6 Vagus Nerve Exercises to Fight Stress and Anxiety

6 Vagus Nerve Exercises to Fight Stress and Anxiety

Wish you could banish individuals nagging, anxious thoughts swirling in your head in mere seconds? If you discover a couple important vagus nerve physical exercises, that just may well be achievable.

Anxiety is the worst. Your thoughts is racing, your heart feels like it’s heading to pound suitable out of your upper body, and you just simply cannot calm down. We’ve all been there, and we’d do just about anything to get rid of that feeling—and, preferably, get rid of it quick. According to promising new study and thousands of TikTok video clips, vagus nerve physical exercises may possibly be the critical to experience superior inside of seconds.

Never read of vagus nerve stimulation? If you have observed films of people dunking their faces in bowls of ice-cold h2o to de-pressure, that’s what you are observing. This TikTok hack supposedly calms you down by activating the body’s vagus nerve, a tremendous essential nerve that extends from your mind to your stomach and impacts a entire host of bodily capabilities. Proponents say it can also boost your temper and even beat depression, and a chilly-water dunk is just just one way to get it likely.

But can vagal nerve stimulation seriously increase psychological wellness? Or is this just a situation of a TikTok fad blended with wishful imagining? We took a nearer glance into what the science says about vagus nerve physical exercises.

What is the Vagus Nerve?

The vagus nerve, also named the 10th cranial nerve, is the longest cranial nerve in the overall body. But this is a little bit of a misnomer: It truly refers to two bundles of nerves, composed of countless numbers of nerve fibers, and it connects your mind to your gut and anything in between. If you want to trace part of its route, touch your earlobes and go your fingers down possibly aspect of your neck it passes by your carotid artery and jugular vein. In your torso, the vagus nerve’s fibers department out toward your organs, letting your mind know what is going on with each and every of them and trying to control any challenges. 

Vagus Nerve and Anxiousness: How it Can Assistance

So, what does the vagus nerve have to do with nervousness? There are a handful of things involved. The vagus nerve is a important component of the gut-mind axis, a burgeoning space of study for psychological wellbeing specialists. Appear no even further than people butterflies in your tummy or GI complications when you are anxious for signals of this relationship.

The vagus nerve is “a very important part of your parasympathetic anxious method,” claims Ashwini Nadkarni, MD, Affiliate Vice Chair of Wellness and Assistant Healthcare Director of Brigham Psychiatry Specialties at Harvard College. “[That] section of the nervous procedure plays a important function in ‘rest and digest,’ or a set of features that permit us to chill out immediately after a period of worry.” In other words, it is intended to enable us serene us down when a little something freaks us out. The vagus nerve also has an effect on heart charge, digestion, respiration, the immune system, and more—all of which can have an impact on the two nervousness and melancholy.

But that is only a person element of this sophisticated equation. Our body’s reaction to anxiousness and the appropriate performing of our vagus nerve also involves the release of neurotransmitters like epinephrine and norepinephrine and how they relate to trauma and tension. 

So how do you be certain your vagus nerve is in tip-prime form? Bettering vagal tone can provide equilibrium to a procedure that is out of whack. 

What is Vagal Tone?

vagus nerve exercises breathing

Vagal tone refers to the activity and strength of the vagus nerve. An considerable evaluate of scientific studies in Frontiers in Psychiatry exhibits just how effective healthful vagal tone might be. The vagus nerve is fundamentally your body’s regulator, and it operates by using 3 distinctive pathways to battle swelling. Plus, as noted previously, it will help coordinate your breathing and your heart charge, so when it’s operating thoroughly, it receives both equally of these again down to normal amounts swiftly.

If you have sturdy vagal tone, you are capable to calm down a lot more correctly and promptly following a stressful situation. Low vagal tone indicates that your vagus nerve is not performing optimally.

So, aside from your capacity (or incapacity) to loosen up, how can you tell if you have high or very low vagal tone? “Because of the wide variety of features it regulates, vagus nerve troubles can present with a lot of indications,” claims Dr. Nadkarni. “People could have stomach soreness or bloating or knowledge acid reflux, decline of urge for food, nausea/vomiting, problems swallowing, or alterations in their coronary heart price or blood pressure—it is dependent on which part of the vagus is impacted.” 

Doctors can also get an plan of what your vagal tone is like by examining your coronary heart fee. According to a analyze released in the journal World Psychiatry in 2021, persons who really do not have considerably variability amongst heartbeats have low vagal tone—something that is also connected with critical concerns like heart failure, superior blood stress, and diabetic issues. One more system of assessing vagal tone entails examining your gag reflex a weak gag reflex signifies small vagal tone.

What is Vagus Nerve Stimulation?

