The autonomic nervous system (ANS) is coordinated by the middle prefrontal region of the brain. It is responsible for bodily functions such as heart rate, respiration and digestion. It has two branches: sympathetic, which is often compared to a car accelerator and the parasympathetic, similar to the car’s brake. When there is a flow between the two-a balance-our mind feels calm and we are able to let go of much facial and body tension. We are open.
When we detect a threat-environmental, physical or emotional-we usually go into a state of alert and activate the sympathetic branch. It is here the body readies itself for action; adrenaline pumps and cortisol (stress hormone) is released. Often the heart pounds wildly and the stomach churns. Muscle tension mounts. We are on guard.
I have worked with many musicians and actors who perform in this state and feel, as a result of my SE training, much more able to help regulate their systems.