Stress

Craniosacral Therapy and the causes of Stress.

We are all familiar with the notion that a hectic life can cause stress but sometimes the causes of stress are not from our lifestyle.  Sometimes a pattern of restriction from an old injury or trauma can disrupt the normal function of our nervous system causing all the symptoms of stress. 

You could have an idyllic life with no reason to feel stressed yet you feel stressed all the time. Without dealing with the root cause of these stress symptoms normal approaches won’t help.

To see how this works in action we need to get a better understanding of how our nervous system works.

Behind the scenes of our nervous system.

There are many activities that our bodies do without us having to think about them like, breathing, digesting, monitoring our blood pressure and so on. These unconscious activities are controlled by what is called the autonomic division of our nervous system.

This autonomic division is subdivided into two further divisions, the Sympathetic and Parasympathetic divisions.

The Sympathetic division deals with the classic ‘fight or flight’ response, while the Parasympathetic division deals with resting and digestion.

They are designed to work in balance with each other.
They evolved to allow us to stalk, chase and kill a hairy and potentially dangerous beast – sympathetic division.
Then eat it, have sex and fall asleep, – parasympathetic division.

Craniosacral therapy and your nervous system

Our present-day lifestyle has changed considerably in the last 200 years. We are no longer in the jungle and we are rarely in life-threatening situations. But our modern day life is filled with PERCEIVED threats.

Our autonomic nervous system can’t tell the difference between these percieved threats and real threats and handles these perceived threats as if they were real.

Back when we were hunting dangerous animals, we didn’t sit around the campfire at night worrying about our post-hunt performance review or where we would get the materials to remodel our cave.

Nowadays we think about those kinds of things continuously and the majority of our thoughts are or lead to, perceived threats.

“My boss didn’t say ‘Good morning.’ in her usual perky way. Perhaps I’m in trouble. Perhaps I’ll lose my job!.”

“Red light! Red Light! Brake BRAKE!”

“Yes, He/She loves me – more than anyone has ever loved me in my life. How would I survive if he/she ever died or left me!”

Our autonomic nervous system can’t tell the difference between a real or imagined threat. Interpretation is not its function, action is. All it knows is that there is a threat and it responds by getting our body ready to fight it or run away from it – Sympathetic division ON!

We continually put our bodies in situations that are totally confusing for our autonomic nervous system.

Here’s a small extract from my book, Why do we get sick? why do we get better? – A wellness detective manual.  It illustrates how an everyday lunchtime looks from our autonomic nervous system’s perspective.

Autonomic Lunch

We have an hour for lunch.
We rush to pay our rent on the way to a café.
The message we send our autonomic nervous system is,

“I have to pay my rent or be evicted!”

Our autonomic nervous system classifies this as a threat and gets our body ready for a fight.

Sympathetic division ON!

Rent paid, we get to the café and peruse the menu.
The message we send our autonomic nervous system is,

“This food looks great!”

Our autonomic nervous system classifies this as preparation for digestion.

Parasympathetic division ON.

We chose a dish we like, then check the price.
The message we send our autonomic nervous system is,

‘But I can’t afford what I want!’

Our autonomic nervous system classifies this as a threat and gets our body ready for running away.

Sympathetic division ON!

While waiting for our meal we see an attractive man/woman.
The message we send our autonomic nervous system is,

‘Hello, possibility of copulation.’

Our autonomic nervous system classifies this as preparation for sex.

Parasympathetic division ON.

Trying not to blatantly stare at this man/woman, we look down at our hands and notice our wedding band.
The message we send our autonomic nervous system is,

‘What if my partner found out!’

Our autonomic nervous system classifies this as a threat and gets our body ready for a fight with some running away followed by more fighting with some more running away, possibly limping.

Sympathetic division ON!
(Can I turn this thing on any more than it already is?)

We put the man/woman out of our mind and get on with eating our lunch.
We send a very clear message to our autonomic nervous system,

‘Yummy.’

Our autonomic nervous system prepares our body for digestion.

Parasympathetic division ON.

The effect of the parasympathetic division makes us dreamy and a little sleepy. We vacantly gaze at our watch and realise we are late getting back to work.
The message we send our autonomic nervous system is,

‘I’m going to be fired!’

Our autonomic nervous system classifies this as a threat and gets our body ready for running back to work followed by a possible fight.

Sympathetic division ON!

 

Craniosacral therapy and stress

As confusing for our bodies as that little scenario is, we could probably handle it if it weren’t for the fact that the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems are not equally matched. The sympathetic division is far more powerful than the parasympathetic division.

It makes sense when you think about it. The sympathetic division is designed for our protection. It needs to activate VERY quickly. When it’s triggered a cascade of different physiological changes occur rapidly.

neurons and craniosacral therapy

The neuronal net structure of the sympathetic division means that one sympathetic neuron triggers five more, who in turn each trigger five more. So the warning cascades rapidly.

Blood is immediately sent to the extremities of the body so there will be plenty of energy for the muscles to use for the fight. Non-essential functions like digestion are shut down to conserve resources. Adrenalin is dumped into the bloodstream giving us supercharged energy reserves.

And just to make sure that there is enough adrenalin and that it keeps coming, sympathetic neurons use a neurotransmitter which promotes the release of adrenalin which stimulates the release of more of the same neurotransmitter.

Thunderbirds are GO!

So the sympathetic response is more immediate, widespread and lasts longer.

‘Mammoth charging! RUN FOR IT AND KEEP RUNNING!’

The autonomic nervous system is not designed to flick back and forth between the sympathetic and parasympathetic divisions in the way I made out in the lunch scenario.

What actually happens is both divisions are repeatedly switched on but the sympathetic division is turned on more often because of our emotions and thinking about perceived threats.

Rather than the parasympathetic division being turned on it’s more a case of the sympathetic division NOT being turned on and in its absence, the adrenalin can drain away and we can calm down generally, send some blood to our torso and get back to digestion.

Because it takes longer for the body to return to normal from the effects of sympathetic stimulation, it never gets completely turned off until deep sleep.

The result in the body is the whole autonomic nervous system becomes confused and exhausted. This causes both divisions to malfunction. What we have come to call the effects of stress.

(End of extract from, Why do we get sick? why do we get better? – A wellness detective manual.)

Restrictions

If you have a pattern of restriction, from an old injury or trauma, it can activate your autonomic nervous system.  If the restriction pattern is activating the sympathetic division of your nervous system it can cause a continual state of flight or fight which will feel like being stressed and anxious all the time. 

If the parasympathetic division is activated you can experience digestive problems, or low energy all the time or sexual performance issues.

The good news is that if the once the pattern of restriction is released your nervous system will return to its natural state.

Prolonged stress

If you have been under stress for a long time your autonomic nervous system can become stuck in the sympathetic division.  Craniosacral Therapy helps relieve stress by encouraging the effects of the sympathetic division to dissipate. This allows the parasympathetic division to come to the fore. This is experienced as deep relaxation within the body.

Through treatment, this relaxed state becomes the norm again as the negative effects of prolonged stress are discharged. The autonomic nervous system comes back into balance and functions in a more balanced way.

If you are interested in having treatment with me for Stress call me on 0862272751 or email me to arrange an appointment.