Stress and trauma are both linked significantly to mental, physical, and emotional ailments. The reason is that both stress and trauma cause dysfunction in the autonomic nerve system, which is linked to poor Vagus neuron Tone (think of it as the Vagus nerve is the chief executive in the system of autonomic nerves).
In addition, trauma is a physical sensation, not a specific event. Also, it’s more about how we experience it, but about how we feel it (i.e. the way we “embody” this experience). So, the same event could be extremely traumatic for one person, whereas another person might be completely happy with the event. The incident itself is stored (embodied) as a physiological reaction (with or without psychological impression) and could be a long-lasting dysregulation influence on our autonomic nerve system.
Incredibly, trauma-related experiences can be passed on across generations, which means there is a possibility of nerve system dysfunction due to the lineage of someone who has suffered trauma.
In the same way, chronic stress causes the nervous system to become dysfunctional and causes poor Vagal tone. Stress is a constant state of mind when we are constantly worried (about paying our bills, losing a loved one, being sick or having a hard time being appreciated, having enough fulfillment in our life job or life, etc.).
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It’s not just about the circumstances we’re in, but how we view and act in the situation. Therefore, the same event can be seen as an unpleasant experience for someone else and as a rewarding chance for another. This means that the two people will have distinct autonomic nervous system reactions (the first one being geared towards illness, while the other one that is robust and healthy).
On the surface the fact that it’s essential for us all to “tone” the Vagus nerve, as it will help to relieve stress and trauma already stored in the body, but it also enhances our resilience to stress in the autonomic nervous system (so we are able to handle future stress in a confident manner). The Vagal tone that is improved is associated with less back and neck discomfort, improved digestion, better mood and sleeping, peace and tranquility as well as weight loss and lots more.
In the meantime, prior to getting to the specific exercises to help strengthen muscles of the Vagus nerve, we’ll take a look into it from the perspective of the Vagus itself and learn how it functions. The Vagus nerve serves three primary functions: the parasympathetic which allows us to rest and digest, as well as socialize; the sympathetic – mobilize to fight or flee and the dorsal one – freeze and paralyze (called dorsal because the dorsal branch of the Vagus nerve runs to the back).
The parasympathetic state is the one that is relaxed. The other two states are those of stress, with those in the sympathetic mode being the more healthy one, as we’re at least in a position to take action regarding the stress that we are in, i.e. we’re energized and ready to do something about it.
It is true that sympathetic states are the state where we are the most weighed (because of cortisol levels and insulin elevation). Additionally”freeze” mode “freeze” mode is extremely hazardous as it can paralyze us and makes us feel disengaged, depressed, despondent from the world, disengaged, and incapable of doing much. Neck stiffness and back pain and mood disorders typically (though it is not all the time) are a result of the freeze mode.
Of course, all 3 states in the autonomic nervous system are necessary and all three are beneficial based on the situation. The most important thing is that we move between states with a degree of flexibility. Resilience is about the ability to move between the states in a way that is required (instead of being stuck in any of them) which is precisely that’s what exercises like Vagal tone are aiming for.
Importantly, the Vagus links the brain with the gut, and this communication is bidirectional, with only 20% of the information flowing from the brain to the gut, and the remaining 80percent of the information flowing from the gut to the brain. Therefore, we are able to appreciate that it’s crucial to ensure a healthy gut to ensure proper autonomic nerve functioning. However, we must also recognize how autonomic nervous malfunctions can cause disruption to digestive functions.
To help you with that, there are a few simple ways to strengthen the Vagus nerve, which will assist you in releasing stress injuries and pain, and increase your flexibility and strength when faced with any stress that may come your way. Try these easy exercises instead of consuming alcohol, food, or caffeine to manage.
- The breathing pattern 5-2-8 breath: breathe into your lungs for 5 seconds and hold for 2 and exhale until 8 at the end of the count.
- Eye movement: Keep your head straight, and then move your eyes to the left for 30 seconds. After that, bring your eyes back briefly back to the center, and then move them to the left for another 30 seconds.
- Stretch and massage your ear and behind your ears.
- Spray cold water over your face.
- Shower cold.
- Hum, hum, and gargle.
- Stretch, laugh to meditate, or just listen to relaxing music.
- Take care of your digestion and do not sleep with an empty stomach.