The body’s autonomic nervous system is divided into two different branches that have evolved to protect and sustain our bodies during SAFE times and UNSAFE times.
- The branch that is active during SAFE times is the parasympathetic nervous system. We are designed to spend most of our time in this SAFE Mode.
- The branch that takes over during UNSAFE times is the sympathetic nervous system. Its main goal is to keep you alive during brief, intense spurts of instinctual reaction for times when you are being chased by a saber-toothed tiger.
Blood Flows to Stomach for Digestion
(safe to eat and relax)
Digestion Stops, Blood Flows from Stomach to Limbs (can feel nauseous)
Heart Rate and Blood Pressure Decrease
(can feel chilly)
Heart Rate and Blood Pressure Increase
(can feel hot, look red)
* Breathing is Slowed
Breathing Speeds Up (hard to speak)
Higher Level Thinking Available
Instinct is Primary, Tunnel Vision, Details Blur
Sex Hormones are Released
(safe for romance)
Cortisol and Adrenaline (stress hormones) are Released (to keep you alert & uncomfortable)
Growth Hormones Released (healing)
Immune System Suppressed
“Anxiety” “Triggers” “Stress” and “Trauma Responses” are our modern society’s “saber-toothed tiger.” But the sustained and complicated nature of our stress keeps us in Unsafe mode for far too long. And sometimes our “danger alarm” gets set to interpret minor triggers as major threats. On-going stress has been found to contribute to or cause many physical ailments and poor health-related to digestion, neuromuscular problems, high blood pressure, and susceptibility to illness due to reduced immune responses.
*Mindful breathing is a sure-fire way to help move you from the Unsafe Mode to Safe Mode (for those times when you know it is a trigger or stressor and not actually physical danger) so that you can better assess and respond with higher-level thinking and perspective.