Winning over Anxiety – the Power of the Vagus Nerve

When you find yourself in a bout of anxiety, your body is experiencing a heightened version of the fight or flight reaction. In the body, this reaction is maintained by the sympathetic nervous system, which is largely the counterpart of the parasympathetic nervous system. They both make up the autonomous nervous system.

Greater activation of the parasympathetic nervous system and lower activation of the sympathetic nervous system can return your body to a calmer and less anxious state. Greater parasympathetic activation can be achieved through stimulation of the vagus nerve. Some techniques are as follows:

  • Diaphragmatic breathing (taking deep breaths from the diaphragm)
  • The Valsalva manoeuvre
  • The Trendelenburg position
  • Carotid sinus massage (by a healthcare professional!)

(Don’t try any of these without the advice of a healthcare professional)

You can read more about them in an article in Psychology Today

While these may be quick techniques for moments of heightened anxiety, finding out why you feel anxious is usually the best way to resolve anxiety long-term. Anxiety is after all a signal that may be a misalignment in your life between your needs and aspirations and your current life situation. Helping you through anxiety and resolving it are objectives of psychotherapy.

For more articles on anxiety and psychotherapy on this website you may be interested in the following:

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