Human beings have an autonomic nervous system (ANS), which controls a great deal of how our body works. The word “autonomic” means that the system functions without our conscious control. We don’t have to tell our lungs to breathe, our heart to beat, or our stomachs to start the digestive process. Our systems just do what they are supposed to do.
The autonomic nervous system has two streams operating in tandem. They are the sympathetic and the parasympathetic, and they fulfil different functions. For me, understanding how they operate and how to support them has helped me manage the stress created by complexity and increase my wellbeing. In this article, I share some insights into how stress affects our ANS, and a simple but remarkably effective tip for changing your experience of stress.