In this episode of The NeuFit Undercurrent podcast, Garrett explains the importance of the role of the autonomic nervous system and how resilience plays a major factor into your nervous system health.
[Garrett salpeter] 0:56
Hello, NeuFit nation. Today we’re going to talk about one of my favorite topics, which is resilience, and the autonomic nervous system. So resilience and the autonomic nervous system are so important for overall health, for energy, vitality, for performance for recovery, I mean, just this is the thing that underlies almost everything else. And it’s a huge piece to the recovery and performance puzzles, and something that
[Garrett salpeter] 1:29
I think is worth US diving in here. So a little primer first. First of all, autonomic nervous system we got to make sure we’re on the same page there’s two sides to it, there’s the sympathetic or fight or flight side doesn’t mean that you’re you feel sympathy, sympathetic fight or flight and then parasympathetic, also known as the rest and digest. And these are in some ways oppositional to each other, like for instance, one increases the heart rate, and one generally decreases the heart rate, one increases the blood pressure, one decrease in the blood pressure, one mobilizes energy sends blood away from the from the digestive organs and out to the muscles in order to to send fuel to the muscles to fight or flee runaway, or to be able to do physical work.
[Garrett salpeter] 2:17
And then the other one takes the blood and sends it back to the digestive organs to process food, eliminate waste, the reproductive organs, you know, for those longer term growth and repair projects about rebuilding the body or even building the next generation. And the reproductive organs, of course, is a bad joke. So the, the sympathetic nervous system, you can also think of as work mode, parasympathetic nervous system you can think of as recovery mode.
[Garrett salpeter] 2:46
And there is, there’s definitely some you want some sympathetic, some fight or flight activity, when you when you go to work out or you have to energies yourself in order to meet a challenge, it could be a cognitive challenge can be a physical challenge. So you want to be able to have those resources available to you to fuel you and perk you up and give me the energy and resources to meet a challenge. The problem happens if you stay in that state for too long, if, after your workout, you’re then inundated with emails, or you have a fight with someone on your team or a family member. And then you’re stressed out because you’re 15 minutes late to something else, and you get cut off in traffic. And you’re if you have all these things happening, and you’re constantly in that fight or flight state, that’s where the long term problems happen.
[Garrett salpeter] 3:34
In with chronic disease, the most common issues for which people take medication are blood pressure issues, heartburn, so digestive issues, constipation, and those are all regulated by the autonomic nervous system. And all of those issues are problems that stem from not spending enough time in that rest and digest parasympathetic dominant state.
[Garrett salpeter] 3:59
And so it’s vitally important that we do that. In order, it’s not just that we, we want to, you know, sit around and rest all the time, we’ll talk about that either talking about that as well. Because we, we actually want to make sure we get enough work, enough input when we are challenging ourselves so that the brain understands that now it is time to shift into recovery mode, you have to actually like, like when people are working out, for example, a lot of times we think that, oh, you know, I just I did this thing and so all of a sudden, I’m gonna get this big boost in my in my recovery and my health.
[Garrett salpeter] 4:33
And that’s not always the case. You know, sometimes, the way that people train, for example, is not beneficial. Sometimes, you know, the same activity, like just like running. If someone runs and they’re upright, that could be jogging, you could be doing sprint intervals. If they’re, if they’re typically jogging will be the best example because the same activity if someone’s doing it standing erect, breathing, breathing through their nose, can have very profound The positive health benefits.
[Garrett salpeter] 5:01
But if that same person is, it’s kind of slouching, because they, they’re so fatigued, they can’t hold themselves up and they start panting through their mouth, then they’re actually getting the opposite signal. Instead of promoting health, they’re basically training themselves to get better at being in that stressed out fight or flight state, and they can actually increase their stress hormones can wreak havoc on their blood sugar, all these different different problems can happen, if they based on how they’re training. So the same activity can have profoundly different effects based on the impact that it has on the autonomic nervous system.
