Why Your Nervous System is Important
In this unit, you will learn ways to become more informed about the state of your nervous system so that you are able to recognize when it is out of balance and understand how to bring us back into balance. The more able you are to recognize your state, the better you will be at responding rather than reacting to your life and court circumstances. Here we will learn the benefits of and how to begin a mindfulness practice, and some simple breathwork and wind down exercises to help you keep your nervous system in optimal condition more often. As you do this, the world will slow down, and you will be able to handle the stresses of life in a way that doesn’t overtax you, but rather builds your confidence for what an amazing human you already are.
In school, I was always a words, philosophies, and concepts person. English, social studies, reading, and writing were much preferred over math and science, so human biology never made a big impression on me. It wasn’t until I could relate human biology to the people I loved the most that it became something I wanted to study. When I had Matthew, my fourth, and realized that he was on the autism spectrum, I began to research ways that would bring more flow to his day. I realized that the key to doing that was to help bring his nervous system into greater balance and that while there was no silver bullet, there were ways to do that through diet, breath, exercise, and safe social connection. As I learned to help him, I realized that the things that helped him make small incremental gains were the same things that helped me, or any athlete, make those small gains as well.
Your autonomic nervous system is important because it has a huge effect on how you interpret the world around you. Whether we feel calm and focused and ready to learn and perform, or anxious, inattentive and jumpy, and unable to level up our game, depends on the level of activation between the three branches of your autonomic nervous system.
These branches are:
- The Parasympathetic Nervous System (rest & digest) which supports vital organ functioning, healing, and repair.
- The Sympathetic Nervous System (fight, flight, freeze, or fawn) which helps our body respond to our need for focus, to energize us, or to respond to threats or emergencies.
- The Enteric Nervous System, which runs from the length of your digestive tract, and is full of intelligent tissue and neurotransmitters that give our brain information about our overall state. This is what is often referred to as the gut/brain connection and literally helps us trust our gut to make informed decisions.
When you are able to find balance between these three branches of your nervous system you are able to feel calm in the moment and find the flow that it takes to reach levels of high performance in your life and on the court.