Vagus nerve stimulation mainly entails waking up your vagus nerve with some form of external stimuli so that a peace reaction kicks in. Dependent on how you go about this, you can see final results inside seconds. And the additional you do it, the much better your vagal tone will grow to be and the additional your physique and your mind will bear in mind how to do this without the need of prompting. 

When medical practitioners discuss about vagus nerve stimulation (VNS), nevertheless, they are commonly referring to interventions in a medical setting that require an implantable machine that stimulates the vagus nerve with electrical impulses. The Food and drug administration has authorized the use of VNS in 1997 for epilepsy and in 2005 for procedure-resistant depression. A 5-12 months observational analyze of people with critical depression released in 2017 in the American Journal of Psychiatry observed a 27 per cent cumulative advancement in the contributors who used VNS solutions compared to the “treatment-as-usual team,” as nicely as a virtually 18 p.c remission rate.  

There are also a good deal of approaches to promote the vagus nerve making use of noninvasive methods, even though some industry experts question their validity: Even though these approaches might elicit leisure, are they certainly stimulating the vagal nerve? Additional investigation is desired, but some medical gurus say these approaches are worthy of seeking, provided the reality that there is little chance and a complete good deal of potential reward to trying vagus nerve exercise routines.

How to Encourage The Vagus Nerve

vagus nerve exercises yoga

As observed higher than, most of the analysis to day has targeted on surgical VNS. Having said that, the vagus nerve workout routines down below do have scientific reasoning and investigate powering them, even if they weren’t researched in controlled environments or for anxiety, for each se. But attempt them, and you just may possibly discover your self respiratory a minimal simpler. 

Cold Drinking water Immersion

The cold-h2o encounter dunk is all about simulating the “diving reflex,” which slows the heart price and constricts blood vessels, sending blood to the brain and lungs. You can also obtain this effect just about immediately by using a chilly shower or splashing your face with chilly h2o. One latest examine located that chilly drinking water on the neck, cheek, and forearm slowed participants’ heart premiums and soothed stress-associated signs and symptoms, even though a further from 2010 showed that just consuming cold water labored very similar magic. 

Vagal Nerve Icing

This is equivalent to cold h2o immersion, but it’s a lot more localized. Get an ice pack (or a bag of frozen peas), lay down, and set it in the heart of your chest. Yep, that’s it. The chilly will stimulate your vagus nerve, which, in change, will slow your heart amount. Some followers of this system say it is a useful trick when you have sleeplessness that will ship you back again in dreamland in no time.


Scientific studies have revealed that yoga can assist with stress and anxiety and melancholy, and some exploration even implies that sure yoga tactics can stimulate the vagus nerve right. This is very likely a mixture of the poses, the deep respiratory involved, and some of the vocalizations. (More on the vocalizations under.) Once again, though respiratory may possibly or may perhaps not encourage the vagus nerve, it can definitely assistance tranquil you down irrespective.

Buzzing and Singing

Songs soothes the savage beast, which is a very apt description of your brain when you are feeling anxious. But even though listening to tunes might tranquil you or get your thoughts off your concerns, humming or singing could acquire issues a step further by stimulating your vagus nerve. As Dr. Nadkarni notes, this has anything to do with anatomy. Your vagus nerve is connected to your vocal cords, so when you’re vibrating them by humming or singing (or chanting “om” in a yoga class), it gets your vagus nerve heading. 

Vagus Nerve Therapeutic massage

There are a slew of vagus nerve workout routines that you can locate on-line to assist make improvements to vagal tone, but as pointed out, they are not entirely vetted by scientific experiments. Quite a few include the ears and start out by utilizing a finger to make compact, gentle circles within just the external folds of your ear (the concha) and the tiny little bit (the tragus) that addresses your external ear canal. From there, you can work your way down the sides of your throat with a gentle touch. Alternatively, you can therapeutic massage your toes, extend your soles and rotate your ankles, according to the ideas of reflexology. 


“Because of the connections in between the intestine and the vagus nerve,” claims Dr. Nadkarni, “good dietary decisions, this sort of as as a result of a Mediterranean diet program, can certainly market nutritious vagal tone.” After all, a small-excess fat, reduced-carbohydrate eating plan can direct to significantly less irritation in the intestine, and that can assist the vagus nerve do the job optimally and manage pressure superior. According to a examine revealed in the BMJ, prebiotics and probiotics can also ease despair by growing the gut’s “good micro organism,” nevertheless the jury is even now out on nervousness.

The Takeaway

Anxiousness is complicated, and vagus nerve exercise routines alone can’t eradicate it. Of program, it’s vital to work with a mental health experienced to deal with stress and anxiety or depression. Continue to, for life’s each day bumps in the road, a rapid fix when you definitely need to have it, or a lengthier-expression way to shake points off additional effortlessly, stimulating your vagus nerve can be one particular much more weapon in your arsenal in opposition to tension.