague question. So, let me clarify.
The real question is, where are you in regard to your nervous system and how does that impact your life experience and fibromyalgia? And what can you do about it?
Our Autonomic Nervous System controls much of the activity in the body. It has two branches, the Sympathetic Nervous System and the Parasympathetic Nervous System and the Enteric Nervous System.
Today we will focus on the Sympathetic Nervous System and the Parasympathetic Nervous System. Both have a direct connection to the organ systems in your body.
In a healthy person, these two nervous systems balance each other. The Sympathetic gets us up in the morning and keeps us moving during the day so we can function in the world. The Parasympathetic nervous system slows us down so we can sleep, and the body can rest and repair. They both are connected to the organ systems in the body to make sure they function properly and can rest, repair and rejuvenate.
The two naturally work in harmony with each other to keep us healthy.
When we have experienced trauma, negative life experiences and ongoing stress, the automatic nervous system becomes disregulated. We can become stuck in either the sympathetic or parasympathetic or take wild swings from one to the other.
Why is this important to know?
For women with fibromyalgia, this is important because a dysregulated nervous system can be a contributing factor to our fibro symptoms and/or can block healing and recovery from fibromyalgia.
If you know “where you are” meaning “where is your nervous system”, you can take steps to regulate your nervous system and bring it back into balance. That is a big step in fibromyalgia recovery.
Your nervous system can be in a state of Sympathetic Dominance, or Parasympathetic Dominance, or swing wildly from one to the other. Or sometimes both are activated. Or it can be in a balanced or regulated state.
The lists below for each state will provide information for you to consider as you observe your experience. This will help you to understand where your nervous system is.
If your sympathetic nervous system is dominate, you will be in a state of hyper-arousal or fight or flight. Some of the signs of being in Sympathetic Dominance are:
Signs of hyper arousal:
- Fight, flight
- Rigid and inflexible
- Anxiety, panic
- Intrusive Imagery
- Self-destructive behavior
- Overeating or restricted eating
- Obsessive rumination
- Rage, irritability
- Emotional reactivity
- Exaggerated startle response
- Feeling unsafe
If your parasympathetic nervous system is dominate, you will be in a state of hypo-arousal aka Shutdown or Immobilization. Some of the signs of being in Parasympathetic Dominance are:
Signs of Hypo-Activation
- Reduced Awareness of Sensation
- Emotionally numb or flat
- Unable to think
- Memory impairment
- Sleepy/unable to stay awake.
- Unable to actively defend yourself
- Unable to Move
- Reduced Physical Movement
- Lethargy / No energy
- Less Verbal
Signs of a balanced nervous system
What you may not know is what it feels like to have a normal balanced nervous system, that easily flows from one to the other as needed as your move through your day. If you have had trauma, ongoing stress, or negative life experiences in early childhood, you might have never experienced a balanced nervous system. I certainly didn’t.
What is the experience of a balanced nervous system?
- You can feel your emotions and think about them at the same time.
- Feelings and experiences are tolerable.
- Access to compassion and empathy – toward yourself and others.
- Ability to learn.
- Able to be present.
- Able to be curious about your feelings rather than reactive, defensive, or judgmental.
- Feeling grounded and calm
- Able to feel connected in a mutual relationship.
- Inner Peace
Where are you?
As you read over the lists, what resonates with you? Which state or states do you experience frequently. Here are some questions to consider:
- Do you relate to one list or both?
- Do you swing from one to the other?
- Do you have normal healthy swings from sympathetic to parasympathetic?
- Do you have large dramatic swings from sympathetic to parasympathetic?
- Do you stay stuck in one or the other?
- Are there people or events that will trigger either hypo (parasympathetic) or hyper (sympathetic) activation?
- If you become triggered into one or the other states, can you get yourself out?
Keep in Mind . . .
Keep in mind that you will naturally have ups and downs in life. The nervous system will keep moving from parasympathetic to sympathetic naturally. And that both are needed to navigate the normal, natural ups and downs of life. The problem is when one or the other dominates and we get stuck or have wild swings from parasympathetic to sympathetic.
Take sometime this coming week to become more aware of “where you are” in relation to your nervous system as you go through your day. Print out the lists and post them where you can see them or carry one with you.
Awareness is the first step in creating change. Simply by being aware of where your nervous system is will begin to create change. Over the last several blogs and newsletters, I have provided some simple practices that can bring you to a balanced nervous system. The change can be subtle, and it can take some consistent practice over a period of time.
Also in my upcoming programs, Reconnect with Your Calm Inner Presence and An Introduction to the Integrative Wholeness Experience, we will go more deeply into how to create and maintain a balanced health nervous system.
May your nervous system be balanced and healthy, 💕Bindu