Is modern life unnerving your nervous system?

2016-04-21 06:00


You don’t have to be a woos to underestimate the impact of stress on your life. Did you know that stress-related factors cause 85% of all disease or illness, according to The American Institute of Stress (AIS)? Dr Bradley Kobsar, functional endocrinologist and clinical director at San Jose State University’s Health and Wellness Care Center explains when your body is under stress, the nervous system responds by increasing activity in the sympathetic nervous system.

“When you face danger, your hypothalamus stimulates the pituitary gland. This triggers your body’s stress response to release a hormone called Adrenocorticotropic Hormone (ACTH).”

After ACTH has signalled the adrenal glands to release the stress hormone cortisol, several physiological stress responses deal with the immediate danger. Once the threat has passed, other systems restore normal functioning in the body.

The problem arises when stress is prolonged or chronic, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). This occurs when your body’s stress response continues after a threat has subsided or when your source of stress is constant.

“The same nervous system chemicals that are life-saving in short bursts can suppress functions that aren’t needed for immediate survival. This causes a lowered immunity and prevents digestive, reproductive and excretory systems from working normally,” remarks NIMH in an online article.


Some people are prone to having a nervous system that goes out of sync easily. Your body’s framework (bones, muscles, ligaments and joints) does a good job of protecting your nervous system, but any of these elements risk tearing, fracturing, excessive stretching or inflammation.

When this happens, it can irritate the nervous system, causing injuries like pain, muscle spasm, loss of sensation or movement. Ignoring an injury or not taking care of it soon, is unwise, since it’s likely to get worse, not better!

Chronic pain

We’ve all experienced pain at some stage, that unpleasant sensory and emotional experience that The International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP) says is ‘associated with actual or potential tissue or cell damage.’ But chronic pain that persists longer than it should is another thing altogether!

Remember, pain is very complex. It’s also subjective, so only you know exactly how pain feels when you experience it. Both the CNS central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system are involved in your perception of pain.

When various parts of your body experience trauma or damage, special nervous system receptors called nociceptors pass on this information to your brain, which interprets these signals as pain. Chronic pain happens when injury or disease to nerve structures, abnormal body functions or degeneration causes these nociceptive signals to transmit continually.

This triggers an unhealthy action that allows pain signals to be sent more easily.

Calm your nerves

If you want to avoid a long-term toll on your nervous system, you need to change your lifestyle. Not always easy, but once we accept that self-destructive habits not only affect our mood and health but also the way our brains function, we’ll be able to do something about it, says holistic psychiatrist Dr Larry Momaya of USA-based Amen Clinics that specialises in neuro-psychiatry.

As we recognise the value of stilling the mind, it’s no coincidence that previously “alternative” health practices like meditation, mindfulness and yoga are gaining popularity in mainstream health, says Johannesburg clinical psychologist Dr Colinda Linde.

The most important thing, say mental health experts, is to find what lifestyle changes work for you. Their advice is not new; you simply need to look at it with new eyes.

That means reducing your commitments if you’re overloaded, doing de-stressing activities or hobbies you enjoy, watching what you eat, getting enough sleep and staying physically active with regular aerobic exercise. - Health24

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