Since last year we are living in a pandemic. The mainstream media, social media and governments created one of the largest global fear events in history. This constant fear has a direct impact on our physical and emotional stress.
To find a way out of anxiety and understand what this constant stress of the last year is doing to our bodies, we need to talk about the role of the vagus nerve in maintaining health and well-being.
Within our nervous system, there is the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system. One is driven by adrenaline, the fight-or-flight response the body produces to perceived threats. The other one is the opposite. It balances this response by promoting relaxation.
Based on medical research, the main regulator of the the parasympathetic part is the vagus nerve, the 10th cranial nerve. It originates in the brain stem and travels throughout the body after exiting the skull.
It helps balance the effects of the sympathetic nervous system by reducing heart and respiratory rates. It signals the release of prolactin, vasopressin and oxytocin, all of which cause relaxation. This helps with memory formation, facilitates deep sleep, and reduces inflammation in our gut microbiome.
When the vegetative nervous system is under high stress, the sympathetic part permanently releases stress hormones. This release causes clear thinking and diversified opinion formation to become impossible, as the prefrontal cortext is partially or completely cut off from our brain's "emergency system." The only thing that still "governs" our brain at this point is the other extreme. Ascending Reticular Activation System, a network of neural connections in the brainstem. Everything we perceive enters our consciousness by passing through this system - it is our danger radar, sifting through the background noise of life to detect threats.
Stimulation of the neurons of the nuclear areas or their fibers causes activation of autonomic and motor systems. This means that it shifts the organism from an "awake resting state" to a state of heightened alertness. As a result, wakefulness increases, various functions are performed via the hypothalamus, and is associated with emotional and affective responses via the mimic system.
Interpreting the world with the this ascending reticular activation system, brings a variety of problems in our daily life and creates unwanted stress and anxiety. With high stress on the sympathetic nervous system and continuous release of stress hormones, our brain can no longer think clearly. You can't make clear decisions and generally feel exhausted, stressed and not very satisfied.
In such a state, we cling to the past and blame ourselves over our mistakes. Anxiety also drives us to worry about the future and worry about things that haven't even happened yet. In this way, we attach importance to past or future events at the expense of the present, where the true value of life lies.
There are different ways to get out of this stress and anxiety cycle. A simple and efficient variant is regular sport or yoga. If you have a fit body and enough energy, your nervous system balances itself and is more resistant to stress.
In the ancient yoga teachings, the autonomic nervous system is given a very high importance. It is strengthened by means of specific breathing exercises and the so-called prana body (breathing body) is strengthened by them. This creates a certain resistance to stress.
Another very effective solution is the vagus nerve smile. This exercise lasts 60 seconds and you have to put on and maintain an extreme smile yourself. Since the vagus nerve also passes by our jaw on its wanderings, when we smile a message is sent to our brain that it can now release happy hormones. With this exercise, fear and fight hormones are eaten by happiness hormones and a balance is created again!
Why don't you try this exercise for 40 days or 3 minutes of Fire Breath daily and see how your well-being and stress resistance change. Have fun!
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