Is absolutely NOT the case for those dealing with chronic illness. Unfortunately, it’s what so many of us have heard from both practitioners and family members. It’s a difficult phrase to stomach for those who experience pain, dizziness, fatigue, rashes, gastrointestinal symptoms, and general suffering daily and know their symptoms are anything but false. Your disease requires the utmost respect and seriousness and should never be labeled as “all in your head.”
However, the extent of ongoing symptoms may be localized to the brain. The brain is the powerhouse of the body, responsible for regulation of blood pressure, temperature, digestion, immune function, gene expression, hormonal functions, balance, coordination, sleep, inflammatory responses, detoxification capabilities, breathing, heart rate, and interpreting information and sending it to other organs. It consists of over 100 billion neurons that communicate via trillions of synapses to perform a task, think a thought, and feel an emotion. The brain is the epicenter of your reality.
What happens to the brain if an event occurs in the form of physical trauma like a virus or bacteria? What about a traumatic event that is beyond stressful? Or an environmental exposure to mold or toxic chemicals? What if these traumatic events persist?
The autonomic nervous system, specifically the sympathetic response or fight-flight-freeze response switches on. This mechanism is a great way to ward off danger if you’re running from a lion, fighting off an acute illness, or if you’re facing any kind of immediate threat. But, if that physical, mental, or emotional trauma endures, the brain gets stuck using the same neural pathways that cause your brain to continually think you’re in danger, even after removal of the stressor.
This is where the “chronic” part of illness comes into play. Shouldn’t our human bodies be able to fight off a virus or detox appropriately after a toxic exposure? If the brain is using the same neural pathways it did when facing the stressor, it can make it difficult to find any relief from persistent symptoms. When the brain, specifically the limbic system or the feeling and reacting brain, is impaired, and the sympathetic nervous system is dominant, it inhibits our bodily systems from functioning at optimal capacity. Take another look at the list of functions the brain is responsible for in paragraph 2... and that’s the short list. Every single one of these functions can be compromised when the limbic system is impaired.
When we opt for a parasympathetic reset and learn how to function from a state of rest-and-digest, we make positive changes to our immune systems and can retrain our brains for strength, peace, and resiliency.