The vagus nerve is responsible for an immense amount of bodily functions, including but not limited to, regulating your appetite, digesting food, and carrying a plethora of signals between the brain and the rest of your body. Also known as the body’s “communication superhighway,” it’s no wonder that the vagus nerve can become irritated if not cared for properly, sending potentially negative chain reactions throughout the body.
This article delves into several tips and tricks on how to identify irritation, and how to hack your own vagus nerve in order to keep things running smoothly and calmly using tools such as the Xen by Neuvana headphones.
A Vagus Nerve Recap
One of the main functions of the vagus nerve is to ensure that our bodies stay healthy. This includes calming organs after experiencing a fight or flight response, regulating blood glucose levels, your heart rate in order to help the body relax, your “gut feeling”, and more – no wonder it can become fatigued over time.
- Parasympathetic: These are body functions that happen while you’re at rest (think: digestion and metabolism, heart rate, etc.)
- Sensory: This processes information from the heart, lungs, abdomen, and throat
- Motor: Provides movement to the neck that help your body speak and swallow food
- Special sensory: Provides taste sensation behind the tongue
As you can see, the vagus nerve has a lot of essential functions to regulate that help keep you feeling alive and well. But what happens when your vagus nerve isn’t functioning as it should?
When this nerve becomes fatigued or overstimulated, it can lead to several reactions in the body, such as:
- Mood disorders
- Nausea or fainting due to lowered blood pressure
- Chronic inflammation
- Gastrointestinal diseases
- Rheumatoid arthritis
Now here’s where knowing how to hack your vagus nerve comes in. When this nerve becomes too stimulated by certain stressors, the chain reaction throughout the body isn’t always positive. However, there’s hope.
Hacking The Vagus Nerve
“Hacking” the vagus nerve doesn’t necessarily mean that this particular nerve is feeling fatigued; it can also mean that you’re feeling overly anxious or stressed, or even overly stimulated in a certain environment, including, but again not limited to:
- Exposure to extreme heat
- Fear of bodily harm
- Having blood drawn, or the sight of blood
- Standing for a long time
- Public speaking, or feeling as if all eyes are on you
If you’ve ever felt as if you can’t get your heart rate under control in an anxiety-inducing situation, there’s good news: hacking the vagus nerve is something that can be improved upon over time and using tools such as the Xen by Neuvana headphones may assist in the process.
Hacking your vagus nerve can be achieved in three simple steps:
- Pay attention to your body. Understand what stressors are likely to trigger your vagus nerve to become overly stimulated. Once you recognize these patterns, it will become easier for you to understand that your body is simply doing what it’s supposed to: protect you from something. This may mean it will take a few weeks or even months before you can identify the things that cause this particular nerve to react.
Practice your deep breathing. Your body’s heart rate is adapted by how much your body senses you breathing. This can primarily be recognized in a situation that makes you nervous; you may feel anxious about something, then notice heavier breathing and, in turn, an increased heart rate. So, it stands to reason that continuous deep breaths can help regulate your vagus nerve and signal to your brain that it’s time for your heart rate to come down in order for you to stay calm.
a. Best practice: Visualize your belly button like a balloon. Slowly inhale to fill up the balloon before slowly exhaling. This action is going to stimulate your vagus nerve by activating your parasympathetic nervous system and begin the signaling process for a slower heart rate.
- Focus on your gut health. Don’t neglect your gut’s health when it comes to hacking your vagus nerve. Some research shows that overstimulation of the vagal nerve is linked to diet due to the link that exists between the microbes in the stomach and pathway to the brain.
Tips For Hacking Your Vagus Nerve
When the vagus nerve is regulated, the body in turn has an improved, high vagal tone, meaning that the function of the various body systems mediated by the vagus are able to perform at a higher standard. Think: things such as blood vessels, your digestive tract, blood pressure, heart rate, and more.)
In addition to deep breathing exercises, there are plenty of other ways to go about stimulating the vagus nerve in order to keep your body functioning properly. Here are some additional strategies to incorporate:
- Much like with deep breathing, meditation is a great way for you to get in touch with and listen to what your inner body is telling you. What situations cause you stress? Anxiety? This can be a great technique for those who are just starting out on identifying their stressors. Additionally, the longer you focus and meditate, the more your heart rate slows, thus regulating your ability to think and feel more clearly. (Oh, and there’s plenty of breathing exercises to do during guided meditations, if you’re looking to knock out two birds with stone.)
- Listening to relaxing music:
- Singing has been proven to increase your heart rate variability (HRV), as well as exercise those muscles at the back of your throat that are primarily worked by the vagal nerve. You can do this by turning on your favorite relaxing playlist or song, or even with the right kind of headphones, like the Xen by Neuvana headphones that are designed to stimulate your vagus nerve. For those looking for more guidance, Neuvana also has plenty of curated music sessions that can help you stay calm and de-stress.
- Vitamins and exercise:
- Remember that ever-important gut health that was discussed? One great way to ensure that your gut is at an optimal health is to double up on the vitamins and exercise. Things like probiotics, that are specifically designed to help cultivate good gut health, can be found at most grocery stores. Exercise is also a smart way of stimulating your blood flow, and thus, stimulating your vagus nerve. So, the next time you’re feeling anxious, try cooling off with a cold washcloth and taking a long walk.
- Utilizing cold water or temperatures:
- According to one study, the body’s fight or flight instincts decrease as your body adjusts to cold temperatures. Because the vagus nerve is charged with regulating this response in the body, splashing some cold water on your face or neck when feeling anxious can help activate your body’s calm responses. However, it’s important to note that too much cold exposure can have the opposite intended effect. Try to stick to splashing cold water or standing for just a moment in colder temperatures rather than submerging yourself in, say, a cold shower. This is because too much sudden exposure to cold can actually restrict your blood vessels, causing your heart rate and blood pressure to spike rather than lower.
- Staying socially connected:
- Staying connected with the ones you love is paramount to cultivating those positive emotions, which also happens to be crucial to your vagal nerve health, as well. That’s because those positive emotions like joy, amusement, happiness, and more are stimulated when you’re around those who matter most. In turn, this affects your vagal function through your heart rate variability, and is a great way to put you on the path to overall better health.
Understanding Vagus Activity
Now that you understand more about your vagus nerve, its functions, and what it can accomplish, practicing hacking it when you realize you’ve become overstimulated can ultimately lead to a healthier gut and better emotional and mental health.
When your nerves, and specifically the vagus nerve, are regulated and well, your risk for depression, obesity, and other serious mood disorders is dramatically lowered. Research shows that there are plenty of ways that you can hack this nerve in order to manipulate it in a way that benefits other bodily functions and systems. Using the Xen by Neuvana headphones is a great option. No matter which way you choose, the ultimate decision lies with you when it comes to finding the best way to hack your vagus nerve.
Stay cognizant and connected, and everything (at least, as it pertains to your vagal nerve) will fall into place.