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How to Deal With Anxiety Using Your Vagus Nerve
How often do you face anxiety in your daily life?
If you find yourself worrying too much or having non-stop irrational thoughts or even experiencing nausea, chest pain and heart palpitations, this article is for you.
You’re about to learn a simple but very effective technique to combat anxiety naturally by stimulating your vagus nerve. This powerful technique can be used anywhere and anytime to relieve stress and anxiety; At home, while traveling and of course in those dreaded work meetings.
Did you know that the FDA has approved a surgically implanted device that is successfully treating depression by periodically stimulating the vagus nerve?
But hopefully you won’t need surgery. You can enjoy the benefits of vagus nerve stimulation by following some simple breathing techniques.
So what is the vagus nerve?
The vagus nerve is the most important component parasympathetic Nervous system (controls your relaxation response and calms you down).
It originates in the brainstem and “wanders” to the stomach, spreading fibers to the tongue, pharynx, vocal cords, lungs, heart, stomach, intestines, and glands that produce anti-stress enzymes and hormones (such as Acetylcholine, Prolactin, Vasopressin, Oxytocin), digestion, Affects metabolism and of course the resting response.
Acts as the vagus nerve The mind-body connection, and it’s cabling behind your heart feelings and gut instincts. The key to managing your state of mind and yours anxiety level It’s about being able Activate the calming nervous system pathways of your parasympathetic system.
You can’t control this part of the nervous system on demand, but you can indirectly stimulate your vagus nerve:
- Plunging your face into cold water (diving reflex)
- Attempting to exhale against a closed airway (Valsalva maneuver).
- This can be done by keeping the mouth closed and pinching the nose while trying to exhale. This greatly increases the pressure inside the chest cavity which stimulates the vagus nerve and increases vagal tone
- And of course, the diaphragmatic breathing technique
Strengthening this living nervous system can have huge benefits, and the best tool to achieve that is training your breath.
Breathe with your diaphragm
Now it’s time to put this concept into practice. You must first breathe using your diaphragm (Belly breathing). This is the foundation of proper breathing and relaxation.
The diaphragm is your primary breathing muscle. It’s bell-shaped, and when you breathe in, the pattern bulges out (or should flatten), acting as a piston and creating a vacuum on your chest cavity, allowing your lungs to expand and air in.
On the other side it creates pressure, pushing the viscera down and out, expanding your belly. This is why a good breathing practice is described as abdominal breathing or belly breathing.
Breathe in with the glottis partially closed
The glottis is at the back of your tongue and closes when you hold your breath. Here we want to close it partially. It’s that feeling in your throat as you exhale to clean your glasses and make a “Hhhhh” sound, but without actually making a sound.
It’s also similar to the way you breathe when you’re on the verge of sleep and you’re about to snore a little bit.
By controlling the glottis you are:
Controlling airflow during inhalation and exhalation
Stimulating your vagus nerve.
Try it now
Now it’s time to put all this theory into practice by practicing these 7 – 11 diaphragmatic breathing techniques.
Breathe diaphragmatically through your nose, partially closing your glottis, almost making a “Hhhhh” sound for a count of 7.
Hold your breath for a moment
Exhale through your nose (or mouth), partially closing your glottis, making an almost “Hhhhh” sound for a count of 11.
It is a breath cycle; Go for 6 – 12 cycles and observe the results.
Practice, practice, practice
The more you practice, the more effective this technique will become.
Eventually, as your newly acquired breathing skills become established and belly breathing becomes a habit, you will find your body operating at a constant level of tension.
You will notice (or sometimes not even notice) how your breathing responds to stressful situations; Your body will be conditioned to automatically control your breath and therefore your stress and anxiety.
Learning how to stimulate your vagus nerve through proper breathing is a key to dealing with anxiety. The vagus nerve acts as the mind-body connection and controls our relaxation response. You can stimulate your vagus nerve by practicing diaphragmatic breathing with the glottis partially closed. Use your dead time to practice this technique consistently, make it a habit and you will be amazed at the results.
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