PARASYMPATHETIC & SYMPATHETIC NERVOUS SYSTEMS
Rest and Digest
JoAnna Bennett, O’Brien Communications Group
2 December 2021
It’s a bit difficult to believe Thanksgiving was already one week ago today. But it was. It’s also a bit difficult to believe Christmas is only three weeks and two days away. But it is. One of my favorite things about Thanksgiving is the relaxing post-turkey mode. It’s not uncommon to see a family member taking a snooze while the table is cleared and pie comes out. And if you’re as lucky as I am – and had the Friday after Thanksgiving off as well – the resting could’ve lasted another few days.
Our Nervous System
While we have three divisions of the autonomic nervous system, the two I’m going to focus on are our parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems. If you’re familiar with the notion of our Fight or Flight reaction, you’ll know exactly what your sympathetic nervous system is all about. If your nervous system responds to a threat or perceived danger, your stress hormones release. You begin to become hyperaware. Your pupils dilate. You’re heart rate increases. You may begin to sweat. And you’re ready to face the danger presented.
When it comes to our parasympathetic system, it’s quite the opposite. This autonomic nervous system is often activated after your Thanksgiving meal is devoured. This one is known as Rest and Digest. The parasympathetic system gets you ready to sit on the couch and digest your meal. It may make you a little drowsy. And it’ll likely send you into the latrine for relief.
And while our parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems occur unconsciously, when you know about their existence it’s easy to tell when they’re at work.
Life is a roller coaster. Our autonomic nervous systems face ups and downs and so do our life experiences. But it’s important to know about the existence of the highs and lows. And it’s important to be grateful that our bodies (and minds) are prepared for anything.
I consider last week’s four-day weekend a rest-and-digest moment for me. I read a book, ate tons of leftovers, drank some wine, and took a few naps. Though I put household projects on hold, my body, mind, and soul needed the rest.
Now I’m prepared for the Christmas rush ahead! Let’s do this!