In my past articles I have shown tips to reduce stress through biofeedback training of your breathing, your mind, and your muscles.
Now it’s time to talk about the fourth and final system in your foundation of stress relievers…your nervous system.
How To Manage Stress? See, Hear and Feel Your Body Systems
The basis of stress management through biofeedback training is awareness and control of four main systems of your body.
Here are the ones we have covered so far…
#1 Your Respiratory System
This is the system that controls your rate of breath and the start-point (your breath BEGINS in your belly not your chest) and timing of your breathing. (A big part of stress management relaxation techniques…)
As you learn how to read your respiratory system language you’ll recognize whether it is saying prepare for battle or it’s OK to stay calm.
#2Your Mind System
Your mind and thoughts control how the subconscious mind (the inner three-year old we’ve talked about) reacts to stress.
As you discover how to track the tone of your inner thoughts and also your imagination and images you are broadcasting in your mind you learn how to make stress relieving choices in this area.
#3 Your Muscle System
Your muscle system directs your body to physically get ready for battle and protect the vulnerable parts of your body like your throat/neck.
Stress management techniques like biofeedback training focus on how your own body tells your conscious mind that battle preparation is underway.
By using mindfulness based stress reduction you will also feel if you are “laying down your weapons” with awareness of when your muscles are letting go.
The Fourth System of Stress Management: Your Nervous System
The body system that we are focused on in this article is the fourth main system in biofeedback therapy; the nervous system.
It is the last one we are going to cover in this series.
- Now, the nervous system does not just mean things that make you “nervous.”
The nervous system is a branch of what we call the central or main nervous system.
This branch of the central nervous system is called the Autonomic Nervous System or more commonly, the Fight/Flight/Freeze response.
The Fight/Flight/Freeze response describes three options for how our body may react to stress.
- Much like a frozen computer, sometimes you need to “reboot” your ways to deal with stress in your nervous system too.
Are You Tuned Into Your Nervous System?
Have you noticed this response in your body by now?
Maybe you feel when your body feels tense (like you want to take a swing or hit something?)
Or maybe you can detect when you feel like you’ve got to get moving or your legs feel unsettled like they are readying for flight?
Or just maybe you have observed that your body wants to freeze up?
We all have our ways to cope with stress and generally your body follows the same pattern over and over.
In other words, this is just how our bodies do their battle work every time.
Two Roads Diverged In a Woods-Which Will You Choose?
Much like the Robert Frost poem about the two roads that diverge in a woods, the Autonomic Nervous System has two branches…one is STRESS and the other is RELAX & RECOVER.
Sure, we can inherit a tendency for spending a lot of time in one or the other.
(And some folks win the genetic lottery by getting the nervous system that is not that involved with their stress response.)
But whichever trait you received you can choose to have a healthier response when the nervous system triggers action in major systems.
What Happens When Your Nervous System Plays “Survivor”?
When the subconscious mind senses danger it begins shifting the body systems-including the nervous system – around to allow for more energy to stream into controlling the immediate danger and readying for battle.
And the rest of the body does not fare well as things like healthy digestion or immune functions go on the “back burner” as survival takes the lead.
Many systems in your body can struggle with the negative effects of stress including the cardiovascular system, the respiratory system, the digestive system, elimination, endocrine system, growth of hair and nails, the immune system, and reproductive system.
We are learning more all the time about the consequences of stress and the role the nervous system plays in regulating the ways to reduce stress.
Here are a few pointers for you…
You Have the Power to Control Your Body
Often we inherit a tendency for which one of the systems is most involved in our stress response.
For instance, high blood pressure can run in families.
Often this negative effect of stress happens IF stress gets too big for too long…but notice I said …IF!
- You can have a choice in this!
Now it’s true that some signs of stress do have an inherited component, so don’t be discouraged if you can’t change some of these symptoms of stress overload.
But you can rest assured that generally we have to power to control our bodies and make these effects better or worse.
Part of biofeedback training is to bring a new level of awareness to your stress response and shift those old patterns and habits.
- For example, often there is a family history of migraines when they become an issue for someone.
- Or there can be immune system overload in a family history
- Or any of the other systems can be a target system of the stress overload.
The stress overload can trigger more stress symptoms than can get managed and next thing you know another system struggles to cope with stress.
We now know that many, many of these systems of the body can have a lot to do with an Autonomic Nervous System that has a “programming error.”
Here’s the beautiful part…
You can learn to help your body “re-boot” and restore the stress-recover-stress-recover program to operate for maximum health.
You hold the power!
So keep at this!
Want to learn more about stress reduction?
Take the first step!
Click here for my Special Report: Biofeedback Training- Discover the Power of Your Mind to Control Your Body
Author: Jinny Joy LaRock, RN, BCB Sr. Fellow