[Garrett salpeter] 5:36
Oftentimes, also, training is not not necessarily challenging enough, it doesn’t actually get the point, you know, brain doesn’t get the point doesn’t trip the alarm, so to speak, to actually trigger that transition into the parasympathetic dominant state. And so that’s another thing, the training, you know, you want to be breathing through your nose, you want to be doing all these things. We’ll talk later about resilience and the concept of these different thresholds between the, the parts of the nervous system.
[Garrett salpeter] 6:06
So we’ll talk more about breathing there, this is more a little bit of a different point. You know, if you think about the person who goes to the health club and is on the stationary bike, and just kind of going so lightly, that they can read a magazine or something not really focused and they go, maybe do a little bit of lightweights. But they’re really watching the TV the whole time, and never even make themselves breathe hard. Or they’re never, ever breaking a sweat never having to really work or focus on what they’re doing that you know, although that is better than being sedentary, and may not be enough for them for the brain to get the point that something happened.
[Garrett salpeter] 6:40
And it’s time to shift into parasympathetic dominant mode that it’s time to contrast that was after you work hard, then the brain understands, oh, my gosh, there’s an energy deficit. And the brain will actually shift into this mode. And one of the things that will do is make you feel hungry. So you take in nutrients and raw materials that you can then digest and absorb and use to replenish the energy that’s been depleted, to rebuild the muscles and structures that were challenged, and to come back stronger to better handle that challenge next time. So the training has to be the input has to be significant enough to actually shift and sometimes that’s part of the problem is that there’s never enough input to cause a more significant enough shift into that parasympathetic dominant mode. If
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[Garrett salpeter] 7:54
So let’s talk about talking about another angle of this. And that’s the transition threshold or the, the kind of day to day mode of operating. And what I mean by that is, we talked earlier about how it can be a problem, if you spend too much time in that fight or flight state, you want to be able to shift back into the rest and digest state frequently enough to be able to actually recover and replenish and restore.
[Garrett salpeter] 8:23
And there, there is a problem there. If we’re in that state for too, then that sympathetic fight or flight state for too long. And so one of the biggest gifts that you can give someone or give to yourself is to increase your resilience. And one measure of that resilience is to to look at how much you can do in day to day life, while still staying in that parasympathetic, dominant rest or digest state without having to shift into sympathetic rest and digest absurdly sympathetic fight or flight state. So you’re able to if you’re able to stay in that more calm state, as you’re going through your workday, as you’re doing more and more daily tasks, you don’t have to shift into that sympathetic dominant state as frequently. You don’t have to spend as much time there you can reserve it for when you really truly need it.
[Garrett salpeter] 9:18
And therefore when you go when you go to the well, so to speak for those, those stress hormones that energise you, the well won’t be dry, there will be plenty there when you need it, because you haven’t used it all up by tapping into it all day long. And there’s several ways to increase resilience and increase the threshold to give yourself the opportunity to do more and more and more things while still staying in that parasympathetic dominant state. And that is where, where some intention and some intelligence comes in.
[Garrett salpeter] 9:49
And were one of the things that we emphasize where we have a really, really incredible opportunity to impact our patients and clients. And so one of the key One of the keys to this is to use nose breathing during, I’ll say virtually all of your activities, I mean, unless you’re literally running for your life, and you need to get, you need to breathe in through your mouth to get a little bit more extra air.
[Garrett salpeter] 10:12
And I mean, you know, that’s, that’s okay. But even when you’re challenging yourself, generally, I’m going to strongly encourage you to try nose breathing. And as you, as you do this more and more, you’ll increase how much you can do, while still being able to breathe in and out through your nose. And in the process, you will actually build your resilience. Because if you’re able to do a level of work that before, you know running this speed, or lifting this amount of weight, or doing this activity for this amount of time, if that would have caused you to breathe in through your mouth, that literally means that you’re starting to panic, you’re going into a fight or flight state.
[Garrett salpeter] 10:49
And with the exception of swimming, swimming is the one thing where you have to breathe in through your mouth because of the activity. And that is one of the downsides of swimming. So if you like it, just do it during an activity, but do nose breathing whenever you’re on dry land, little, a little bit of an aside there. But this notion of being able to challenge yourself to take an activity where you previously had that level of challenge, you previously would have started panicking and breathing in through your mouth, if you can start to do that activity, that same level, while breathing in and out through your nose, that tells us that you literally have made yourself more resilient because you can handle more and more input more challenge more stress, without having to actually shift into that fight or flight state. And so now, when you you know, if you’re a working professional, also as a family, and you go through your workday, you know, there’s kind of two ways to do it.
