“You’re getting on my last nerve!” We’ve all said it, whether to our children, spouse, parent, co-worker, best friend, or (not proudly) to some poor customer service rep. When you talk about your “last nerve,” it turns out that you may not be far from the truth.
While not technically your “last” nerve, the vagus nerve is your longest cranial nerve. As a result, it affects numerous functions throughout your body, including the parasympathetic function, which helps control digestive tracts, respiration and heart rate.
Vagus Nerve Affects How Many Bodily Functions?
The vagus nerve (named after the same Latin word that gave us the word “vagabond”) wanders and meanders its way through the body, affecting speech, taste, swallowing, digestion, breathing and heart rate. Needless to say, if your vagus nerve is not functioning optimally, you are likely to feel irritated, on edge, and anxious. And while, yes, the nerve controls involuntary systems and functions, there are deliberate, conscientious actions you can take to optimize the vagus nerve’s function. With a fully functioning vagus nerve, you may find you’re more able to exert control over your emotions and feel less stressed by the actions and choices of those around you.
4 Tips to Optimizing your Vagus Nerve Functionality
You may (or may not!) have heard of a vagal tone. This is the difference between your heart rate as you inhale (faster) and your heart rate as you exhale (slower.) The higher your vagal tone is, the more prone to destressing and calming you are. Here are four ways to increase your vagal tone:
- Vocal Noise. Because the vagus nerve is connected to the vocal cords, activities such as speaking, singing, and even humming can stimulate your vagus nerve.
- Deep Breathing. Whether you are mediating, taking a yoga class, or simply breathing deeply and deliberately from the diaphragm, deep breathing exercises increase oxygen flow to the brain, as well as lowering the heart rate, lowering the blood pressure and increasing the sensation of calm and relaxation.
- Maintaining a Good Gut. We’ve all heard of probiotics and their amazing ability to impact the immune system and maintain healthy digestion. But here’s one more reason why probiotics for the brain can be helpful: healthy bacteria in your gut reduces stress, improving your vagal tone.
- Electrical Stimulation. Stimulating your vagus nerve, whether internally (surgically) or externally through vibration, may have a calming and soothing effect on the mind, body and vagus nerve.
If you feel stressed, anxious, frazzled (and everyone in your sphere is getting on your last nerve), just remember, you have options. Take that deep breath, hum your favorite calming song, or find a healthy probiotic supplement to stimulate your vagus nerve. They may be getting on your nerves… but now you know how to fix it!
Help With Your Long Nerve
Have more questions or want more information on the vagus nerve and how to maintain calm and control? Please reach out to us by calling (888) 549-5519 or using our online chat feature.