February 12, 2023

Vagus Nerve Anxiety

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The vagus nerve is the longest cranial nerve in the body that runs from the brainstem through the neck and into the chest and abdomen. It plays a vital role in the regulation of the body’s autonomic nervous system, which controls many unconscious body functions such as heart rate, breathing, and digestion. The vagus nerve helps to regulate the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for the body’s relaxation response and can influence how anxious or calm a person feels.

Several factors may impact the vagus nerve’s function, including chronic stress, inflammation, poor sleep, and a sedentary lifestyle. These factors can impair its ability to function correctly and may result in symptoms such as anxiety, depression, and digestive issues.

Some exercises and techniques that can help stimulate the vagus nerve include:

  • Deep breathing: Inhale deeply through the nose and exhale slowly through the mouth for a count of 5-6 seconds. Repeat for several minutes.
  • Singing, chanting, or humming: These vocal exercises can stimulate the muscles in the back of the throat, which can activate the vagus nerve.
  • Cold exposure: Exposing the body to cold water or air can trigger a “fight or flight” response, followed by a “rest and digest” response that activates the vagus nerve.
  • Yoga and Tai Chi: These mind-body practices involve deep breathing, gentle movements, and meditation, which can help to stimulate the vagus nerve.
  • Gargling: Gargling with water can stimulate the muscles in the back of the throat, which can activate the vagus nerve.

To do these exercises or techniques, find a quiet, comfortable place where you won’t be disturbed. Try to focus on your breath or the sensations in your body as you do them. Start with just a few minutes each day and gradually increase the time as you feel comfortable. Remember, these exercises are not a substitute for professional medical advice and care, so if you find yourself struggling with anxiety, reach out today. We’re here to help.