Sympathetic & Parasympathetic Nervous Systems

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Sympathetic & Parasympathetic Nervous Systems

Our autonomic nervous system controls certain body processes, such as your blood pressure and breathing. It works “automatically” to control these functions without our awareness. There are two parts to this system:

  1. The sympathetic nervous system is often called our “fight or flight” response. This can help us prepare for a challenge ahead like an exam.
  2. The parasympathetic nervous system  is sometimes called “rest and digest”. This system helps us to relax and balance out stress each day.

We need both systems to be active for good health. However, what often happens in our modern urban culture is too much activity of the sympathetic and too little activity of the parasympathetic. This may cause trouble sleeping, poor digestion (breaking down of food), anxiety, and higher blood pressure. People often try to fix this imbalance with less healthy habits, like eating junk food or drinking alcohol.

Here are some better ways we can balance both nervous systems:

Sympathetic Nervous System

  • Learning a new skill like cooking or skating
  • Fast-paced exercise like running or Zumba
  • Brain-teasers and puzzles
  • Traveling to new places

Parasympathetic Nervous System

  • Soft music and singing
  • Green plants—both in your living space and outside in nature
  • Massage and meditation
  • Gentle exercise like Yoga, Tai Chi, and Qi Gong