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Are you sympathetic or parasympathetic?

I hope that the question in the title of the post has managed to capture your attention and you have decided to read this post because what I am going to explain to you can give you a greater understanding of yourself and open a path to a more relaxed life.

The question has nothing to do with whether you are a cheerful person with a gift for people or if you are something else. The issue is related to your nervous system and the way you are using it. Did you know that our central nervous system can be classified based on its anatomy and function? When we classify it by its anatomy we differentiate it as the central nervous system, composed of the brain (brain, cerebellum, brainstem) and spinal cord, and the peripheral system, which are all the branches that leave from the central nervous system to the tissues and organs. If we observe it from a functional point of view we find the somatic nervous system, which is basically the structures of the peripheral system that are responsible for transmitting sensitivity and motor skills to the muscles and skeletons, and the autonomic nervous system that is what we are going to focus on in this entry.

The ANS is a marvel of evolution since it is the system that will be responsible for managing the involuntary functions of our viscera. In other words, the evolution of consciousness has created a whole autonomous system for our organs to do their functions without us having to devote effort to it and our energy and attention are focused more on the somatic part. Well, this system is divided into three parts. The enteric system (which is responsible for the intestinal activity and in which we will not deepen), and the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems, are intimately linked and are complementary opposites. That is if the sympathetic system is activated, the parasympathetic system is deactivated and vice versa. It caters to a dual logic like a yin-yang. At this point, we must understand that, although it is called the autonomic nervous system, our actions have an impact on it. That is, it is clear that I cannot voluntarily stop my heart and pancreatic function, but I can increase my breath voluntarily which will activate my sympathetic system that will exert a reaction throughout my system. Before going further, let's explain what functions each of them has.

The sympathetic system: To make it simple and easily understandable we will explain it in a simple way. This system is responsible for activating a rapid response or alert to a stimulus that compromises the organism. In other words, it is a very effective and efficient mechanism of escape or defence. That is why it causes increased heart rate and strength, dilates the bronchi and pupils, reduces intestinal activity, increases the arrival of blood to muscles and skeleton, etc. The main neurotransmitters are adrenaline and noradrenaline. In short, it puts us on total alert and ready to react quickly.

The parasympathetic system: If we have said that these systems are two sides of the same coin, it is easy to guess that this system generates the opposite of the sympathetic system. When this system is activated, our heart and respiratory rate decrease, pupils contract, bronchi contract, intestinal activity are increased, and sphincters relax. The main neurotransmitter is acetylcholine which acts on receptors called nicotinic and muscarinic. In short, it relaxes us.

Once we know how this system works and what it does, I want to go back to what I mentioned earlier that, even if it is an autonomous system, we can influence this system based on what we do voluntarily. Therefore, this automated system depends largely on our willingness to be in a more sympathetic or parasympathetic state, hence the title of this post. What interests me with this information is to lead you to the necessary reflection on how it is that the way of life and habits of modern society affect the activation of these systems and how it puts us in a state of permanent alertness. From what we eat, to what we do, excite and think, it, directly and indirectly, influences our autonomic nervous system. With food, we ingest millions of molecules that can affect our central nervous and hormonal system causing activation of the sympathetic system and the production of adrenaline.

A very simple example is coffee, which activates the sympathetic system. And another example linked to coffee is tobacco. By smoking, we introduce nicotine into the system that will act on the nicotinic receptors and activate the parasympathetic system artificially, which is why tobacco addiction is so strong because it is physiologically linked to the activation of the parasympathetic system and the feeling of relaxation. What's more, how many people are in the world right now having a coffee and smoking a cigar at the same time? They are generating an activation of the sympathetic and parasympathetic at the same time, generating a cocktail of activating and relaxing neurotransmitters at the same time, so our system goes into a short circuit. But not only what we ingest is important. Whether or not we do sports, whether we have relaxing or activating practices, whether we are in constant emotional swing or the quality of our thoughts create a cocktail that feeds back and influences our autonomous system.

In addition, we must add that the western life system induces us to be in a continuous state of alert and activation, our sympathetic system is active most of the time, generating a lot of adrenaline. This causes a general imbalance since the sympathetic system is an alert system, not a system designed to be active all the time. This can cause chronic diseases such as anxiety, insomnia or hypertension that at the same time can lead to other ailments such as heart disease.

The truly paradoxical thing is that the system that must be active on a regular basis is the parasympathetic one and we have built a system of life that leads us to the opposite. At what point did we do and allow this? How is it possible that there are so many people suffering the effects of a system that induces us to the opposite of what it really should be? I asked myself these questions a long time ago, and I found my answers. I think you just have to open up a little bit to see what is happening and how certain scientific knowledge is being used to induce society into a state of permanent alertness through fear that prevents them from relaxing and thinking for themselves. This is how the masses are controlled. But neither can we put all the responsibility externally. Each individual must assume the responsibility that falls to him and work to change his life and begin to take care of himself and not look for excuses.

But let's not go any further and go back to the original question of this post. I would very much like you to relax for a moment and reflect on this and ask yourself the question: Am I sympathetic or parasympathetic? Once you have answered yourself sincerely and know what you know, what are you going to do from now on?

A hug from a very friendly parasympathetic.


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