What is the para-sympathetic nervous system?
The para-sympathetic nervous system is commonly known for when our bodies are in 'rest-&-digest' or 'feed-&-breed' mode, typical activities for when the body is in a relaxed state help us digest food, cry, salivate and become sexually aroused.
The primary goal of the para-sympathetic nervous system is to maintain long-term health across all of the body's functions, to bring a state of calm to the body and to allow the body to repair itself.
Photograph by Vianca Soleil
What is the sympathetic nervous system?
The sympathetic nervous system is the counterpart to the para-sympathetic. This means this is the system that brings us into 'fight or flight', for when our safety feels threatened.
The sympathetic nervous system's goal is to keep us safe. When we are faced with a threat of any kind, the reaction your body has to an external stimuli, whether this is physical or emotional, comes from the sympathetic nervous system. It will trigger automatic and involuntary responses like sweating, heightened awareness, increased heart rate and elevated blood pressure and respiratory rate.
Photograph by Vianca Soleil
How do these relate to our sexual arousal?
Our internal body structure is constantly in communication from one system to the next with its ultimate goal to keep us safe and achieve a state of homeostasis (a sense of balance).
While the sympathetic system will trigger a rush of adrenaline when it perceives a sense of danger (which in our modern lives is more than it needs to be), this stress hormone will overpower and inhibit oxytocin, the hormone that helps us trust, connect and achieve orgasms. So you can see how the internal physical attributes play a large part when it comes to your libido.
When our body enters the para-sympathetic state we have access to slow, deep breathing, allowing blood to travel toward the sexual organs to invite deep states of pleasure and arousal.
Self-pleasure and achieving a state of balance
With the modern world as stimulating and constant as it is, we need to encourage our para-sympathetic nervous system to switch on more than ever before.
Simple ways to re-balance are:
• Breath - taking 5 minutes in the morning and evening to take 5 long deep breaths in and out for a count of 8. Add this habit in with your morning coffee in the morning and after you brush your teeth of an evening.
• Touching your lips - your lips have para-sympathetic fibers running through them, so something as simple as running your fingers over your lips will trigger a calming effect for when you are feeling stressed or anxious.
• Humming - the vibrations of humming massage the section of the vagus nerve near your vocal chords stimulating a relaxation response.
• Self-pleasure - when an orgasm takes place a cocktail of happy hormones is let off helping us to rebalance and connect to ourselves.
Our para-sympathetic nervous system and self-pleasure go hand in hand. Creating time through the week to allow ourselves to breathe, touch and focus on pleasure will create a sense of equilibrium in all your daily interactions.