There’s a nerve in your body known as the Vagus and it deserves that capital “V”.
It runs from the base of your brain to serve your voice-box, throat, lung, heart and gut.
If you could better take care of such a nerve wouldn’t you?
Well guess what! The Vagus also has a role as a Stress Manager. And its operations can thankfully be influenced!
Your mum would have done her part when you were a tiny baby. If she and all the others caring for you believed that babies should be ignored when crying (bellies full and nappies dry), if she was unpredictable and bad tempered, if her love waxed hot and cold based on her mood, the Nerve Tone of your Vagus would be very different today from what it would be if she was patient, calm, loving, attentive and interactive. *
Translation? Some of the stress reaction we experience in response to life events relates to whether this nerve overreacts or not. **
Now you can’t change your history but you can influence your present.
No matter how sweet your mum might have been the modern lifestyle is stressful.
Stress is associated with a weakened immune system (now we really want the body to be able to recognize and purge all early potential cancer cells right?) and stress also causes chronic low grade inflammation which quietly damages our organs and causes disease. (It sounds so simple I didn’t believe it till after much reading and reflection).
How can we get our Vagus Nerve to Modify our Stress Response everyday?
Deep relaxation causes the Vagus to send the type of messages to your body that switch off the stress response.
When you do this the body is able to activate Stem Cells (no you don’t have to buy these, they come with your body) and to increase the release of BDNF (brain derived neurotrophic factor). ***
This helps your body to repair the physical effects of stress including stress on the brain. In fact Dr. Hyman has called BDNF, brain fertilizer. No wonder anxiety, depression and autism seem to have sky rocketed with the modern lifestyle. Get your Brain Fertilizer folks!
Deep relaxation is not hanging out on Facebook or playing your favourite sport. These things have their own relaxation value but we also need to SLOW our bodies and minds down to experience deep relaxation.
Yoga (if you really are physically and mentally involved and not merely just doing the movements) is a perfect tool to get your Vagus working for you. So is quiet focused meditation whether spiritual or otherwise. Clear your mind, consciously let go tension in your muscles, one by one…. Or focus your mind on a Peaceful Concept.
So, the Eastern ancient teachers were right, long before today’s neuroscience was able to prove it.
Now that you know, are you going act?
I confess, I’m a highly strung workaholic so if this is going to be a journey you undertake for your own good, you have company!
I wish you all the best as you work to Stay Well!
*(Was I generalizing with that example? Yes because love and emotional stability though often instilled by a mother are sometimes supplied by other mother-figures or loving care-givers. And doesn’t genetics play a role in temperament? Yes but the emotional brain begins to be influenced from the impact of a mother’s moods on her nerves and hormones even from within the womb. Not knocking mums here. None of us are perfect and our kids are sure to rub that in our faces when they grow older!)
** Ref: Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman
***Ref: The UltraMind Solution by Dr. Mark Hyman