The Healing Power of Your Vagus Nerve
Understanding the functions of the vagus nerve — and how you can stimulate it — can impact your mental and physical health for the better. Here’s what you need to know about how the largest nerve in your body affects anxiety, the trauma response and the overall mind-body connection.
Our Central Nervous System (CNS) is made up of our brain and spinal cord. Our Peripheral Nervous System (PNS) is made up of nerves which connect our brain and spinal cord to the rest of our body. Our Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) is a complex network of neurons that control and regulate our body’s processes, influencing the activity of our internal organs, regulating and maintaining homeostasis.
Homeostasis refers to stabilising and balancing the conditions inside our body, for example, not too hot, not too cold, not too fast and not too slow. Regulating homeostasis including:
- Body Temperature
- Blood pressure
- Heart rate
- Blood glucose levels
- Blood acidity levels
- Water and electrolytes
Then there are 2 parts to our Autonomic Nervous System involved with bringing us to homeostasis.
Our Sympathetic Nervous System is made up of fight, flight and freeze response. And our Para-sympathetic Nervous System is made up of rest, digest, recovery and relaxation.
There is a time and place for each one. Sometimes we need to respond quickly to stimuli. Going back through our history we needed to kick in to fight response to give us energy to chase and catch animals so we could eat and survive. Sometimes we needed to respond with flight to quickly get away from wild animals so we didn’t become their dinner.
Then we would relax, eat, digest, sleep, recharge and start the next day.
In modern living, the technology age is moving much faster than evolution and we can find ourselves stuck in fight/flight response when we are stuck in traffic, sitting in a board meeting at work, pressure from our boss to meet deadlines, chasing dollars to survive.
So many people experience high stress, anxiety, panic and feel like their bodies are holding that tension/stress/ negative emotion trapped in their nervous system and body organs. Resulting in burnout, overwhelm, insomnia, muscle pain… Studies have found many health problems caused by stress or worsened by stress including heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, depression, gastrointestinal problems, mental health conditions, high blood pressure, hypertension and…
Vagus Nerve to the rescue !
Our Vagus Nerve is one of our twelve cranial nerves in our body and is the main nerve responsible for bringing us to Para-sympathetic rest, digest, recovery and relaxation. Our Vagus is the longest nerve of our autonomic nervous system and comprises both sensory and motor fibres.
With the help of our vagus nerve activation, we can process and manage stress more easily, release trauma which has been trapped and stored in our body, regulate our emotions, decrease pain both physical and emotion, gain more control over our cognition, feel safe, calm and at peace.
My go to therapy techniques I use to help my clients release stress, calm anxiety and stimulate the vagus nerve is a mixture of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) to work with the connection between our thoughts, feelings, emotions and behaviours. Hypnotherapy to find underlying issues that may be causing stress hidden in the subconscious mind below the level of our conscious awareness to bring them in to awareness to help, reframe, heal and release trauma from past experience or internal perceptions. Qigong exercises to stretch and stimulate the Para-sympathetic Nervous System – Mentally focused intention to make shifts internally. Breathing exercises to make quick shifts from stress to calm and to incorporate within the Hypnotherapy and Qigong practice. Resulting in feeling calm, safe and relaxed.
When we activate our vagus nerve it stimulates parts of our brain in the frontal lobe, neo-cortex responsible for creativity, high cognition and complex decision making.
When we are in Sympathetic Nervous System we are accessing parts of our brain related to primal instinct, fear, fight and flight response. Reptilian brain activation.
Having the tools to improve your overall well-being is not only empowering, but it also allows you to regulate your internal environment when the external environment is uncontrolled.