If you are currently or have previously lived with trauma, then you know how all-consuming it can feel. Minor trauma responses to post-traumatic stress disorder leave long-lasting effects on the body. Sometimes, the healing process seems slow going or completely stagnant. The idea of moving past your trauma may even feel hopeless at times.
I am here to let you know that you are not alone. There is hope in moving past your trauma. If you or someone you love feels like they have run out of options, I want to assure you that there is always another option. To learn how to reduce the effects of trauma through your vagus nerve, continue.
What is Trauma?
Trauma, simply put, is the emotional response we get from experiencing or witnessing an upsetting or stressful event, like a car accident or mass violence. Trauma can be the result of any experience we aren’t able to process at the time. Trauma can look many different ways, but generally, common signs of it include flashbacks, anxiety or depression, distressing dreams or difficulty sleeping.
Coping with trauma can be difficult and feel impossible at times. If you are grappling with trauma, I encourage you to continue reading to learn the link between your vagus nerve and reducing trauma.
What is the Vagus Nerve?
The vagus nerve is the largest and most important nerve in the whole body running from your brain down to the gut. Physically, this nerve controls your digestive tract, breathing, and heart rate. The vagus nerve also controls stress, anxiety, and fear: emotions very commonly associated with trauma.
Since the vagus nerve is so large and connects the stomach to the brain, the nerve itself sends emotional responses to the gut, causing “gut feelings.” Additionally, the vagus nerve is referred to as the love nerve because it controls feelings of compassion and empathy.
Trauma and the Vagus Nerve
Experiencing trauma or flashbacks of trauma will trigger your fight-or-flight response. This bodily response can be corrected or counterbalanced by the vagus nerve. In essence, accessing the Vagus nerve can help us work with the neurological impact of trauma and allow us to counter the effects of trauma. Stimulating your vagus nerve can help you to regulate your emotions more easily and create a strong stress response. By doing this, you can mitigate the emotional effects of trauma. Now that we can recognize this relationship, we can begin to use it to our advantage to reduce the effects of trauma.
Stimulating the Vagus Nerve
Another one of the jobs that the vagus nerve fulfills is letting you know when you are no longer in danger. By triggering the vagus nerve in a controlled environment, you are allowing yourself to become accustomed to fight-or-flight mode, the emotional state you feel when experiencing trauma effects. The vagus nerve has been referred to as a “superpower” to regulate stress levels. Learning to properly utilize it to fight unwanted emotions is a huge advantage when feeling trauma effects.
How to Reset Your Vagus Nerve
The vagus nerve allows you to feel relaxed and present in your body. There are plenty of ways to stimulate or regulate, your vagus nerve. Try out a few of the following ways to see which routine works best for you.
- Box breathing or other deep breathing exercises
- Singing, humming, laughing, or other enjoyable forms of vocal cord stimulation
- Light exercise or other forms of movement, such as yoga
- Laying on the ground with your legs up the wall
- Dietary changes to include more probiotics or fatty acids
- Applying cold water or an ice pack on face or neck
In addition to stimulation of the vagus nerve, traditional forms of talk and somatic therapies are great ways to cope with your trauma. I specialize in trauma therapy and assure you that I can help you start down the path toward stronger mental health. Schedule a time to talk with me today. I look forward to hearing from you!