Christian Stress Release

What Is Stress Really – Your Nervous System (Parts 6 & 7)

Our nervous systems are the main communicators between our brains and bodies, especially around stress.

Our brains and nervous systems are the 2 main bodily systems that make up our mental health, from a physical perspective. This month we’re learning the anatomy of these systems.


By understanding how God created us, we can begin to look at why He created us in this way. From there, we can understand how satan is distorting God’s creation to hurt us. Finally, we can find the right resources to help counteract satan’s attack, to bring the peace of Jesus into our mental and emotional selves.


And today, we’re talking about our nervous systems.

Anatomy of The Nervous System

God designed our nervous systems to connect our brains to our bodies. They’re the communication lines between our operating systems (our brains) and the machines running the show (our bodies).


They’re split into 2 main branches with many moving parts, one of which is responsible for our stress.

The 2 Main Branches of the Nervous System

Our nervous systems have 2 main branches: the Central Nervous System and the Peripheral Nervous System.


The Central Nervous System runs the brain and spinal cord activities. The Peripheral Nervous System runs the rest of our bodies.

Diagram of the anatomy of the nervous system, including the Central and Peripheral branches. The Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) is where are stress comes from.

When we look at how our nervous systems run our mental health, we’re looking at the Peripheral branch.


Weird right? You’d think we’d want to look at the brain side of things.


But God knew our mental health would need physical actions to back it up. If we’re in danger, we can’t just think about running, we need to actually run. So He designed us to have a connection between our brains and bodies.


We call this the Autonomic Nervous System (or ANS for short). 

The Autonomic Nervous System

It includes both the Sympathetic and Parasympathetic divisions. These control our bodily functions that shift our physiology from the state of calm to panic (and vice versa).


Autonomic means automatic, so we can’t control this part of ourselves. It happens automatically, in God’s perfect design.


There are “healthy” and “unhealthy” states of our ANS*. Healthy is when we’re calm and carefree. Unhealthy is when we’re stressed and in survival mode.

*While we technically call these healthy and unhealthy, there is a beautiful purpose for the unhealthy states. They are our survival instincts that keep us alive – God’s abundant gift to us in this cursed world. What makes them unhealthy is when we’re safe and don’t need to be in them, but are. This is what we call mental dysfunction and is where our stress and disorders live.

Healthy States of the Autonomic Nervous System

In their healthy states, the ANS divisions are responsible for:



    • Rest and Digest (peace, calm)


    • Movement and Exercise (motivation, excitement)


These states are considered a Regulated Nervous System.

Diagram of the anatomy of the Autonomic Nervous System in the state of Rest & Digest, and all the organ and bodily system functions in this state.

The diagram shows the bodily functions of the state of Rest and Digest.

Diagram of the anatomy of the Autonomic Nervous System in the state of Fight or Flight, and all the organ and bodily system functions in this state.

Unhealthy States of the Autonomic Nervous System

In their unhealthy states, the ANS divisions are responsible for:



    • Freeze (shutdown, numb, depression)


    • Fight or Flight (bad stress, anxiety, panic)


These states are considered a Dysregulated Nervous System.

The diagram shows the bodily functions of the state of Fight or Flight.

The Vagus Nerve

In recent decades, psychologists have begun to discovered how this all happens within us. It’s through a nerve called the vagus nerve.


It’s the main nerve running from our brains to our guts. This makes sense when you consider that our digestive function is a huge part of our calm and stress states. Rest & Digest vs. Fight, Flight, Freeze (no digestion). (🤯 mind blown)

Anatomy of the Vagus Nerve

Our brains have 12 cranial nerves that run from the base of our brains through the rest of your bodies. This is how our brains (our operating systems) run our bodies (the machines doing the work).


These cranial nerves exist to provide information to our brains about the world around us. This information helps our brains determine if we’re safe or not.


From that determination, our brains tell our nervous systems whether to be calm (Rest & Digest) or panicked (Stress).


This information includes other people’s facial expressions (ie. non-verbal communication), as well as everything we hear, see and smell.

Diagram of the anatomy of the Vagus Nerve, the main nerve of the nervous system, and all the organ and bodily system functions that it is responsible for. It's the main nerve responsible for our stress.

Sounds kind of wild right? But it’s this information that helps our brains determine whether or not we’re safe or in danger.


Now, this vagus nerve (the 10th Cranial Nerve), runs from our brains down to your guts. It connects multiple organs to our brains, including:

    • Heart
    • Lungs
    • Eyes
    • Digestive System
    • Immune
    • Reproductive System


Sound familiar? Scroll back up and look at those diagrams of Healthy and Unhealthy states. Every organ or bodily system that changes when we’re calm or stressed is included in this. Our vagus nerves are the nerves in our ANS that do the communication with our bodies.

Pretty cool huh? What a discovery in psychology!


So when you’re calm, you can thank your vagus nerve for helping you be in that state. And when you’re stressed, you can ask God to help bring peace to your vagus nerve.


I actually do this. I pray for the Holy Spirit to regulate my nervous system, and help me come back to the state of Rest & Digest. Kind of like when I pray for the Him to fill me with His fruits (listing them individually).

Overwhelmed With All This Science?

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, deep breaths love. Science can be a bit heady at times, but it has a such a beautiful benefit in helping us live and rest in Jesus’ peace.


If you’re ready for the techniques to just help you get to the peace, you can dive in right here.

Here’s to coming back to the state of peace and rest, the peace of Jesus and the woman God designed you to be.


You deserve that

   – L aura