The Vagus Nerve and Emotions
Did you know that there’s a nerve that runs from your brain through your face and upper body that helps regulate your emotions? It’s called the vagus nerve. It communicates motor and sensory signals to every single organ in your body. It’s what controls your “fight or flight” response, and tells you when it’s okay to “rest and digest”.
When you feel scared or anxious, your body responds by doing many things. You may start sweating or shaking, your head may start to hurt, or you may start hyperventilating. This is all your vagus nerve talking to your brain telling you that you are in danger. If you’re feeling this way on a regular basis (especially when there is no real life-threatening danger) it could affect you long term. You may begin to have migraines, sleep problems, or digestive problems. That’s why it’s so important to have self-regulation strategies in your tool belt at all times!
There’s a video that explains the mechanisms of the vagus nerve in a very easy-to-digest way, not to mention it’s a good one to watch with kiddos to help them understand their emotions and learn a strategy to regulate!
The FDA has already approved vagus nerve stimulation to treat epilepsy and depression, and research is currently being done by stimulating the vagus nerve to treat symptoms of autism.
Medical jargon and research aside, awareness is key. Once you are aware of how your body is feeling and why, you can begin to help it regulate.