Are You Stuck in Fight-or-Flight Mode? The Difference Between Sympathetic v Parasympathetic

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by Ellie Goode

sympathetic v parasympathetic nervous system

This nervous system work just goes deeper and deeper.

There are so many layers to it…

I remember years ago, when I first got into the nervous system world (well, it’s probably more like a mega galaxy), I was always in fight-or-flight mode.

​That’s how I had always lived my life, so it felt normal to me.

I learned that a huge part of the healing happens when we’re in a parasympathetic state.

1) Because it creates space and safety for these big emotions to come through more easily

2) When your nervous system is always in sympathetic mode (fight-or-flight), it takes a shit load of energy to maintain

Fight-or-flight mode is only meant for short periods, to inject you with a burst of energy to get you to safety (either by fighting or running away from a massive bear).

But we don’t live in the wild, and the stressors around us are constant.

Which is a big part of the problem.

That’s the great challenge – balancing sympathetic v parasympathetic mode – and being able to flow between the two states with ease.

You’re likely surrounded by things that keeps you on edge.

Traffic jams. Horns. Road rage. Radio sounds. Even Spotify.

An abusive boss. Stressful work. Clients that offload their problems onto you.

Family issues. Abuse. Relationship drama.

And of course, loud, startling noises (guns and explosions) from all those action movies on Netflix.​
So if you’re stuck in fight-or-flight or sympathetic mode (like most humans), all that energy is being taken away from your autonomic nervous system, which impairs regular functions like your heart rate, blood pressure, respiration, digestion, and sexual arousal.

Yes, you read that right … being in fight-or-flight reduces your sexual libido (I have experienced this).

Maybe we should talk about that on the podcast sometime? 🤔​

Because when you’re in fight-or-flight —

Your body shuts down all unnecessary nervous system functions for survival.


So that it can use all of your physical energy and resources to escape and fight for your survival.

But if you’re stuck in fight-or-flight, you can get exhausted very quickly.

It’s a lot for your body to process.​

​So what’s the solution?

Learning how to come down out of sympathetic mode and into parasympathetic (and making it an active practice, scheduling it in just like a gym workout).

Spending time in nature.

Reading a fiction book.

Sitting in silence and seeing what you notice around and inside of you.

You could even try moving parts of your body really slowly while looking around at your environment.

All of these things help your nervous system relax, and create a sense of internal and external safety. ​

Play around and see what works for you.

It’s part of why I moved to a tiny village in the Peruvian mountains.

If you want to learn some tools and techniques to bring your nervous system down into parasympathetic mode, check out Rageheart.

​That’s how I learned to slow down and bring my nervous system down into rest (aka parasympathetic).

It changed everything.​

I started sleeping better after a lifetime of insomnia.

I stopped reacting to certain foods.

And the things that used to stress me out, became easy to manage.

Plus, I had the best sex I’d ever had in my entire life (oh hello my old friend, libido! 🔥)

I felt way more connected to my body.

Because the more you’re in parasympathetic mode, the more energy you have to heal yourself (physically, mentally, and emotionally).

Which means you’ll have more energy to go out and create the life you truly want.

And you’ll be more present in your body, and less active in your mind.

So it’s not about sympathetic v parasympathetic (just being one OR the other), but how can you use both of these modes to help heal yourself.

Because we need both to survive.

This is an excerpt from one of my free daily emails. Want to join the list? Sign-up here.

Ellie McIntyre - sex money and rage podcast

Ellie Goode Host of the Provocative “Sex, Money & Rage Podcast, Nervous System Junkie, and Plant Psychonaut 🌿

I created Sex, Money & Rage to talk about everything that’s taboo. BDSM. Plant medicine. Healthy Rage. Kink. Emotions. Boundaries. Money issues. Less thinking, more feeling. How to get into your body and silence your overactive mind.

Sex, Money & Rage provides straight-up, powerful nervous system tools to help you dominate life’s toughest moments.

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