What Is A Neural Impulse?
While we think of anxiety and depression on a mental level, there is a lot going on under the surface to create those feelings. A large part of that is the way that the brains’ neural impulses function and what that means for the rest of the body. Sounds too scientific for you? PYM breaks it down so that you can understand more about what makes you tick and how you can use that information to live your best life.
Nervous System 101
While some people may use neurons and nerves interchangeably, they are actually two different things. Neurons are the individual cells that are the origin of both the electrical and chemical signals that are sent through the nerves. Nerves are the channels through which those signals travel to get to their destination, which is where the action they’re communicating is triggered.
Together, the neurons and the nerves (along with the brain, sensory organs, and spinal cord) make up the body’s nervous system. The main functions of the nervous system can be summed up in three words - integration, motor, and sensory.
The nervous system is actually divided up into multiple subcategories, each with its own specific function. For instance, the brain and the spinal cord form the “central” nervous system (CNS) which is where decisions are made. The sensory organs and nerves have their own monitoring system, the “peripheral” nervous system (PNS).
The PNS is divided down even further into the autonomic nervous system (ANS) and the sympathetic nervous system (SNS). It’s quite an elaborate and interesting part of the body and one that controls so much more than most people are aware of. Things like sensation, pain, breathing, memory, and digestion are all attributed to the nervous system. That’s why it is so frequently referred to as being the “communication center.”
What Is A Neural Impulse?
Without neural impulses, the nervous system simply wouldn’t work. They really are that important, and many researchers actually think that they are the real “key” to being able to understand how the brain works.
Essentially, a neural impulse is an electrical “burst.” You may have heard them referred to as action potential before, especially if you’ve taken any recent science courses. Once those impulses are triggered, they travel down the nerve channel and help the body communicate. Every single thing that our body takes in, and every thing that it does, starts as a neural impulse. Without them, we literally would not be able to continue living.
If you think of the nervous system as an old-school tin can phone, the neural impulse is the command that you would speak into the phone. The nerves are the line in which it travels, and the other can is the target that will hear the word and turn it into action.
How Do Neural Impulses Impact Anxiety?
Everything in the body starts as an electrical impulse, whether physical or mental. That also includes things like anxiety.
In the case of anxiety, research has shown that it is likely to originate in the amygdala. For those of you who aren’t familiar, the amygdala is the central mediator of important protective “instincts” like fear and the stress response. Anxiety is frequently considered to be the result of an overactive fight or flight instinct, which is triggered by the amygdala. Instead of being able to use our logical brain to remind ourselves that the situation we’re in doesn’t require a nuclear response, it causes it to react the same way that it would if we were facing a bear.
What that means is that, in order to help manage anxiety, it’s essential to learn how to minimize those neural impulses that trigger it. That also means it is helpful to increase the other neurotransmitters that send out helpful messages, like serotonin, GABA, and norepinephrine.
In fact, for a good example of this theory in action, researchers have been looking at managing the GABAergic inhibitory neurons as a way to actually help with the cognitive impairment that is common in people with schizophrenia. That’s just a small portion of why GABA is such an important neurotransmitter when it comes to all kinds of mental health struggles and why we chose to include it in our stress and anxiety targeting PYM Mood Chews.
A Nerve Related Anxiety Life Hack
While anxiety can use our own nerves and neural impulses against us, there is a way to use them to help reduce anxiety as well.
Diaphragmatic breathing has long been known to help reduce anxiety, but not many people know exactly how it works. When you practice this type of slow, abdominal breathing, you are actually activating the vagus nerve. For context, the vagus nerve is one of the longest cranial nerves in the body. It helps to mediate important bodily functions like blood pressure, heart rate, digestion, speaking, and sweating. It has also been known to be able to reduce stress, anger, and anxiety responses by activating a reaction known as the “relaxation response” in the parasympathetic nervous system.
Breathing with your diaphragm, slowly filling your lungs up from the bottom up, followed by slowly letting the air out, activates the vagus nerve. You can do that either from your mouth, your nose, or a combination of both. Practice your diaphragmatic breathing when you’re not feeling overly anxious or stressed out. This allows you to be able to more effectively activate your vagus nerve and your “relaxation response” without having to think much about it when you are experiencing anxiety.
Neural impulses are literally the foundation of everything that our body accomplishes, both with the body and with the mind. Being able to inhibit the transmission of the neural impulses that can lead to increased anxiety may be helpful, as can using supplements like PYM Mood Chews to increase the production of helpful neurotransmitters like GABA. You don’t have to be a scientist to be able to hack your brain and use what you know to make your nervous system work for you even more than it already does.