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  • Writer's pictureSandy Jolles

Managing our Central Nervous System

"Calm mind brings inner strength and self-confidence...which is very important for good health." - Dalai Lama

The body's longest cranial nerve, also known as the vagus nerve, brings information directly to the brain. A highway of motor and sensory fibers, this nerve branches out to other organs like the liver, ears, gallbladder, and eyes One thing that's been a major topic of research is the stimulation of the vagus nerve and its connecting to upregulating the parasympathetic nervous system. With a greater amount of vagal activity, inflammation is reduced, the heart rate slows down, and our pupils dilate.

The comprehension of the vagus nerve is central to managing stress. It's unfortunately more common for the vast majority of us to operate in our fight-or-flight mode. This, in turn, suppresses the vagus nerve and can lead to headaches, digestive distress, and gastrointestinal discomfort. On the other hand, a simple head massage may help soothe GI discomfort as the vagus nerve links the head to the gut.

Below are some additional tips to "hack" our vagus nerve:

Sing: The vagus nerve is linked to our throat, so humming/singing/chanting all trigger the PNS. Additionally, gargling warm water at the back of the throat can produce a similar effect

Massage techniques: Touching areas where the nerve runs lose on the surface of the skin, like the ears or soles of the feet, can prompt relaxation

Exercise Outdoors: Activities like walking the dog or gardening can stimulate the nerve with the feeling of sunshine (or wind/rain) on our face.

Laugh out loud: This also activates the vagus nerve and can even reduce symptoms of stress and anxiety. Load up an old sitcom or podcast, and feel the calming effects on your gut

Breathing: This one is one of the most common (and recognized) methods of channeling this downregulation of our sympathetic nervous system (the fight or flight). Inhaling through your noise and out through the mouth allows an anti-inflammatory molecule called nitric oxide to increase.

A cold shower: This one definitely isn't a popular one - but hear me out! Cold immersion therapy can boost the immune system AND stimulate the nervous system as our body's thermoregulation mechanism is switched on.

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