The longest cranial nerve is the vagus nerve, which extends from the brain stem and terminates in the abdomen. This nerve connects various organs like the heart, kidneys, liver, spleen, lungs and pancreas. Ears, neck and tongue are also affected by this nerve.
It directly influence our parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), which help ease the body. This helps in proper digestion of the food we eat and establishing better control over emotions.
When there is no stimulation to the vagus nerve, it is called “being low” and low vagal tone can lead to many mental health disorders like depression, anxiety, intestinal disorders as well as eating disorders.
Stimulation of the vagus nerve leads to strengthening of the connection between the brain and the body. It can be stimulated by boosting the flow of blood. As the blood flows through various organs, the body starts relaxing and gets better equipped to deal with the emotions.
Exercises, breathing techniques, chanting a mantra, praying, meditating, laughing, splashing cold water over face are some ways to stimulate the vagus nerve. This calms down the sympathetic nervous system (SNS). When you are tensed or agitated or your breathing is shallow, you can incorporate these in your self-care regimen.
Ways to Reactivate Vagus Nerve
Resetting the Vagus Nerve
You can reset your vagus nerve to release the tension by following several steps given below:
- Put your index finger and the middle finger above the navel. Now, press it right and inward.
- Next, with the same fingers, press it inward towards the left. Then, press it in the middle and right.
- With the other hand, at the same time, push your fingers into the scalp and then, press the middle of the scalp with your fingers and then, the front.
- Repeat this process with one hand, pressing the points above the navel and the other hand pressing the head. Once you finish with the process, bring your arms down and breathe.
You will feel that your breath becomes deeper, neck will become looser and shoulders will move away from the ears.
This technique of fear tap calms the SNS. So, it manages the fight or flight response, curbs irrational and unexplained fear and makes your mind steady.
Flip your hand so that palm faces down. With the other hand, press the points in the middle of the wrist and the fingers. Press this for about half a minute to one minute with two or three fingers. At the same time, inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth.
It’s a yoga pose that resets your vagus nerve. Sit on a chair’s edge, spreading your feet at a distance equivalent to hip width. Put your hands on your thighs. While exhaling, round your spine like a terrified cat with your chin tucking in towards your chest. Then, inhale and open your spine. Take your shoulders back as you push your heart forward. Inhale and exhale. This will create more flexibility in the spine.
Hands on the Forehead
Rub your hands vigorously for around 10 seconds and place one of your palms on your forehead. Put the other hand on top of the hand, which is there on the forehead. When you place your hands like this and close your eyes for half a minute and breathe into your lower belly, you attempt to send blood to your forehead or fore brain. This reduces the reactivity. As you take the hands away, you will notice that you are breathing from the lower abdomen.
Scanning the Body
To scan your body, close your eyes and then, open softly. Start at the top of your head. And, work your way down to the bottom of the feet. This has been compared to preheating the oven, which is to say that when you have to cook in oven, the oven must be preheated to a certain temperature. Similarly, your body has to be free of reactivity for gather your emotions.
The best time to clear reactivity is morning. This is because as we sleep, we absorb the stressors. You must scan your body in the morning. Stand with your arms down your sides and feet parallel to the floor. Inhale and then, exhale by taking your attention from the top of your head to the soles of your feet.