The Autonomic Nervous System

The autonomic nervous system controls  involuntary processes in the body. Meaning you don't control it. It reacts or responds based on what is happening around you and to you.

Sympathetic Nervous System=Stress Reaction
Parasympathetic Nervous System=Rational Response
Reaction vs. Response

Sympathetic Nervous System

  • Fight, Flight Fawn, Freeze
  • Increases heart rate
  • Constricts blood vessels/raises blood pressure
  • Feelings of being at-risk, in danger, threatened
  • Survival instincts
  • Reactive
  • Ruled by the most ancient, primal part of the brain: Limbic System
  • Slows digestion and reproductive system

Parasympathetic Nervous System

  • Relaxation response
  • Decreases heart rate
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Conserves/restores body function: Returns to Homeostasis
  • Feels of safety/security
  • Responsive
  • Ruled by the pre-frontal cortex
  • Rational thinking/Decision making

Pre-Frontal Cortex

  • Organization/Planning
  • Social Behaviors
  • Memory/Attention
  • Speech/Language: Translating Thought Into Word
  • Reward seeking behaviors/motivation

Understanding the Frontal Lobe


Do you ever wonder why you can't recall  what really happened? 

Stress floods the pre-frontal cortex with cortisol when under stress. This often why people do no remember details of an event.


Do you ever wonder why you can never find your keys after someone has upset you? 

The frontal lobe of the brain is in charge of executive functioning which includes organization/planning. When flooded with stress chemicals, it does not work as efficiently. 


Do you ever wonder why you stutter or have trouble articulating words after being in an accident? 

Part of the executive functioning of the frontal lobe is to help us translate our thoughts into words formed when speaking. When this area is flooded with stress chemicals, the frontal lobe has to work that much harder to achieve this. 

Problem Solving & Judgement

Do you ever wonder why its so hard to come to decision  when you are upset?

Rational thinking comes from the parasympathetic nervous system. The influence of stress hormones, cortisol and adrenaline, make us unable to think rationally about how we feel about something because we are poised to protect ourselves.

Reactive vs. Responsive

The sympathetic nervous system is reactive. It is our default network and key to our survival. It will always react if you are in danger.
The parasympathetic nervous system represents relaxed, normal functioning of the body, also known as homeostasis.

Meditation is a choice that activates the parasympathetic, triggering release of the positive, feel good chemicals we associate with safety, security, being in love, peace, compassion for ourselves/others, and being able to think rationally and calmly about how we feel about something. It teaches us to be an observer to our experiences without being reactive to them.