Has this ever been you?
You wake up in the morning and feel groggy, but as soon as you think of everything on your to-do list, your heart speeds up. You rush to get ready and don’t have time to sit down for breakfast, so you grab a protein shake or bar to eat in the car.
You open your emails and now you are on your way to do one thing after another. During the day, you feel like you’re running a little bit late or a little bit behind.
Perhaps you’re holding back anger or irritation, but don’t know why. When you get back home and want to relax, you feel drained but your mind won’t slow down. Maybe you reach for wine or the TV remote, but you still can’t escape this feeling of stress.
When that happens to you often, life just becomes pressure without pleasure. You become habituated to stress — you feel that pressure even when there is nothing to be stressed about.
When you feel this chronic stress, it indicates your brain is out of balance. And the only way to reduce stress is to bring the brain into balance.
As a matter of fact, any technique that does reduce stress works by changing the brain.
Stress is perception, not environment
Our brain triggers the nervous system to perceive our environment as safe or dangerous. In the scenario above, we perceive our world as dangerous. We feel an impending threat even in a safe situation.
For example, when we return home, we could enjoy a peaceful evening. But our shoulders are still hunched up to our ears and our stomach still feels tight.
Reducing stress isn’t necessarily about changing the environment, but changing our perception of the environment. We’ve trained our brains to constantly interpret a dangerous environment. Now, we need to train our brains to perceive safety.
Stress disconnects the brain and body
The brain is not just for thinking. It communicates to our body through the nervous system. The body talks back to the brain via the same pathway. Based on this input from the body, the brain constantly makes calibrations to keep the body in balance.
When that communication is disconnected, it is the beginning of disease.
What disconnects the communication? Chronic stress.
How stress changes the nervous system
To understand how stress effects your brain, you have to understand your autonomic nervous system.
The Autonomic Nervous System runs the body’s automatic functions, like breathing, heart rate, blood pressure, digestion and sleep.
There are two branches: Sympathetic and Parasympathetic. These states are triggered by the brain.
It’s a see-saw relationship between the two branches. When one is on, the other is off.
When we’re in parasympathetic, our body is working to nourish and heal. We also feel a sense groundedness, calmness, and presence. Why? Because in Parasympathetic, the brain is perceiving a safe environment.
The sympathetic state perceives a dangerous environment, and therefore makes us accelerate and activate. Stress turns on the sympathetic state. You know you’re in a sympathetic state when you feel like that scenario above.
Our body is designed to be in Sympathetic only in spurts, not throughout the day. When we are “Sympathetic Dominant,” however, healing is not available to us. Pleasure is not available to us. A sense of peace is not available to us.
How to be in the parasympathetic state
John formulated Vagal Tone by Meo Energetics to make the parasympathetic state available.
The vagal nerve is like a telephone cable between brain and body. It carries the message to the body to turn on the parasympathetic state.
The phrase “vagal tone” refers to increasing how often we use the vagal nerve. Strong vagal tone helps you perceive your environment as safe, rather than dangerous. Vagal Tone is a critical tool for reducing chronic stress.