Your body helps you do everything from carrying your toddlers to and from the car to communicating with their teachers after school. Physical and mental activity, from the way your body moves, to the way you learn new things, and even to how you memorize your kids’ schedules, all happen because your nervous system and endocrine system work together. This is known as your autonomic nervous system, which includes the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system.
The Sympathetic Nervous System
Chances are you’ve gone into “Mama Bear” mode on at least one occasion. You want what’s best for your kiddos, and sometimes that means you need to be extra diligent. That feeling you get is your body’s “fight or flight” response, which determines how you handle stressful situations. It’s part of your sympathetic nervous system, which is made up of two neurons that help you decide when to fight and when to run for the hills.
- Pre-Ganglionic Neuron — The short neuron runs alongside your vertebral column.
- Post-Ganglionic Neuron — This neuron is long and targets and travels to specific tissue.
Have you ever felt increased heart rate or even unexpected strength when you’re nervous or scared, especially when you feel the need to protect your children? These occur because the SNS is doing its job.
The Parasympathetic Nervous System
The parasympathetic nervous system regulates the bodily functions you do without thinking. This means that even when you’re ankles-deep in toys and trying to remember whose turn it is to use the PlayStation, your body will still remember to do things like breathe and digest your food. Like your SNS, your PNS has both pre-ganglionic and post-ganglionic neurons. However, in the PNS, the pre-ganglionic neuron is long and the post-ganglionic neuron is short.
From accidents to illnesses, outside forces can cause nerve damage. Sometimes, the autonomic nervous system is only dysfunctional temporarily; maybe you accidentally shut your hand in the door while trying to carry in all the groceries in one trip. Other times, ANS dysfunction can be chronic and need long-term treatment. Diabetes and even just aging are the most common reasons for disorders of the autonomic system. Knowing your body is important because it helps you determine if something could be wrong. When you’re the healthiest you can be, you are happier, leading to happier and healthier lives for your little ones as well.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Autonomic Disorders
Disorders of the autonomic nervous system cause a variety of symptoms. Feeling lightheaded or getting dizzy upon standing is very common. If this happens to you often, it could be a symptom and not simply a lack of sleep as a parent of young children. Other symptoms can occur as well, so it is important to visit your doctor if you feel you may be suffering from an ANS disorder. If your doctor does diagnose you with an ANS disorder, he or she will help you treat the cause and provide symptom relief, so you can keep living your best life as a mother.
Knowing how your body’s autonomic nervous system works is one step in learning more about your own needs. However, it is important to never try to diagnose any disorder on your own. Self-diagnosis and treatment could lead to serious health complications, including further damage. Talk to your doctor if you suspect your ANS is not functioning properly.