The Vagus Nerve, Part 2: Fight or Flight
The last couple years have had an impact on all of our lives and, for many of us, have resulted in heightened levels of stress in numerous areas. Because stress may have a negative impact on both your physical and emotional health, finding ways to manage it should be a priority. We can use a variety of techniques to help manage stress, improve healing, reduce discomfort, and control our nervous system for a lower stress response.
Have you heard of the phrase "fight or flight?" When we are subjected to abrupt, intense stress, our bodies engage the fight or flight response, preparing us to run or fight. There is nowhere to go or hide in our regular experiences of stress, and the unpleasant circumstance is not easily overcome.
The body stays in high gear during periods of chronic high stress, with stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol flowing through the body. This wears down the body and mind, resulting in a slew of health issues like chronic pain, anxiety, mood swings, gut inflammation, and others.
The good news is that our bodies contain their own superpower that can assist with decreasing our fight or flight response.
The vagus nerve system acts as a counterbalance to the fight or flight system and can cause our bodies to relax. It is a cranial nerve that connects the brain to the rest of the body. The vagus nerve is an important component of how our bodies and minds work; without it, we wouldn't be able to do fundamental activities, and activating it can provide significant health benefits.
Deep, slow belly breathing is one of the most effective strategies to enhance the vagus nerve's healthy function. Breathing exercises might help you change your focus away from stress or pain. The human mind processes one thing at a time. You're not focused on the stressor if you concentrate on the rhythm of your breathing.
When we anticipate any type of stress, we tend to stop breathing and hold our breath. Breath holding triggers the fight/flight/freeze reaction, which can lead to increased pain, stiffness, anxiety, or fear. To practice deep breathing inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth remember to:
Additional techniques for stimulating the vagus nerve include:
We don't have to allow stressful situations to take a toll on our minds and bodies all the time. Our vagus nerve can be stimulated to signal to our bodies that it's time to relax and de-stress, resulting in long-term gains in mood, pain management, wellbeing, and resilience.
Curious about what effect this could have on you and your body? Please continue to follow our blog series and learn more. Schedule an appointment to invest in yourself with Rita, and make sure your body is the best it can be.
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