[Garrett salpeter] 11:47
The panting huffing and puffing through your mouth way, is going to leave you in this much stressed out state. So when you go home, you know, you’re your spouse or child might come and ask you something or say something to you, and you might snap at them. Even though you don’t want to do you certainly don’t intend to alienate your family members. But because you’re stuck in that in that you’re so far over that that stressed out state of the nervous system, it’s almost automatic, it’s like, you don’t have as much control over it. In contrast, if you’re able to build up resilience by doing something as simple as, as those breathing during progressively more intense activity, now, you’ll be able to get through that same workday, same activities, same stresses and challenges.
[Garrett salpeter] 12:31
But when you get home, because you won’t be in that stressed out fight or flight state, you will now be better able to engage with your spouse or your children, less likely to snap at them or have a short temper, and and much more likely to have rewarding, gratifying, loving, productive relationships with your family members. And so there’s so many elements, where this notion of being able to increase resilience actually can make us you know, not only not only better athletes or you know, more effective physically, but also it can help us cognitively it can help us relationally it can help us in so many aspects of our lives.
[Garrett salpeter] 13:15
And there’s another one, that’s one of my favorite examples for kind of a thought experiment to think about here. And that, again, about increasing this is resilience or the level of stress and challenge. And that’s, you know, if you think about an athlete, think about a basketball player who’s taking a free throw in game seven of the finals, who had the chance to tie in and win the game. Or think about a golfer who’s putting on the 18th green at the Masters, you know, the biggest golf tournament of the year.
[Garrett salpeter] 13:43
And that’s, that’s an input that even if that act isn’t as challenging physically, it’s certainly, you know, a very potentially high stress situation, and one that someone could start to go into that stressed out panic fight or flight state. And that can be very problematic, because different parts of the brain are going to act up, that are going to increase stiffness in the muscles that are going to reduce effective coordination of the muscles. And that’s going to cause someone to miss the pot or miss that free throw.
[Garrett salpeter] 14:14
Whereas if you’ve built up that resilience, and you are in this situation, and you’re better able to breathe through it to stay calm, you’re able to keep everything in a more optimal state and you’re much more likely to sink that pod or that free throw, or whatever the you know, whatever the high stakes thing is. So the one thing that I want to close with is you know, we’re talking about resilience there is in case you’re wondering, you know, what, how do I know if I’m resilient?
[Garrett salpeter] 14:43
How can I measure it, there’s a great way to measure it and that’s heart rate variability. So there’s multiple different tracking tools that you can use out there we like the bio strap, we like the aura ring. We like you know, dif different things that you can use, and those give you a very good specific numerical measurement as to how effectively you’re dealing with the current levels of stress and challenge, which tells you also how much bandwidth you have to take on more stress and challenge.
[Garrett salpeter] 15:10
And so that’ll be another episode, we can dive into that. But basically, the heart rate variability is the way to measure your resilience or your capacity to capacity to do more based on how effectively you’ve been handling whatever you’ve been dealing with in the recent past. So autonomic nervous system, we got the two sides, we need to you know, there’s value in both sides, we just have to make sure that we spend an appropriate amount of time and do the right things. To get ourselves into whichever side is most relevant for the situation, we want to win the amount of work we want. We want to be able to access those stress hormones.
[Garrett salpeter] 15:48
But when we want to go through our daily tasks, when we want to be able to recover, we have to make sure we shift into that parasympathetic dominant state. Good way to do that is nose breathing at all times, particularly during exercise because that allows you to build resilience, and then heart rate variability, great tool to track to monitor resilience over time. Thank you so much for listening. Catch you on the next episode. Thank you so much for listening to the undercurrent podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, please consider leaving a review and be sure to subscribe to stay up to date as we release future episodes.