We are offering a weekly blog series with a collection of diverse and effective coping techniques and exercises that can help reduce stress, improve mental and emotional well-being, and perhaps make you even more effective in achieving your individual goals. Check back every week for the newest skill of the week. Try them all out and find what works best for you.
This week we hear from Dr. Karmen Thulin on why she recommends the Vagal Tone Exercise:
The vagus nerve is your tenth cranial nerve – and an important one. It runs from the top of the head, down the back of the neck, around to the front of the neck, down over the top of your abdomen, and around the stomach and gut. It mediates heart rate, blood pressure, and digestion among many other functions. By strengthening your vagus nerve, you strengthen your body’s ability to enter a parasympathetic state – also known as rest and repair. Try this exercise to tone your vagus nerve:
- Take your index, middle, and ring finger on both hands, and press them just above your collar bone until you find a slight depression.
- Press into the depression as you breath as deeply into your belly as possible, expanding your diaphragm, to a count of four.
- Release your breath and the pressure of your fingers at the same time. Complete your exhale.
- Repeat steps 2 and 3 four times.
You should notice relaxation, a feeling of warmth, and a natural shift in your breath to the belly. If you don’t notice a change try again, taking extra care to find the depression above your collar bone and really expand your belly with your breath. I advise my clients to do this anytime they notice increased stress or the tell-tale signs of fight-or-flight like increased heart rate, sweaty palms, shallow breath. If you have PTSD or another chronic stress disorder it may be helpful to do just before bed.