Going along with the monthly challenge of getting educated, I want to continue sharing what I have been learning from my book of choice, (so please note everything I am mentioning is paraphrasing from it) or is taken from Wikipedia.
The next few posts in this series will be dedicated to the different structures of the brain and how they relate to anxiety. Your brain has many structures within it that can work together in systems to get a task done. Lets start with the first one, the Nervous System.
As I quickly noted in Part 1 of Anxiety and Our Brains, neurotransmitters are messengers that are received in different parts of the brain, and where they are received affects the message. I love the example from the book. This concept is explained as the scenario of a person sending an email expressing their love for a coworker. If the message is sent to that co worker, he or she may be thrilled. However, if that same message is accidentally sent to the boss, that boss is going to be upset because he is worrying about what his employees are doing on company time. Same message, different receivers, different outcomes.
The nervous system as defined by Wikipedia, "The nervous system is a network of specialized cells that communicate information about an organism's surroundings and itself."
Or in other words, the nerves carry messages to and from your organs and then tell your brain how your body is doing.
It has nerves that get your organs going and nerves that calm down the activity in your organs. It encompasses all of the nerves that run through the body and connect to the spinal cord and the brain.
3 Major Divisions of Nerve Activity that are Related to Anxiety:
- The Peripheral Nervous System (PNS)- It's main function is to connect the Central Nervous System to the brain and organs, however it also carries messages to and from the skin. For example, this is the system that makes you blush.
- The sympathetic nervous system (SNS)- "responds to impending danger or stress, and is responsible for the increase of one's heartbeat and blood pressure, among other physiological changes, along with the sense of excitement one feels due to the increase of adrenaline in the system."
- The parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS)- "is evident when a person is resting and feels relaxed, and is responsible for such things as the constriction of the pupil, the slowing of the heart, the dilation of the blood vessels..." This system takes over when you need to calm down.
You can initiate the activity of the PNS by breathing faster and you can initiate action in the PSNS by breathing more slowly and deeply.
The nervous system is automatic and operates without your control, but you can take it over on purpose to help calm yourself down when needed.
Stay tuned for Part 3 of Anxiety and Our Brains!
- Anxiety and Our Brains- Part 1: Neurons and Neurotransmitters
- Monthly Challenge: October 2009- Let's Get Educated!