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  • Writer's pictureKarla Johanna Schaeffer

Stimulate your Vagus Nerve to Reduce Stress and Anxiety

The vagus nerve is a miracle. It is connected to almost all of our organs and has a great influence on our health and psyche.

The vagus nerve is a 'nerve costume', or literally the largest nerve in the body. It starts at the brain stem, in fact the center of the vagus nerve is in our brain, from there it travels through the neck, then over the ears and continues by connecting organs in the chest and abdomen.

Vagus is Latin and means "wandering". And indeed, it spreads like a fan throughout our body and has a particularly strong influence on your heart, lungs, stomach and intestines.

It affects your breathing, your digestion and also your heart rate.

The vagus nerve plays a role in transmitting information about the body to the brain.

And because it regulates so many functions - heart, lungs, liver, stomach and intestines - a large part of our body gets out of balance when we feel anxiety.

When we stimulate and thereby activate the vagus nerve, many studies show that symptoms such as depression and anxiety are reduced.

So the activated vagus nerve can have an absolutely healing effect. It gives us new energy, gives strength and a feeling of safety.

For a long time it was considered that we cannot influence its action. But new research now shows the opposite: we can activate it specifically and thus feel more balanced in the long term.

Think for a moment about all the situations in which you feel fear and about everything that causes discomfort, aversion or panic inside you.

When we analyze these moments, we notice how our stomach or intestines begin to suffer with us.

These feelings are immediately registered by the vagus nerve. It sends a clear message to the brain, namely: I register a threat.

And then the body starts to set everything in motion to be able to cope with this perceived danger. Stress hormones, tension, everything is activated to escape a 'dangerous' or 'threatening' situation, which puts us in a state to be able to fight or flee from it. This activation of the survival mode in the long run is very exhausting for the body and at some point the body is so weakened that it reacts with illness.

In many cases inflammation in the body is the reaction to stress. And that is why reducing stress responses in the nervous system and body can also reduce inflammation and cure disease.

There are several ways to stimulate or activate the vagus nerve that we can all easily use for ourselves.

Any acute exposure to the cold increases the activation of the vagus nerve. You can give yourself a cold face bath, you can take a cold shower and especially well works the interaction of cold and hot, a sauna followed by a cold shower for example.

With cold water you boost your metabolism, you automatically get more energy, you feel refreshed, your thyroid is activated, you become aware of your body again because it triggers body sensations and you boost your immune system.

Singing, humming and gargling stimulates your vagus nerve and can thereby reduce your stress level because the vagus nerve is also connected to the throat and is stimulated by vibration. For example singing more in the shower stimulates the vagus nerve and is good for you. It has also been researched that singing increases oxytocin, the happy hormone.

Singing can help as an improvement for a number of conditions, including depression, anxiety and bowel problems.

And, of course deep and calming abdominal breathing.

Calm, and steady abdominal breathing can significantly reduce inner tension, restlessness, stress and anxiety in a very short time.

Try to breathe deeply and consciously through your nose into your belly throughout the day, count how many seconds it takes you to breathe in and out. Try to lengthen your breath more and more - without getting the feeling of shortness of breath.

Imagine that you have a balloon in your belly that stretches in all four directions when you breathe in, to the front, to both sides and to the back.

It is a good idea to do this for 3 minutes at a time throughout the day.

Yoga increases the activity of the vagus nerve.

Massages, even foot massages, also stimulate the vagus nerve.

And laughter activates the vagus nerve. Laughter is the best medicine, after all :)

There is still a lot about the vagus nerve that science does not understand. But more and more insights are being revealed and new, more effective ways to relieve and heal pain, inflammation, anxiety, and disease are being researched.

Many of these simple actions mentioned provide a sense of calm and comfort. And each works like magic because it activates a complicated nervous system that connects the brain to the heart, the gut, the immune system and many other organs. We call this system the vagus nerve.

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