Meet Your Vagus Nerve
Hello I’m Rick Green and I want to know how to lower my anxiety and quickly let go of stressful upsets, rather than stew worry or simmer with resentment for hours or days weeks years some things forever.
I want to be able to calm myself anywhere at any time, quickly, whether I’m by myself or with others. Something that is free, without waiting for a doctor’s appointment, or a medication.
I want to find comfort without stuffing myself with comfort food, you know, burger and fries, the onion rings, the onion rings at this place they are, I don’t know what they put in the breading but it is just, it is, it’s comforting… focus… focus.
So the secret to releasing upset is to tap into the body’s natural de-stressing system, the vagus nerve, settle back for a minute and I’ll explain, maybe grab a drink or something to eat, a burger, fry, get the onion rings, the onion rings are so, so much better than fries.
So reducing anxiety, letting go of stress, bringing myself from frightened, anxious, or agitated, to quiet, in control, centered, from panicked to placid, this is a huge challenge for most of us, a quick search of our patreon chat rooms reveals over 300 posts about anxiety including a few by me, lots of stories about anxiety and as always helpful practices and suggestions, ways to become calm, at peace, but only three posts about the key element to every anti-anxiety practice the vagus nerve, yes your vagus nerve.
The Vagus Nerve
As you’ll see this network known as the parasympathetic nervous system connects your brain to all kinds of other organs, it is the good news network telling your wound up body and racing mind to chill, relax, it’s okay dude, well. You may not be familiar with the vagus nerve, you are doubtless familiar with its opposite number the body’s alarm system, the network that spreads the bad news commonly known as your fight or flight system, at the first sign of danger it tells you kill, or run.
Fight or Flight
Fight or flight is properly called the sympathetic nervous system and it’s instinctive and it was crucial for survival amongst early humans because they were dangerous times, and so this danger, danger, red alert, red alert, man your battle stations, or when they hit cows man your cattle stations is your sympathetic nervous system and it’s fast. The reason it’s fast like most of what makes up modern humans it gave an evolutionary advantage and got passed on.
The quicker you identify potential dangers the sooner you’re going to be running away while the caveman next to you is still wondering “is that a saber-toothed tiger or is that a bush?” The quickest reactors were more likely to avoid being devoured by a pack of hyenas and then survive and pass on their genes through. Ask your parents, they’ll explain what that is.
Survival of the Fittest
Survival of the fittest of course doesn’t mean strongest, a lot of people think it does, ask the dinosaurs, strongest is the best. Fittest means a fitting reaction, or fitting in, if Darwin meant physically fit well insects would be long gone and earth would be ruled by a coalition of lions, tigers, and bodybuilders. Your parasympathetic nervous system comes online once your brain decides okay there’s no more danger, the dangers passed, there’s no more threat. The parasympathetic system starts telling your body, okay dial it down, everybody relax, it’s just a shrub, you’re okay.
The Vagus Nerve is Two Nerves
Now the vagus nerve is actually two nerves and it’s about the longest nerve in your body, so when people say you got a lot of nerve it’s obvious they admire your vagus, that’s what I tell myself. This network tells your body to come off of DEFCON 4 and chillax, expunging the lingering stress hormones hopefully notice that like the fight or flight sympathetic system the parasympathetic system can send signals to your heart, lungs, stomach, intestines, among other organs down there. Speaking of which the vagus nerve is heavily involved in your stomach, and this stuff, the things that come after the long, you know.
It’s been nicknamed the rest and digest system, the unwind and dying, the grab a seed and heat, the focus, so your sympathetic system instantly blasts adrenaline and cortisol through your body so you can fight for your life, or run for your life, and that can save your life in the short term. Over the long term it can shorten your life, too much stress for too long a time can lead to burnout, combat fatigue, ptsd, those kind of things.
The adrenaline, cortisol and all these other stress chemicals, they’re hard on the body, it’s like putting rocket fuel in your car, yeah it goes really fast for a while and then the engine burns out.
Now because the sympathetic and the parasympathetic systems radiate outwards, your whole body is affected, my heart is racing, I can hardly breathe, I’ve got a terrible gut feeling, I was so scared, I almost darkened my dainties.
Your sympathetic system can go from zero to 100 in a fraction of a second, as long as it takes for a car to cut you off in traffic.
The parasympathetic system is slower, and it may need the rest of your trip to unjangle your jangled nerves as you talk yourself down about the guy who cut you off in traffic, well that guy, holy yeah, typical, yeah.
If the sympathetic nervous system is like an instant on off switch the parasympathetic is more like a dial, slowly dialling it down, gradually winding down and removing the bad chemicals, hopefully, but the stress chemicals can linger for a long time which explains why a year after that driver almost crashed into you you recalled the moment vividly but probably don’t remember any of the regular things that happened that week, like what you had for breakfast, you got married, whatever.
Even now years after some of those incidents if I think back about it, that one woman screaming at me and I just oh it all comes back and I start getting agitated, and cortisol, and adrenaline, and jaw-punching, and righteous, and hunched over, and I’m bumping into things because I’m all up here in my head, when the chemicals are coming it’s over, Rick let it go. My brain is triggering all of these reactions again in my body because I’m hanging on to it.
Improving Your Vagus Nerve
Here’s the good news, we can strengthen if that’s the right word our vagus nerve so that we calm down faster, and we handle stress better. You may have heard of the term good muscle tone, I haven’t obviously in years but still, just as you can improve your muscle tone you can improve your vagus tone. The research has revealed a lot of different ways to improve your vagus nerve thereby building emotional resiliency and physio, physiologic, physical.
Simple Ways to Improve Your Vagus Nerve
It’s not magic it’s actually pretty simple stuff, here’s how you can improve your vagus nerve:
- walking in nature
- deep breathing
- music therapy
All these are scientifically proven ways to lower anxiety, to recover from trauma, and to strengthen your parasympathetic system. How many of these have you actually done yourself, or would like to do, but you’re too agitated and stressed to find the time to do them, and yeah that’s the other problem.
Now there are other practices to enhance your vagus nerve, I’ll talk about them eventually, down the road, and they’re all good but as I said off the top I want a relaxation technique that I can practice anywhere, even at work, something I can do anytime, by myself or when I’m with others for free, and that’s why great access to your vagus nerve is through your lungs, you can control your breathing, and it involves a particular kind of breathing called box breathing.
In my next video I’ll explain why we use breathing and demonstrate how effectively box breathing lowers blood pressure and heart rate, we’re gonna have a volunteer, someone who carries a lot of stress and anxiety me, for now take a deep breath and …
Thanks to our patrons who allow me to produce this and all our videos and you can find out all about the benefits and exclusive goodies that patrons enjoy for as little as three dollars a month, or as much as a million dollars a day, you choose. I’m Rick Green see you soon.