I am still in springing into Spring mode but I am also conscious that all of us need breathing space, a real chance to heal. We do not feel well in ourselves, we are running between fight and flight and want the merry- go- round to stop.
Last year I offered a series of breathing tutorials called “And Breathe” open to just about anyone who needed this breathing space.
Your Vagus Nerve
Today, in this blog, I want to talk about the Vagus nerve and how deep, relaxing breath work can nurture the nerve pathway, preventing us from damaging our mental health and well being.
I often talk about how many of our blocks with our speaking and/or singing voice can start in our heads, those cheeky monkeys telling us we are no good. The relaxation exercises and affirmations that I create for you are there to calm our minds down so we can focus on being our true selves. So that we can stop getting in our own way.
Well, it’s actually our body that does 80% of the talking! This is incredible really when we believe we are our minds and our minds are us. Let me give you an example; have you ever felt in your gut that something is not right on a certain day but you are, at first, not aware what it is. Later, you may realise it was an anniversary of an important event or that the person you are/were with is someone who was not right for you to be around.
Well, your body did the talking first, it let you know what was going on before your head caught up. This is not the same thing as being anxious, this is knowing, an awareness and a sign from our body that we are feeling certain emotions. If we are connected to our body then we can increase the communication and awareness. Just breathe.
Fight or flight – a highly anxious state
When we are anxious or nervous, our palms can be sweaty, being around someone can make our skin crawl, our voice can sound squeaky or develop a stutter , our throat goes dry, we become dizzy or faint, our breath quickens or we hold onto it unknowingly. Our shoulders can rise towards our ears or round forward, our fists clench and our jaw tighten. It is as if we are constantly looking for the tiger that is chasing us. I think that we have been on tiger watch for this past year and the anxiety in us is persistent.
If we continue in this state of fight or flight, a highly anxious state , then the vagal nerve may go into protection mode and shut down it’s pathway. Here in lies a deep depressive state where the individual no longer reacts to stress, he or she no longer reacts at all. They are in ‘safe mode’ which is really not a safe place to be at all. The vagus nerve is no longer telling our brains that the tiger is chasing us. In this state, there may be staring into the beyond, an inability to speak, complete detachment from the world .
Here’s the thing, we may know that there is no tiger chasing us. We may be safe in our homes and certain stress factors in our lives may well have passed. However, we might not have calmed our neural pathways down and told them not to worry, that we are safe. Our vagus nerve does not know the difference between a real threat and a perceived one. It reacts in the same way to a real tiger and the idea of the tiger.
So how do we let our vagus nerve know that we are safe? We soak up nature, we relax in a warm bath, we laugh with a friend , we cuddle our children and pets, we have a back massage or some Reflexology and we breathe slowly and with purpose.
It is so simple, yet so effective and it can prevent you from the cylce of panic attacks, hyperventilation, palpitations, sickness and hysteria. It is the link to stop your vagus nerve from shutting down the pathway.
Breathe out, then breathe in.