This week’s blog continues the conversation about Sound That Harms. Please refer to the past 3 blogs for more on Sound That Harms:
In this blog, the focus is on overstimulation of the nervous system.
We live in a noisy world. And many (or most) people live with chronically over-stimulated nervous systems. The sensitive nervous systems of children are especially affected.
In this blog, we will look at some of the signs that indicate a nervous system on overdrive. In the next blog, I will share some interventions that can be helpful in calming it down.
First, let’s look at the nervous system itself.
THE HUMAN NERVOUS SYSTEM
The human nervous system is a miracle of nature. It consists of two main parts:
- The Central Nervous System consisting of the brain and spinal cord.
- The Peripheral Nervous System that is further divided into three main parts.
- The Somatic Nervous System that manages your voluntary muscle movements, like walking.
- The Autonomic Nervous System that governs the automatic functions of the body and is further divided into the
- Sympathetic Nervous System
The Sympathetic nervous system is activated in emergencies when more energy is needed. It becomes out of balance when it is activated chronically from either a stressful environment or from negative thoughts or both.
- Parasympathetic Nervous System
The Parasympathetic nervous system is activated when in a relaxed state.
The dance between stress and ease in our lives is the dance between the sympathetic and the parasympathetic nervous systems. Noise is a huge contributor to tipping the balance toward the fight or flight response of the sympathetic nervous system, with the release of stress hormones.
Here are some of the ways that can show up.
SYMPTOMS OF IMBALANCE
- Decreased productivity (recent research has documented beyond any doubt that a noisy office is the main cause of productivity loss in offices)
- Teamwork suffers- unwillingness to communicate and help
- There is an impact on your Health
And if you work in an environment with high noise:
- Gastric problems – ulcers
- Increased blood pressure
- Stress – excessive adrenalin and cortisol
- Hearing loss
Consequences in the workplace are:
- Up to 60% reduction in employee productivity – especially in cubicles
- Absenteeism, sick leave and stress leave
- Mistakes are more prevalent
- Irritability shows up particularly in communications
Major health problems show up when the constant stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system becomes chronic.
Research has shown that the following conditions are associated with an imbalanced autonomic nervous system:
- Panic Disorder
- Sleep Disorder
- Irritable Bowel
- Chemical Sensitivity
- Premenstrual Syndrome
The fight or flight response was meant to keep you safe, but you need to manage it to keep your autonomic nervous system in balance.
Another key player in chronic overstimulation of the sympathetic nervous system lies in the emotional brain, particularly with the role of the Amygdala.
The following is a quote from an ebook, The Science of the Heart, published by The HeartMath Institute. It outlines the role of the amygdala in hijacking your thinking brain.
“The amygdala is the key brain center that coordinates behavioral, immunological and neuroendochrine responses to environmental threats. It also serves as the processing center for emotional memory within the brain…the amygdala makes instantaneous decisions about the familiarity of incoming sensory information and because of its extensive connections to the hypothalamus and other autonomic nervous system centers is able to ‘hijack’ the neural pathways activating the autonomic nervous system and emotional response before the higher brain centers receive the sensory information…Since emotional processes can work faster than the mind, it takes a power stronger than the mind to bend perceptions, override emotional circuitry, and provide us with intuitive feeling instead. It takes the power of the heart.”
(p. 29, Science of the Heart, Vol. 2. Publ. by HeartMath Institute, 2015)
Because the amygdala can hijack the thinking mind in the cortex, there is no amount of training based on logic that can release the hijack.
To get your brain back, you need to activate the parasympathetic nervous system. The more tools you have to do that, the better!
Tune into next week’s blog for tips and tools to create more calm in your life.