Welcome to the age of information overload! Between social media, desk jobs, and constant multitasking, it’s easy to find yourself feeling overwhelmed and frazzled. But while all this connection and commotion is great for staying informed—it can wreak havoc on you mentally and physically if you don’t take steps to balance your nervous system.
We all feel the everyday pressures that life brings, and we call it stress. Although some stress is good, when it gets too much to handle, it will take a toll on your health. An increase in stress activates your sympathetic (“fight-or-flight”) nervous system. When this system is activated, your body is focused solely on survival and short term protection. A great example of when the sympathetic nervous system is activated is if you were being chased by a tiger. Your body would respond by increasing blood flow to the muscles, decreasing digestive function, breathing faster and more shallowly, increasing blood pressure, a tightening of the calf and buttock muscles, and rounding the shoulders and forward movement of the head (to name a few).
The likelihood of you needing to run away from a tiger is slim. However, modern day life challenges can create this same effect. The main difference now is that the challenges are constant. As a society, we are overly stressed due to social media, jobs we don’t like, financial struggles, relationship struggles, and much more. Fortunately there are several ways you can help decrease this sympathetic nervous system activity that are natural, sustainable, and cost-effective! The main one we are going to discuss is Vagus Nerve stimulation.
What is the Vagus Nerve?
The Vagus Nerve is the longest cranial nerve in your body. Being a cranial nerve means it is part of the parasympathetic nervous system. In fact, it is a major component in the parasympathetic nervous system. It connects to both the brain and body, and its main job is to keep your body in balance. It helps regulate your heart rate, digestion, immune system, metabolism, breathing, speech, eye movement and more! When we deal with an overload of stress, and our sympathetic nervous system is overactive, it’s essential that we do something to help balance the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems. One of the easiest things to do is to stimulate this Vagus Nerve.
How Can You Stimulate the Vagus Nerve?
Thankfully, there are several ways you can stimulate your Vagus nerve to help bring balance back to your body:
- Exercise – Exercise is a great way to stimulate the vagus nerve and reduce overall stress levels. When you exercise, it releases endorphins which can help reduce stress, regulate emotions and improve your mood
- Breathing Exercises – Practicing breathing exercises like 4-7-8 or box breathing has been shown to be effective in stimulating the vagus nerve. When you practice deep breathing, it helps activate the parasympathetic nervous system which helps bring balance to your body.
- Humming or Singing – Research has shown that humming or singing can help stimulate the vagus nerve and reduce stress. It causes a vibration throughout your vocal cords, which helps stimulate the vagus nerve as it passes through the neck.
- Cold Therapy – Cold therapy or cryotherapy is another great way to stimulate the vagus nerve and bring balance back to your body. Cold showers, ice baths, and even cold compresses have all been found to be effective in stimulating the vagus nerve and reducing stress levels.
- Meditation – Regular meditation has been proven to help stimulate the vagus nerve and reduce overall stress levels. When you meditate on a regular basis, it helps promote relaxation and balance in your body.
- Chiropractic Care – Chiropractic care is also a great way to help stimulate the vagus nerve. The neck, where the Vagus nerve is located, can be adjusted easily and safely by a chiropractor to help stimulate the nerve.
These are just a few ways that you can stimulate your Vagus nerve and reduce stress levels. It’s important to remember that while these methods can be incredibly helpful, it’s also important to make sure you are taking care of yourself in other ways as well. Make sure you are eating a balanced diet, getting enough sleep, staying hydrated, and making time for self-care and relaxation. Taking the time to take care of your physical and mental health can have a profound effect on your overall well being. So don’t forget to make time for yourself! Your body will thank you!