Holiday Overwhelm and Your Nervous System

Dec 05, 2022

The holiday season is a busy time for everyone. It can often be quite stressful. Work may be busier as deadlines approach and co-workers take time off, which means less people to work on a greater workload. Holiday planning and preparations involving meals, decorations, and family must all be considered. Shopping areas are busier as people buy presents. There’s decorations everywhere you look and holiday music playing the same songs over and over again. You can feel the general excitement for the holidays building, and it can become overwhelming.

You may be one of many individuals with a low neurological threshold, meaning you notice and respond to environmental stimuli more often due to the revved up state of your nervous system.

From last week’s article we learned the prefrontal cortex (PFC)-amygdala neural circuit is responsible for threat bias, which is an exaggerated selective attention to threat. When overactive, this neurocircuit results in feelings of anxiety and being overwhelmed.

You need to be able to filter the sensory stimuli surrounding you, whether it’s suppressing distractors or amplifying relevant stimuli. You need to be able to correctly assess your environment for threats. Your PFC influences changes in sensory processing as it is in charge of executive functions. It filters out, or suppresses, excess noise or stimuli. It engages inhibitory circuits in the thalamus to control sensory processing.

Serotonin can alter the sensitivity in a sensory system such as your visual or olfactory systems so they process stimuli appropriately. It may also normalize the PFC-amygdala neural circuit so it’s not overactive.

With our senses being overwhelmed with holiday stimuli, our thalamus has a lot of sensory information to process. When our locus coeruleus-norepinephrine system (LC-NE) is activated, as it is with stimulation of the vagus nerve, it leads to an improvement in sensory processing within the thalamus.

It is common to become overwhelmed and feel fatigued mentally and physically with the holidays due to the nearly constant sensory stimulation. Rest and the ability to adapt are needed so your quality of life does not become impacted in the long term.

When you start to notice your schedule becoming busier with holiday activities or you begin to feel the beginning stages of being overwhelmed, schedule a boost adjustment. Stimulate your vagus nerve so it can activate your PFC and down regulate your amygdala!

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