Your Secret Weapon to Combat Stress in Everyday Life

in #stemsocial6 months ago (edited)

The Vagus Nerve: Defender and Protector of the Human Body

The current pandemic has impacted the entire world and for many it has increased stress in numerous aspects of their lives. Stressful situations don't always have to negatively affect our body and mind though. We can encourage our bodies to relax by stimulating the nervous system, especially the vagus nerve. This leads to lifelong improvements in pain management, well-being and resilience against many types of stressors. The Covid-19 Pandemic is a Paradoxical Challenge to Our Nervous System: A Polyvagal Perspective

"Stress can affect your physical and mental health, so finding ways to manage should be a priority. There are techniques we can use to help manage stress, boost healing, decrease pain, and regulate our nervous system for a decreased stress response." - The Vagus Nerve: Your Secret Weapon in Fighting Stress

This post will help guide you through several modalities that Natural Medicine and Science have discovered to improve the function of this vital protector of mind and body. I highly recommend following all the links I have shared here. Such a wealth of information related to natural healing of the human body.

Neuroanatomy, Cranial Nerve 10 - Vagus Nerve

I've been very interested in the tenth cranial nerve for quite some time now. My oldest daughter, now 28, had a very sensitive vagus nerve. She has experienced the vasovagal reaction many times throughout her life, beginning at age 7. The first time it happened, she was shopping with my mother. At that age, she was a really rambunctious child and was playing in the clothing racks. One of the metal racks scraped up against her spine and she passed out. When she had her ears pierced, had someone play with her hair, got her finger pricked, or received massage, she would lose consciousness. This response can happen for different reasons which include certain chemicals, noises, scary situations, and the sight of blood that can all elicit a reaction known as vasovagal syncope. She hasn't experienced this reaction in a long time, but she is always cautious.

Vasovagal Syncope – Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

"When the vagus nerve is overstimulated, the body's blood vessels dilate, especially those in the lower extremities, and the heart temporarily slows down. The brain is deprived of oxygen, causing the patient to lose consciousness." - Is Your Patient Having a Vasovagal Reaction?

The Vagus Nerve: Anatomy and Function

"The vagus nerve represents the main component of the parasympathetic nervous system, which oversees a vast array of crucial bodily functions, including control of mood, immune response, digestion, and heart rate. It establishes one of the connections between the brain and the gastrointestinal tract and sends information about the state of the inner organs to the brain via afferent fibers." - Vagus Nerve as Modulator of the Brain–Gut Axis in Psychiatric and Inflammatory Disorders

"The parasympathetic nervous system is a subdivision of the autonomic nervous system (ANS) which regulates bodily functions which are outside of voluntary control, therefore being automatic." - Parasympathetic Nervous System Functions

The vagus nerve is the longest and one of the most important nerves in the human body. The word "vagus" translates as “wanderer” in Latin, which perfectly illustrates how this nerve wanders all over the body and reaches our vital organs. Natural Medicine, along with Medical Science, has been captivated on finding ways to heal and strengthen this critical nerve.

Methods for Stimulating and Strengthening the Vagus Nerve

Just Breathe

My most favorite modality for strengthening the vagus nerve is breathwork. Breathing exercises can help shift your focus away from pain and stress. Breathing more slowly, deep from your belly and exhaling longer that you inhale can help relieve pain and stress. It is the exhale that induces the feeling of relaxation.

Alternate nostril breathing is a variation known as Nadi Shodhana Pranayama in Sanskrit.

Additional ways to strengthen the vagus nerve include:

  1. Gargling, humming, chanting or singing loudly activates our vocal cords which gently stimulates the vagus nerve. Exercises to tone the vagus nerve
  2. Massage, especially foot massage, is amazing! Gentle or vigorous touch can both help restore the vagus nerve.
  3. Cold exposure can lower your sympathetic “fight or flight” response if you expose yourself on a regular basis. The next time you shower, turn the water to cool for the last 30 seconds and see how you feel. Try getting outside more in the winter.
  4. Eating fiber rich foods can help stimulate vagus nerve impulses to the brain which relaxes gut peristalsis and makes us feel full after meals.
  5. Mediation, Yoga and Tai Chi all help calm the body and mind to help tone the vagus nerve. Yoga Therapy and Polyvagal Theory
  6. Probiotics help keep the gut happy. There is evidence that gut bacteria has a beneficial effect on overall health by strengthening the gut-brain interactions.
  7. Omega-3 fatty acids, primarily found in fish, are necessary for normal electrical function of your brain and nervous system. Our body does not produce these essential fats and must be obtained through the diet. The 7 Best Plant Sources of Omega-3 Fatty Acids
  8. Gratitude journaling and spending time in nature can both bring about positive emotions, which can increase vagal tone.
  9. Laughter IS the best medicine! Socializing and having a good belly laugh lifts your mood, boosts your immune system and sends impulses to the vagus nerve for whole body relaxation. Laugh!!!
  10. Last but not least, EXERCISE. Swimming, walking, hiking, running, lifting weights, pilates, and high-intensity interval training are all acceptable forms of exercise. Exercise increases growth hormone in the brain and may help reverse cognitive decline. The Benefits of Hiking

Whatever you do... KEEP MOVING!

Sukie Baxter of Whole Body Revolution describes how to reset the vagus nerve.

My daughter learned to tell others about her sensitivity so they wouldn't freak-out if she passed out. She practices many of these techniques today and is one of the strongest, happiest humans I know :)

Be happy, healthy and whole by taking time for yourself. Most, if not all, of these practices are simple enough to implement into any lifestyle. You are worth it!!!

PEACE BE WITH YOU ALWAYS 😇

Sources:

  1. The Covid-19 Pandemic is a Paradoxical Challenge to Our Nervous System: A Polyvagal Perspective

  2. The vagus nerve: your secret weapon in fighting stress

  3. Neuroanatomy, Cranial Nerve 10 (Vagus Nerve)

  4. Vasovagal Syncope: Causes and Treatment

  5. Is your patient having a vasovagal reaction?

  6. Vagus Nerve as Modulator of the Brain–Gut Axis in Psychiatric and Inflammatory Disorders

  7. Parasympathetic Nervous System Functions

  8. 12 VAGUS NERVE EXERCISES TO IMPROVE HEALTH

  9. Yoga Therapy and Polyvagal Theory: The Convergence of Traditional Wisdom and Contemporary Neuroscience for Self-Regulation and Resilience

  10. The 7 Best Plant Sources of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

  11. Update: Laughter: The Best Medicine?

  12. Prescription: Laughter! … It’s the Antidote to Stress

  13. Hiking: A Low-Cost, Accessible Intervention to Promote Health Benefits

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