Feeling Like Sh*t? Try This to Regulate Your Nervous System

Feeling Like Sh*t? Try This to Regulate Your Nervous System

When we're feeling icky at the end of the day, often it's because our nervous system is out of balance - ie we've spent to much of our time during the day living in the sympathetic nervous system state, aka the fight or flight state. Said another way, we're experiencing a build up of repeated stressful experiences and it has now turned into chronic and toxic stress.

But not to worry, through consistent nervous system fitness you can get better over time at ensuring you don't experience stress at toxic levels and can in fact increase your capacity to handle it. 

The key is to engage your vagus nerve and your vagal brake. When you access your vagal brake and deliberately shift your physiology to perform at your best, over time you’re going to re-tune your nervous system to feel more comfortable, peaceful and in control in moments of stress.

What is the Vagus Nerve? The vagus nerve is the 10th cranial nerve that extends from the base of your skull into your heart and down into your stomach. It is composed of over 80% sensory fibers that send information to the brain regarding body sensations and how your organs are functioning.

Your vagus nerve is one of the main components of your parasympathetic nervous system responsible for rest and digest. This very important cranial nerve oversees a vast array of functions such as your immune response, mood, digestion, breath, and heart rate. This nerve is the communicator and super highway between your brain, gut and inner organs.

Here is one simple snack sized exercise you can begin to do daily in order to engage your vagal brake and begin strengthening your nervous system fitness.

Start by turning your head side to side. Notice if it’s easier to turn one direction or the other. This gives you your baseline. When you are ready, go ahead and lay down. Bend your knees and put your feet flat or you can have them straight.

Interlace your fingers and place them behind your head, cradling your skull in your hands. You are going to move your eyes to one side while keeping your head straight. Nose pointed up towards the ceiling. You can use your hands to support your head so that you aren’t turning it. Move your eyes to the right. Stay here for at least 30 seconds or until you begin to notice your breath deepening. Now let your eyes come back to the middle. You may notice you have some small sigh, breath may be a little deeper, may notice yourself wanting to swallow, all of these are vagus nerve responses that something is shifting in your autonomic nervous system. Move your eyes to the left. Keep your head in the center. Stay here for at least 30 seconds or until you notice your autonomic nervous systems shifting. Now gently come up to a seated position. Then check the mobility in your neck by tuning your head side to side and notice if it's easier to turn your head? Does it feel more even? Is some of the stiffness and tension gone? What has changed in your mobility? What did you notice while doing this exercise? What came up for you?