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What is the Vagus Nerve and How Can Calming it Lower Anxiety?

What is the Vagus Nerve and How Can Calming it Lower Anxiety?

The vagus nerve is the longest cranial nerve, extending from the brainstem to the abdomen. It connects multiple organs such as the heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, spleen, fertility organs, and pancreas. It also affects the neck, ears, and tongue. The parasympathetic nervous system is directly impacted by the vagus nerve. Low vagal tone can contribute to multiple disorders, including anxiety, intestinal issues, depression, and eating disorders. Find out how you can help tame the vagus nerve and help your anxiety.

Stimulation of Vagus Nerve

The vagus nerve connects the brain and body together. When it is stimulated, increased blood flow occurs. Activities that can stimulate the vagus nerve include:

  • Exercise
  • Chanting aloud
  • Prayer
  • Meditation
  • Deep diaphragmatic breathing
  • Laughter
  • Cold-water splashes to the face

Doing these exercises or activities can help calm the fight-or-flight response of the vagus nerve. Doing a clearing activity can reset the vagus nerve by loosening tension around it in the neck. Doing the following in order can be a helpful sequence to help you get started:

  • Place index finger and middle finger of right hand above navel, press right and inward
  • Take same two fingers and press in above your navel, then again to the left. Press in to the right, middle, and left (an inch above navel)
  • With other hand, simultaneously push pads of three fingers into scalp on top of the head (at the back), press fingers into middle of the scalp (top of head), then to front (above forehead)
  • Do the process simultaneously with one hand pressing joints just above the navel and other hand pressing on top of your head. Repeat three times, bring arms down to sides, closes eyes, and breathe

Your breath should become deeper, your jaw release, and neck feel looser as your shoulders move away from your ears.

Additional Tips

If you are trying the above sequence and it does not work or doesn’t feel right ot you, there are a few other ways to help stimulate the nerve and lower your anxiety:

  • Fear tap: fip a hand over so the palm faces down. With your other hand, take your fingers, and press back on the side of your hand, halfway between wrist and fingers, between ring finger and pinkie. Tap this area with two or three fingers for 30 to 60 seconds, breathing in through the nose, out through the mouth
  • Cat/cow stretch: yoga asana that can be done in a seated position. Exhale out, round the spine like a scared cat, tucking chin to chest. Inhale, open spine, and draw your heart forward with shoulder blades going back.

Give these exercises a try to see if it can calm your anxiety. Deep breathing and taking a moment to focus on the present can help you take you out of whatever is causing the anxiety and support you in thinking differently about it in the moment.

Serenity supports your journey to recovery with holistic, alternative practices that tie in with our programs and services designed to help you overcome addiction. If you are struggling with addiction, we will help you find what you need. Call us 24/7 at our toll-free number: 866-294-9401