05 Feb Keeping Calm and Stimulating your Vagus Nerve
5 Feb 2018
Keeping calm and stimulating your what? Your vagus nerve! It’s an important nerve in your body that stems from your brain all the way down into your abdomen. It plays a part in all sorts of functions, from regulating your heart rate to digesting your food.
In fact, the vagus nerve runs your parasympathetic nervous system (your body’s own personal peace guru, or the ‘rest and digest’ system), signalling a sense of safety and calm to your body and mind. This system runs in opposition to the sympathetic, or ‘fight or flight’ nervous system. Prolonged activation of this fight or flight system can result in various health effects. These include decreased immunity, digestive issues, muscle wastage and increased risk of heart disease.
One of the best things you can do to encourage your body to be in the rest and digest stage more often is to stimulate your vagus nerve. The most important thing is to create space and time to be in your life. Get rid of the need to constantly do. For many of us this has become quite a challenge! If you feel you don’t have the time or simply don’t enjoy just sitting in stillness, it’s time to reassess and get some balance. Here are our top tips to support your vagus nerve and a more peaceful life.
Sing, hum, chant and gargle
Your vagus nerve is connected to your vocal cords and the muscles at the back of your throat. These are activated when you sing, hum, chant or gargle. Introduce these activities in your daily life – sing or hum in the shower, chant during meditation, and gargle with water after brushing your teeth.
Put your heart above your head
Try these yoga poses – child’s pose, forward fold, downward facing dog.
Deep slow breathing
There are many breathing techniques. One is diaphragmatic breathing. Place your hands on your lower belly or ribs and feel them expand and contract as you inhale and exhale. Extend your exhales longer than your inhales – inhale for 1 count, exhale for 2 counts, then shortly pause before inhaling again.
There are also various types of meditation, here are a few ones to try.
Mindfulness – awareness to your internal thoughts, emotions and sensations without cognitive reconstruction or judgement.
Focused attention – fix your attention on an object, word, mantra or idea, redirect back there when your mind wanders. Try watching a candle or thinking words like ‘relax’ or ‘soften’ with each exhale.
Moving meditation – Hatha yoga, tai chi, mindful cleaning, mindful walking.
Imagery – picture a peaceful place, your safe haven.
Music – let your mind flow with calm music.
Find and be social support
Confide in friends or family, talk to a therapist, hug (and hug a lot), help others, volunteer, build your own community.
Express your emotions
Do not, repeat, do not bottle up your emotions. Cry your heart out. Scream (into a pillow if need be). Write in a journal. Keep a gratitude list (list 3 things daily that you’re grateful for – even if all you can think of is that you have shoes on your feet). Use positive affirmations. Get creative with drawing/singing/dancing etc. And get in touch with your inner child!
Get some fun into your life
You know what tickles your funny bone – do whatever this is! Do more things you enjoy, just because. And this is a prescription!
If you’d like some more support about how to introduce more calm into your life, reduce stress or anxiety, please get in contact with us or book an appointment here.