The vagus nerve has been receiving a lot of attention lately because recent studies have shown it plays an important role in our trauma response and in relieving inflammation in the body.Given our recent collective traumatic experiences, it seems more important than ever to understand what the vagus nerve is and how it affects our physical and mental health due to the COVID-19 pandemic.I asked experts to help me investigate how the vagus nerve helps us heal from trauma.
The vagus nerve is the longest and most complex cranial nerve in our body, says Nicole Rainey, a Tallahassee psychotherapist who uses art therapy to help people with trauma.”It starts on our face, connects from our brain to our spine, all the way to our core, and touches many systems in our body along the way,” she explains.Basically, this giant nerve connects our brain to the rest of our body.
OK, cool, but what does that actually mean?To answer this question, Rainey suggests using visualization.”Imagine it,” she said.”Your vagus nerve has an alarming feeling, it sends messages all over your body. Almost instantly, this nerve contracts your throat and makes you feel like it’s tightening. Then it sends a message to the heart to pump More blood is pumped out, which causes your heart to beat and constrict your lungs, causing shortness of breath. Finally, the vagus nerve can alert your gut, causing ‘knotting’ and even nausea.” In other words , when the vagus nerve gets input—whether from the outside world or from your senses—it affects your entire body.
The purpose of all this is to keep you safe.For example, if you’re in a really dangerous situation, the vagus nerve sends all this information to your body, so you can react without even thinking about it.Problem: Sometimes the vagus nerve gets stimulated when you’re just telling a story in your head, and you don’t actually need these body systems to respond and fuel your anxiety.To make matters worse, if the vagus nerve doesn’t function effectively, you can fall into this state of anxiety.
Post time: Jun-16-2022