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Sympathetic and Parasympathetic Systems in Managing Stress

Following on from yesterday's LinkedIn post ‘Stress’ let’s briefly explore how and why the network of nerves sends messages to parts of the body.

The sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems work together, delicately balancing our physiological reactions to external stimuli. 

Sympathetic System – Triggers the Fight or Flight Response

- The adrenal glands release a potent chemical cocktail—primarily adrenaline, noradrenaline, endorphins, dopamine and cortisol into the bloodstream, setting off a chain reaction.

- Heart rate accelerates, pumping oxygen-rich blood faster, muscles tense, and airways dilate, ensuring increased oxygen intake, offering a quick energy burst, while non-essential bodily functions like digestion take a back seat.

- This surge prepares us to evade or confront threats. 

Parasympathetic System – The Soothing Antidote

- Once the danger passes, this system slows the heart rate, promotes digestion, and encourages the body to conserve energy.

- When the parasympathetic system functions optimally, it acts as a reset button, allowing the body to recover from the taxing effects of stress. 

- Regular activation of this system through relaxation techniques like deep breathing, meditation, or yoga can enhance resilience and well-being.

Impact on Overall Stress and Well-being

- The delicate interplay between these systems impacts our daily lives profoundly. 

- Stressful situations constantly activate the sympathetic system, flooding our bodies with stress hormones. 

- In modern life, where chronic stressors abound, this continuous activation can lead to a dysregulated stress response, resulting in various range of health issues.

Understanding and nurturing the intricate balance between the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems can significantly impact our resilience and quality of life, allowing us to navigate the turbulent sea of stress with greater ease.

As well as organisations having accessible post-incident welfare support processes in place, training providers should also be accessible to provide post-training support, advice and guidance following training they have provided.


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