Going through the "Vagus" Strip: Why the Vagus Nerve is essential to Mental Health

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Step Up For Mental Health @ Article: Exploring the Vagus Strip

What's This “Vagus Strip” About?

The vagus nerve is more than a nerve that catches and releases signals throughout the body – it’s a nerve that we can in fact control, and one that plays a large role in how we feel. The vagus nerve is among the cranial nerves and it is comprised of a pair of nerves that travel through the body, running in the neck, through the chest, and all sorts of way right down to the digestive tract.

This nerve is at work once we interact with others, whether we're feeling calm and relaxed or nervous and stressed. When we’re relaxed, the vagus nerve keeps our heartbeat down and our digestive system working. When our comfort turns into discomfort or conflict, our fight-or-flight system may get activated, and we may feel our heart pound, our breath quicken, and our focus become fuzzy. The vagus nerve then attempts to combat these responses.

When we believe there is no way to avoid it, the lowest area of the vagus nerve, that is under our diaphragm, gets activated. Our breathing and heart rate may slow down so much that our other bodily functions give up. When the conflict is emotional, we might mentally quit and tell ourselves that we are only a victim, which can contribute to learned helplessness.

One of the greatest things we can do to live in is to continuously strengthen the vagus nerve with exercises. Strengthening the organs connected to the vagus nerve will help us balance our emotions, breathing, heartbeat, and gut health. These exercises can remind us that we don't have to go right into the sympathetic nervous system’s fight-or-flight mode. Instead, we are able to try to make use of our parasympathetic central nervous system, our “rest-and-digest” mode controlled through the vagus nerve.

How Can We Conserve the “Vagus Strip”?

*Note: If the following activities may be triggering for you personally, feel free to skip them. Just like yoga poses, there is no exercise that works for everyone.

  1. Yawn: Voluntarily yawning from time to time can help us feel more calm and alert, which will help us respond to conflict in a safe, communicative, and clear way. Yawning alone is not its very own yoga practice and something can overdo the experience by slowing your body down an excessive amount of.
  2. Sing/read aloud: Vocalizing brings forward vibrations that stimulate the vagus nerve, which can relax our nervous system.
  3. Belly breathing: Deep breathing from the belly instead of just the chest or the shoulders allows us to decelerate and finish each part of the breath: the inhale, pause, and exhale. Lying on your belly is the best way to find natural movement of the diaphragm. If not comfortable, it's possible to also sit cross-legged using their hips perched greater than your legs for stability. Permit the breath to possess a longer exhale. For example, inhale for just two seconds and then exhale for 4 seconds.
  4. Try laughter exercises: Repeat the chant “Ho-Ho, Ha-Ha Ha.” Our body doesn't be aware of distinction between real laughter and simply making laughing sounds. Fake laughter and genuine laughter have the advantages of causing us to be feel good, relaxed, and safe. The chant could be combined with raising arms, clapping, and dancing.
  5. Be mindful of your diet plan: A wholesome gut results in a healthier mind! We are able to reduce inflammation within our body by cutting down on sugar, dairy, and meat. With less inflammation or bloating, we may be able to breathe easier making better decisions when confronted with conflict and relationships.

The Takeaway from Vagus

You'll observe that we do not have to travel, spend some money, or obtain a fancy degree to get tools that will help us live better lives. We walk with them every day. The activities above can keep us from sinking into fight-or-flight and learned helplessness. When we normally storm away during an emotional conflict with ourselves varieties, we are able to attempt to alter the energy of anger into the energy of peace with a few long breaths, which can help us stay present and sort out the conflict. Our body feels conflict nearly as much as our mind, which may be noticed through irregular breathing or stomachaches.

Of course, you will find circumstances beyond our control in which medication may help for vagus nerve disorders or other health problems. There is however always room for holistic health, especially when it's right underneath our fingertips in the rising belly.