Black woman fearfully cowers from relaxing flowers falling gently around her

Are You Sympathetic Dominant?

Last updated: December 2020

Productivity was valued more than rest in the house I grew up in. Laying on the couch to watch TV or read a book was viewed more as lazy than it was a healthy downtime for my body. This created a mindset and a habit in me always to keep busy.

When resting felt unproductive

Years later, the idea – let alone the act – of sitting on the couch to watch TV was more anxiety-provoking than appealing. It was so much more uncomfortable for me to sit down than it was restful. There was always something that could be getting done – especially as an entrepreneur. But, to no surprise, the effects of this eventually caught up to me.

Without rest comes stress

The body isn’t designed to always be in action. It needs rest. It’s the balance between the two that’s known as homeostasis. It’s our body’s balance between the sympathetic nervous system – fight or flight – and the parasympathetic nervous system – rest and digest. The body is designed to handle stress. Our body pumps out stress hormones to support the body in handling that moment of stress. It’s an innate ability, so we were able to fight or flee a predator that might have attacked us. Thankfully we don’t have to worry about being chased by a lion in the woods as we hunt for dinner, but we do experience an equally scary risk to our health – chronic stress.

Dealing with stress

Stress can be physical, mental, or emotional. And what’s crazy is that the stress doesn’t even have to be happening at that moment to have negative effects on our health. We can simply be thinking about past trauma or anxious over a potential stressor in our future, and our body produces the same stress response as if we were experiencing the stress at that very moment.

What is sympathetic dominance?

What can happen over time is that if that chronic state of stress becomes our norm, then we become known what’s called sympathetic dominance. This is where the body is always relying on the sympathetic nervous system and never getting to shift into the parasympathetic nervous system where our body can rest, digest, repair, and reset.

Stress makes us vulnerable to migraine attacks

Aside from countless other health concerns, being more vulnerable to a migraine attack is certainly a risk of this lifestyle. For years, this was me; as I mentioned, rest wasn’t encouraged as a child, so it created a mindset that I always had to be doing something.

Allowing myself to relax

I had to be patient with myself as I began unraveling this mindset and put a new belief in its place. I’m not going to lie; the process was really uncomfortable. I had to sit on the couch through moments of anxiety just to get comfortable with the idea of allowing myself to relax. I started with shorter timeframes, and over time I found myself fulling letting go enough to watch a full movie in one sitting.

The coping mechanisms to rest

Some of the things that have helped me over the years, and if any of my story resonates with you, may help you as well include:

Finding a balance

But over time, this sent the message to my body that is can relax. This has helped tremendously in managing migraine and finding greater balance and joy in my life as a whole. I still work hard, but I make sure that it’s followed by time rest to recharge.

Do you have trouble relaxing? What’s helped you the most?

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Migraine.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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