Have we been lead down a merry road by our Brains when we should be looking at the ANS?
Let's look at the science part and understand it a little better!
The autonomic nervous system manages just about every single process in our bodies and works in constant antagonistic cooperation. The sympathetic - Activating, increases heart rate and the Parasympathetic- Calming, lowers it, this is just one mechanism in our body that is regulated by the ANS. (there are thousands more but we love the Heart in Lavandula HQ)
Within the ANS we have:
2. Nerve Centre's- Ganglia
3. Nerve cells scattered on the surface of our organs
The Sympathetic Ganglia lie along the spine and the Parasympathetic Ganglia lie next to our organs- (*now remember this part as we remember this as a connection to the Vagus Nerve we always talk about where it wanders through our chakras and organs in our body!)
There are around 90 Ganglia- (nerve centre's ) and around 50 of them are located in the abdomen and pelvis. 22 pairs in the Sympathetic and 4 pairs in the Parasympathetic.
these are like 90 extra little brains in our body!
The ganglia can be damaged by various causes, such as stroke, infection, trauma, tumor, or degenerative diseases. Depending on the location and extent of the damage, different symptoms and disorders may arise. Some of the possible effects of a damaged ganglia on mental health are:
Anxiety and depression: The ganglia are involved in regulating the stress response and the emotional processing of the brain. Damage to the ganglia can disrupt the balance between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, leading to increased anxiety and depression . For example, damage to the basal ganglia, a group of structures within the brain that control movement and reward, can cause mood disorders such as major depressive disorder and bipolar disorder.
The ANS communicates with a part of the brain called the HYPOTHALMUS through these ganglia by means of electrical signals and it carries out the commands from the hypothalamus and sends feedback so that it can respond by adjusting activity in the ANS. Like a team, but the ganglia can work independently and can loose their filtering functions and bombard the brain with feedback signals, or none at all, that can cause the Hypothalamus to get the wrong message and put out too many or too little hormones for regulation. It is just taking feedback and acting on it because that is it's job. A loop of sorts, Brain to Body- Body to Brain.
It works in the background without us knowing but the HYPOTHALAMUS is a major factor in stimulating stress hormones and can also integrate information from other parts of the Brain such as, Emotions and Memory.* (We will cover these hormones next week)
As much as the Brain has such a complex system, it has only 2 processes- Excitation and Inhibition. and if these are out of balance by the signals being send to it internally from the ANS or eternally from the environment, can cause Neurosis.
Next science part!
(Bear with me, there's an ending that might make some sense!)
Neurosis is a term that refers to a range of mental and emotional disorders that are characterized by anxiety, distress, and impaired functioning. It is not a specific diagnosis but an umbrella that includes:
Neurosis has never been fully understood but may involve biological, physiological and environmental factors. It may even be from genetic predisposition, childhood trauma, stress and coping skills from the above. (The common "treatment" for this at present is psychotherapy and medication)
Now we have got all the science out the way- Could we agree that the brain just does its job and the ANS may be a little broken in parts sending the wrong information or information being blocked due to ganglia damage?
Is it easier to say we have a nervous system out of whack and needing support rather than label this anxiety or depression etc.....?
Are we all overstressed by our environment, our childhoods and the toxic load on our immune system and the important messengers in our body, have had as hard a time as we have?
Can we support our selves in better ways knowing this?
With stress and trauma we will constrict our muscles and then release for balance, but if in a continued state of stress, hormones flowing back and forward, it can damage the ganglia due to the ongoing tense muscles. Your intestine is also a muscle so we also see issues here when stress arises.
Stress affects the whole body but is mostly held in the neck area and the tightening muscles constrict blood flow to these ganglia, that need oxygen or they will go into a comatose state. If they are not working then no electrical signal can pass through properly and the brain gets the wrong feedback but will continue to respond in the only way it knows, Excite or Inhibit and send a hormone response.
If there is no feedback from the ganglia to say- " ok, all good now, we are in balance" the hypothalamus will continue to send our either excessive hormones or not enough causing imbalance.
So go back to my question, is Mental Health really Mental?
Or do we have damage in our electrical signals from our nervous systems and ganglia that can be the cause?
Keeping our smalls nervous system regulated and balanced is essential for future proofing their ANS to respond to the Hypothalamus in the correct way and vice versa, so that an over/under supply of hormones do not cause the above mentioned umbrella of neurosis and many other dis-ease in the body.
We cannot control outside stress coming at them but we can build a resilient nervous system that can respond and balance itself, rather than react and become damaged.
Having Tools to help balance the ANS to keep the hypothalamus working in a balanced state, then adding in Caregivers to co-regulate can make a massive difference long term.
This system I have described above happens without any input from you, but it can be affected by things we feel and see in our external environment and as adults have all experienced something along the way in life. The difference in how that affects us compared to others, may be based on the emotional response being balanced, or even just acknowleged, which many never had from their caregivers or environment.
Is this why through lack of knowledge have generations missed a massive chance to nurture our smalls through their nervous system and blamed it on the brain, sending many down the therapy/medication route which still even now hasn't had a definitive fix?
Because after all, the brain is there to just do its two jobs!
My personal thoughts from my own experience in childhood that led me down many routes for a" fix" has concluded in continued paths in supporting my nervous system and also creating Lavenderbuddy for our smalls to make their ANS resilient and strong for their journey through life.
The next blog post will be talking about the stress hormones and how they affect us later in life and why medications, psychotherpay and other forms of help may not work in the long term.
Stay tuned and in the meantime, breathe easy, get a little 10 minute massage around the neck area and of course smell the Lavender and get as many hugs as you can