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The Vagus Nerve (Day 117)

We've been looking at our emotional reactivity from the well-known fight, flight and freeze perspectives, and noticing how those experiences can easily embed themselves in our bodies as trauma. Managing these reactions skilfully, so they don't become trauma, involves applying awareness and acceptance to move back towards equanimity. One of the main pathways involved in recovering from strong reactions is our vagus nerve.

When your ever-vigilant sympathetic nervous system revs up the fight or flight responses – pouring the stress hormone cortisol and adrenaline into your body – the vagus nerve tells your body to chill out by releasing acetylcholine. The vagus nerve’s tendrils extend to many organs, acting like fiber-optic cables that send instructions to release enzymes and proteins like prolactin, vasopressin, and oxytocin, which calm you down. People with a stronger vagus response are more likely to recover more quickly after stress, injury, or illness.

The vagus nerve is a key connector between our brain and our body, on a physical level, but also as expressed in what it means to be fully human. The vagus nerve is deeply plugged into our heart, our guts, and our voice. Whenever we turn inward to check in with our true feelings; to check in with our intuitive wisdom; or to find our true expressiveness, we're lighting up the vagus nerve. Whenever we plug into the rhythms of ourselves or the world around us, we're lighting up the vagus nerve.


Deliberate breathing is the most accessible way to stimulate your vagus nerve – bringing yourself back to balance. Take a deliberate 4-part breath every chance you get – when you're stressed, when you need to focus, when you're enjoying the moment...etc!

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