You’ve heard sooooo many tips on how to manage anxiety that you’re done listening. I getchu! I wish the mental health community would share the science behind these strategies. When you understand the physiology of why these things work, you’re more likely to do them.
Let me introduce you to your vagus nerve. It is the nerve that connects your gut and brain. It has some MAJOR power. It regulates your nervous system and runs from your gut, through every major organ, all the way up to your brain.
There are very specific ways you can “tone” or stimulate this nerve, making it easier for you to settle your nervous system and control your anxiety.
When you’ve been told some of these strategies in the past, maybe you rolled your eyes and thought, “Ya, like some deep breathing is gonna do anything for me.” Why would you believe it? It sounds too simple and you feel like the person telling you this is brushing you off and simply does NOT understand how bad your anxiety is.
Sometimes the solution is simple. Most times, you can do something to stop the overwhelm of anxiety and spiraling into a panic attack.
Here are 6 science-based ways to activate and calm your vagus nerve.
Strategy 1: Go for a walk in silence.
Getting out into nature is a crucial way to tone or stimulate your vagus nerve. Doing it in silence offers opportunities for self-reflection & daydreaming which activates multiple parts of your brain. It gives you time to turn down the inner noise & increase awareness of what matters most and gets you into the present moment.
Strategy 2: Hum loudly.
When you hum, it sends vibrations through your body. Research has found that the vibrations from “OM” chanting stimulates the vagus nerve.
Strategy 3: Sing a song at the top of your lungs.
Singing releases tension in your diaphragm by activating the vagus nerve. Bonus points for singing as loud as you can! According to research, the amount of cortisol, the stress hormone, in someone’s saliva decreases after they sing.
Strategy 4: Practice deep breathing.
Deep breathing increases the supply of oxygen to your brain and stimulates the vagus nerve, which promotes a state of calmness. Matching movement to breath in yoga & meditation is so important as it grounds you in your body & in the present moment.
Strategy 5: Take a bath.
Hot water activates the vagus nerve & relaxes the body. When a tense body enters a warm bath, the hot water increases the body temperature & relaxes the muscles, which not only soothes you physically but also mentally. No bath? No problem. Stand under a hot shower.
Strategy 6: Hug someone you love.
Oxytocin, sometimes called the “cuddle hormone,” is released when people hug or snuggle us. This release has been found to lower heart rate & reduce stress. Can’t find someone to hug? Curl yourself up with your knees up to your chest. Wrap your arms around your legs. The pressure will activate your vagus nerve. Research also suggests that weighted blankets simulate being held or hugged. Go get yourself a weighted blanket.
Have you grabbed your free confidence guide?
The Habit of Self-Doubt: Crush It and Build Real Confidence.