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Introducing the Vagus Nerve: Your 1-Minute Hack to Reducing Stress Today

by | Jun 14, 2024 | Wellness & Lifestyle | 0 comments

If you’re like me, when someone says, “Stop being stressed,” you start to stress about being stressed. It’s like you have a new task added to your already busy schedule....

If you’re like me, when someone says, “Stop being stressed,” you start to stress about being stressed. It’s like you have a new task added to your already busy schedule. You’re stressing about your to-do list, and now on that list is to “stop being stressed.”

What can you do about it?

I present to you the vagus nerve. It’s the hack you need to reduce stress and can take as little as a minute a day. 

Let’s take a look.

What is the vagus nerve?

I first discovered the vagus nerve after exploring Health with Holland’s (@healthwithholland) Instagram page.1 I heard she gave good tips for women to balance their hormones and quickly noticed that she talked about the importance of the vagus nerve and its role in reducing stress.

The girl behind the account, Becca Holland, is a health coach. She talks about stress being one of the main culprits of hormone imbalance. Stress is also devastating to health. It disrupts digestion and sleep and causes anxiety. 

That’s where the vagus nerve comes in. You can stimulate the vagus nerve, which soothes the parasynthetic nervous system and helps ease stress.

The vagus nerve oversees many of our main functions—like our heart rate, breathing, and digestion.2 Some experts say the vagus nerve plays a part in connecting the gut and the brain. If the brain and the gut don’t connect well, there could be issues like obesity and depression.

When we’re stressed, though, our body can negate some essential functions to deal with the perceived threat. While this can be useful in life-or-death situations, it’s not so helpful when we’re dealing with day-to-day stress. But, our body feels as though it’s in fight-or-flight mode, even though there’s no actual threat.

That’s why we must enter a rest and digest mode so the body feels safe to complete necessary functions. However, if you’re like any normal person and told you shouldn’t be stressed, you begin to stress about being stressed. The good news? You can activate your parasympathetic nervous system by stimulating the vagus nerve.3

How to activate the vagus nerve

Here are a few exercises you can do to stimulate the vagus nerve and help reduce stress. These are a couple of options, and you could start by picking one a day to do. You can also find more options on @healthwithholland’s Instagram.

Looking side to side with deep breaths 

This move is excellent for relaxing right before bed. Start by taking deep breaths and slowly moving your head from side to side. Note if there’s any tension in your body. Then, interlace your fingers and place them behind your head, like you’re supporting your neck. Continue to face forward as you look to the one side of the room for thirty to sixty seconds. Look to the other side of the room for another thirty to sixty seconds. Do this until you yawn, sigh, or swallow. Watch this video for a visual.4

I can testify that this move works wonders!

Alternative nostril breathing

Get into a comfortable seated position with your back straight and shoulders relaxed. Take a few deep breaths to relax. Then, cover your left nostril and breathe deeply through your right. After the inhale, cover the right nostril and breathe deeply out the left side. Complete this for a couple of rounds. Check out this clip for more information.5

Knuckle squeeze 

Interlace your fingers together, but keep your fingers straight. Line up your fingers at the second knuckle and squeeze them for about a minute. Let your body relax as you squeeze. Keep squeezing until you feel a yawn or sigh. Watch this video for a visual.6

Neck massage

Slowly massage your neck. Your vagus nerve is in your neck, and a massage can help stimulate it.7

Ear massage

The vagus nerve also connects through our ears, so massaging them can help stimulate it and relax the body.8

Humming

Humming is a great way to relax the body. If you can get your mind into a “flow” state, you can stop thinking about stressful things.9 You could also do this by getting engaged with something that gives your mind a break, like knitting, coloring, or cleaning.

Placing your legs against the wall

This one’s great if you have a little more time. Line your legs up against the wall with your back on the ground, almost like you’re sitting on the wall. You could do it for about 10-20 minutes to destress. I will warn you: get up cautiously because your legs will be numb! Here’s a clip for a visual.10

 

 

 

Closing Thoughts

These exercises are some practical and quick methods to reduce stress. I recommend finding ways to easily incorporate them into your day, like a neck massage when you first get up. Or look side to side and take deep breaths before going to bed. 

Tackling stress shouldn’t be stressful. It can even be as easy as taking deep breaths throughout the day. Minor adjustments like these can make a big difference in reducing day-to-day stress.

Sydney Good

Sydney Good

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