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How to tone your vagus nerve for stress relief

Updated: Apr 18

This is a transcript from the video above.

How to tone your vagus nerve for stress relief.

hi everyone welcome back to Burnout Help, stress and burnout first aid.

I am Eric Mahleb and I'm a stress and burnout coach in Berlin Germany and this is my channel where I try to give you valuable information on everything related to stress and burnout, based on my own experiences not only as a as a coach but also as a person who has experienced burnout twice with

pretty severe symptoms.

So today I would like to speak to you about the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve is a nerve that

runs from the back of our skull and goes through pretty much your entire body and it is connected to a lot of different organs. Now the vagus nerve plays a very important role in the sense that it is involved of in a lot of our parasympathetic and sympathetic response.

It goes through our throat, it goes through our stomach, it is involved in heartbeat regulation, it goes through our abdomen, into the pelvis. And as mentioned it is therefore involved in a lot of our reactions connected specifically to stress.

Ideally if you have a vagus nerve that is as they call it 'toned', It means that you are able to create an effective parasympathetic response. This means that you are able to relax your system. And if you are somebody who is chronically stressed and is losing the ability to regulate their nervous system, that is to invoke the parasympathetic response, if you are someone who is chronically stressed, that means that your sympathetic nervous system is constantly activated. And this in turns means that your vagus nerve is losing its ability to do its job. Now I'm not saying that you can easily just blame the vagus nerve for your own inability to regulate your nervous system.

So what does it mean to have an undertoned vagus nerve? Well it means that you have a poor

digestion, it means that perhaps you have skipped beats in your heart or palpitations, it means that you are suffering from migraines or that you are very very tired...So the vagus nerve plays a role in

the regulation of all this but the vagus nerve actually also goes beyond all of this and plays an important role in your ability to relax and to feel safe and connected in the world.

And feeling safe and feeling connected are two key ingredients in your ability to regulate your nervous system and to come out of chronic stress. And here i' like to point you towards the work of Stephen Porges on this, who is the creator of the Polyvagal Theory and who explains this in much more detail and much better than I can. So the vagus nerve is your friend if you want to learn how to control your stress response. Learn to tone your vagus nerve in order to increase your stress response.

How do you tone your vagus nerve?

There are many different ways some of them some of them involve better breathing and we spoke

about breathing a little bit before, making sure that you exhale longer than you inhale for example. That's one of the ways for good breathing.

Other ways to tone your vagus nerve is to to hum or to chant or to gargle. Why? Because the vagus nerve goes through here next to your vocal cords. There's an evolutionary reason why it is involved in sound in the creation of sound of soothing sounds for example. There's a reason why your vagus nerve goes through here and it has to do with being social, being connected and feeling safe. So if you do exercises that involve your vocal cords, chances how you are toning your vagus nerve.

There are other ways to tone your vagus nerve.

Cold exposure. Cold showers and cold baths for example tend to really tone the vagus nerve.

There are other things you can do.

There are exercise from a person named Rosenberg and he recommends exercises such as for example holding your head straight and then turning your eyes to the side so your head remains straight. Your neck also remains straight but your eyes are looking to one side for about one minute or 40 seconds or perhaps even a bit longer. If you start yawning as I am now, it usually triggers a yawning reaction, which is a good sign, and then what you want to do is after a while, you want to go in the other direction with your eyes. And there are other exercises from him that you can look up and a little bit of this every day will tone your vagus nerve.

I mentioned breathing earlier and I will state it again: breathing is an amazing way to tone your vagus nerve and here I'd like to point you in the direction of what they call bio-feedback. You can even connect it to heart rate variability. There are some apps that you can use in order to breathe to

increase your heart rate variability (i use this one: EliteHRV), which is itself connected to your vagus


So there are many ways. I will do a video at some point on one of these methods and going into more detail but this is an overview of the vagus nerve for now.

Perhaps one last thing I want to mention which I failed to mention earlier. The vagus nerve is the communication channel for a lot of the signals, most of the signals, in your body and in your being, about stress. It's sending signals down to your gut from your brain, from your brain to your heart but also back from your gut to your heart from your gut to your brain, from everywhere in the body.

The vagus nerve is where those signals communicate. So if you have a vagus nerve which is undertoned, the communication is not going to be effective or it's not going to be the right kind of communication. So you want to make sure that your vagus nerve is healthy and you want to make sure that you're toning your vagus nerve this will help you manage stress better.

Okay I hope this was useful and I'll see you soon.

More stress management and burnout prevention and recovery information, tools and methods at

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