As many of us thought when lock down started it would only be a matter of weeks before life would return to normal again. Unfortunately as we all know that was not the case and at the time of writing we are still in a state of not knowing whether things are getting better or worse.
What we will have noticed is how the stress of these restrictions, the changes in our everyday habits and lack of regular social interaction has taken a toll on our mental health.
Not that we may have particularly noticed it at first. It just creeps up on us and we don’t notice it eating away at our confidence, our self esteem and our relationship with ourselves and others.
It is in fact rewiring our brain and we don’t know it. So what can we do to protect our mental and physical health during these difficult times? One of the most important things in my opinion is to stimulate or tone the vagus nerve.
The vagus nerve connects right through the body from the base of the skull to the base of the spine. It affects so many important functions of the body and mind that it is surprising it has not been taken a lot of notice of until recently. It relaxes our voice, helps control our blood pressure and pulse rate, adjusts our breathing and gut function just to name a few examples. Pretty important I would say.
Now when the vagus nerve is functioning well, even if we have no idea what it is, we will be in a state of balance and relaxation emotionally and physically, whereas when it is out of sync we will be in a state of fear (Fight and Flight).
In lock down we are understandably sending out more messages of fear and worry and the vagus nerve will respond appropriately to the messages we send it. Even everybody walking around in masks will trigger it because we don’t see the face and our primal brain becomes worried whether we are safe.
Although the vagus nerve is controlling so many complex body responses the actual things we can do to help it and our lives run smoothly are in fact very simple.
Here are some simple suggestions that I use regularly and you can seamlessly add into your everyday life.
1/ Hum, whistle, sing. This stimulates the vagus nerve to send comfortable messages around the body. Even 2 minutes a day will make a difference and will probably become addictive after a few days.
2/ Meditation, Yoga, Hypnosis are all excellent ways to tone the vagus nerve.
3/ Simple stretching and yoga type exercises are very beneficial for mental and body health.
4/ Cold showers! Or just splashing cold water on the nape of your neck will engage the vagus nerve
in a good and stimulating way.
5/ Avoid too much social media and news. This can quickly put us back into the sense of danger and
we won’t even know why we feel so depressed.
6/ Go for a walk
See how simple that is! Give it a try and if you like those you can also try my 3 minute relaxation
video as well.