Parasympa-what?! Be sympathetic to your nervous system and learn to relax on the daily. How (and why) to tune into your nervous system.

Ever wondered how to get those holiday feels while still at home? Be sympathetic to your nervous system and learn to relax on the daily. Most of us are vaguely aware of the nervous system (thank you high school biology). It hums away within our body without a second thought, but today we’d like you to give it a second thought. Deepening your understanding of how your nervous system operates can literally be life changing. Without turning this into a science blog, we want to help you get to know the autonomic nervous system. This is the part that we don’t (usually) consciously control and is responsible for breathing, digestion, heartbeat and so on – some pretty essential functions. The autonomic nervous system is further controlled by two systems: the parasympathetic and sympathetic. It’s interesting, we promise!

Have some sympathy for your sympathetic nervous system

Imagine you’re sitting in crawling traffic, already late to a work meeting when you realise you’ve left your laptop (needed for said meeting) sitting on your desk in the office. You feel the stress and pressure rise as you clench your teeth and probably drop a couple of unsavoury words. Consider your sympathetic nervous system engaged!  Previously reserved for life threatening ‘survival mode’ situations (like being chased by a sabre-toothed lion en route to your cave, with only a blunt rock for a weapon), it’s all too easy to feel like we’re facing life or death situations in the modern world on the daily. External pressures such as work deadlines, traffic, stress and adrenaline rushes from coffee are sometimes all it takes. Constantly pushing our body into this ‘fight or flight’ mode puts your body on high alert – your heart races, adrenaline spikes and your blood pressure rises – ready for battle. Sounds great right?

Rest and digest

Living la vida loca with your sympathetic nervous system in an overactive state means less time for our trusty friend the parasympathetic nervous system to do it’s thing – rest, digest and recover. In fact, the body is designed to spend most of its time here, reserving the sympathetic nervous system for near death experiences (this excludes incidents like running out of coffee, forgetting your umbrella, navigating peak hour traffic and tantruming toddlers). The functions controlled by the parasympathetic nervous system are literally disabled when you’re hanging out in stress-land. This can really take a toll on how well your heart, digestive, spinal and immune systems can operate. Not so great. For more have a read here

How to become less thrill and more chill

  • Breathe. Properly.
    Take a second to check in with how you are breathing right now. Is it shallow and rushed or slow and smooth? Deep belly breathing (or diaphragmatic breathing) is the easiest way to switch from thrill to chill.
  • Massage, just what the doctor ordered!
    Nothing says chill better than some time out for a relaxing massage – go on, your nervous system needs it.
  • Rest is best.
    High intensity exercise can push you into fight or flight mode, so it’s important to make time for rest or recovery. Head along to one of our yoga classes, hit Takapuna beach for a leisurely stroll, or go bush for an hour or two.
  • Get Zen.
    Meditation. It really does seem to be the answer to everything!  We understand it’s not as easy as it’s sounds, so try a yoga class with us that finishes up with a guided meditation.

So, next time you get that feeling (you know the one), channel your caveman-self and put things in perspective. Chances are, it’s not quite a sabre-toothed lion situation, so do your nervous system a favour – start by taking a few breaths and then book in for a yoga class or hot stone massage. It’s science.