And Develop a Healthy Stress Response
Learn to calm yourself down
In previous articles, we’ve talked about the sympathetic nervous system, which is what produces the “fight or flight” response. Today, we’re going to highlight the vagus nerve.
The vagus nerve is heavily involved in the parasympathetic nervous system or the “rest and digest” response.
PREVIOUS ARTICLES IN THIS SERIES:
Article 1: Your Health and Wellness – It’s All Connected
Article 2: The Brain Gut Connection
Article 3: Stress and Overall Wellbeing
Article 4: 6 Ways to Start Practicing Sleep Hygiene
For a lot of us, stress has become like background noise.
Sometimes it’s hard to even tell that you’re stressed, it’s so ever-present in daily life. The connection between stress and gut problems is simple.
When you eat food, attention is turned toward digestion and extraction of nutrients. When you are stressed, attention is pulled away from digestion and absorption of nutrients. If you are stressed all of the time, you never get a chance to digest your food or extract and absorb nutrients properly.
When your body feels stress, digestion is affected because stress slows the release of digestive enzymes and decreases production of stomach acid, which is essential for breaking down food. Additionally, oxygen and blood are directed away from digestion toward the brain and muscles.
When you are not feeling stressed, your body is allowed to rest and digest, focusing on:
- Digestion and absorption of nutrients
- Raising energy levels
- Salivation to aid digestion
- Creation of waste
Develop a Healthy Stress Response
The vagus nerve is involved in many bodily functions. When it’s stimulated, it increases the vagal tone, resulting in slower breathing and heart rate, and a more regulated nervous system.
And it doesn’t stop there, the vagus nerve is also involved in mental health.
When stimulated, the vagus nerve can help to better regulate your emotions, allowing you to experience more empathy, compassion, a sense of calm, and can even help with navigating life’s challenges overall with more ease.
According to Forbes, the vagus nerve impacts how you develop a healthy stress response and become more resilient. For these reasons, improving your vagal tone has many benefits.
6 Ways to Stimulate Your Vagus Nerve
Here are a few ways to stimulate your vagus nerve and improve your vagal tone.
- Humming, gargling, and singing all activate our vocal cords, which in turn stimulate the vagus nerve.
- Meditation, yoga, chanting, or prayer
- Take a cold shower daily or try flipping the water to cold for 1-2 minutes at the end of your shower.
- Laugh with friends, family, or others in your community.
- Breath work, such as alternate nostril breathing
- Sleeping on your right side or massaging the back side of your ears.
As always, consult with your medical provider before making any changes or if you develop new symptoms.
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