The Vagus Nerve is the tenth cranial nerve and the longest and most powerful of all nerves in the body. The beneficial supports f the vagus nerve are that it connects the brain to the gut, it assists in memory recall, reduces systemic inflammation in the body, provides regulation of heart and breathing rate and the relaxation response in the body. The vagus nerve controls your parasympathetic nervous system which is the body’s ability to relax or a common term, “rest and digest”. The vagus nerve is the body’s secret weapon when it comes to fighting stress in the body. How can you tap into this secret weapon and reap the beneficial mental and physical benefits it offers?
If you are experiencing a great deal of stress or pain in your daily life, you may find it harder to feel the benefits the vagus nerve has over the body. When the body is experiencing pain and stress it is being governed by our sympathetic nervous system or our “fight, flight or freeze” response. We can experience depression, anxiety, insomnia, slow digestion, heart palpations, and the inability to relax when our sympathetic nervous system is running the show. It is helpful to find a balance for our nervous system because both our “rest and digest “ and our ”fight, flight or freeze” responses are beneficial and necessary to keep us safe and healthy in our daily lives.
One very simple way to engage the vagus nerve and share its many benefits with your body is to begin to slow down your breathing and deliberately begin to breath in a slow and controlled way focusing on both your in breath and out breath. Research has shown that just this small shift can immediately lower your heart rate and begin to bring your relaxation response back on board.
The next time you feel the stressors of life creeping in or you begin to notice discomfort in your body, try pausing and taking several slow intentional breaths and see if you notice a shift happen.