Is there really a way that we can tap into our internal system and calm ourselves down, create more balance in our minds and relax our fight or flight system? And what if we could actually do this for our kids too? Sounds heavenly right? These are some of the things that stimulating our Vagus Nerve can affect.
Our Vagus Nerve runs from our brain to our gut. It can affect digestion, stress, immune system, mood, function, and more. It helps regulate our “automatic” systems (A.K.A. our parasympathetic system such as heartbeat, eyesight, breath, and more.) It sends messages to our brain regarding if we are hungry, happy, stressed, or in a funky mood, and it helps dictate the response that our bodies have to these messages. If our vagus nerve is not working properly, we may experience numerous symptoms some of which include anxiety, depression, erratic behavior, increased blood pressure, and gut discomfort.
Without going into too much more of the science, it is clear that we want to prioritize keeping a well functioning vagus nerve. So how do we do that? A few things that you can do on a regular basis, that appear to stimulate your vagus nerve … kind of like exercising a muscle to keep it healthy… include:
- Gargling – this one is easy enough
- Cold Exposure – some people do this with a cold plunge but I have heard that when you are in the shower you can have 30 seconds freezing cold water and then 30 seconds of warm water, then cold again and that switching between these a few times in a row can stimulate vagus nerve function.
- Deep breathing, especially when it is nasal breathing – think about sealing your lips and only breathing slowly and deeply through your nose.
- Yoga – this is something that we all seem to need more of anyways.
- Singing or humming – I love to do this one in the shower.
- Laughing – I need more of this in my life no matter what so if this helps my vagus nerve, hooray!
- Massage – yes please.
But what about when you are in a stressful situation or when your kids are experiencing erratic behavior right when you need them to be calm? I recently came across a technique suggested by Vibrant Blue Oils to stimulate your parasympathetic state by placing oils on the vagus nerve (behind the earlobe on the mastoid bone.) This technique seems to be very effective to give us immediate stimulation to calm our vagus nerve and bring us out of a state of stress and more into a state of calm.
If you are looking to do additional reading on your vagus nerve function, you may enjoy the book Accessing the Healing Power of the Vagus Nerve.