Hello Dear Ones:
The dubious TV commercial that offered, “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas,” encouraged travel to Las Vegas for naughty deeds. Indeed, I wish that the details of my daughter’s bachelorette party in Vegas had stayed there.
You might have noticed, though, that I speak of a different Vagus, a transatlantic cable of a nerve – see the anatomical drawing above – that similarly holds onto what happens to it.
The Vagus Nerve
What it holds on to is, most simply, is stress. Vagus, the name of the 10th cranial nerve, comes from the same root as vagabond and this long nerve travels from your gut to your brain. We have no language in our gut, but 80-90% of the Vagus nerve is dedicated to sending ‘gut information” to your brain. (In the illustration, look at all the nerve endings among the viscera of your belly.)
You might experience the sort of sticky stress that you can’t shake off: continuous worry, a startle response to certain sounds (like notifications on your phone?), premonitions of danger, holding muscles tightly. Over time, your Vagus nerve becomes habituated to this stress response. This is what happens when the nervous systems of soldiers, victims of 9/11, or holocaust survivors suffer from PTSD, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. But if you are a woman, over 50, like me, who has worked hard to simply get through your life, then you are likely, also, to be hanging on to too much stress.
I Know You’ve Been There
Perhaps you’ve been raising children on your own, as I did. Perhaps you cared for a loved one through a long illness. Or, perhaps you’ve been juggling career and family. You might be struggling to keep going in spite of autoimmune diseases or undiagnosable, difficult symptoms. Simply chasing the conclusion of deadline projects can take into stress as well. These experiences contribute to a Vagus nerve that is stuck in stress.
The Issues Are in the Tissues
According to trauma experts such as Bessel Van der Kolk and Peter A. Levine (see references below), when the Vagus nerve loses its resilience we become stuck in hyperarousal. The problem is not the events, perhaps even traumatic ones, that happened many years ago, but, the problem is the emotional residue that lives in our bodies, and in particular, in the Vagus nerve. As some say, “the issues are in the tissues.”
In what follows, in the next two sections, I dive into a discussion of resilience vs. stress; I share a bit about my own stress-filled story; and, I offer three techniques for teaching your Vagus nerve to become more toned or resilient.
Here is the Video
I faced a dilemma here, dear readers. The wonderful techniques that I offer do not show up until the end of the blog — they are part of Part III. However, I did not want to keep you waiting. So I will post the video at the bottom of each of the blogs in this series. Enjoy and let me know what you experience!
Also, you might want to follow up by purchasing my online masterclass called, “Unshackle Your Stress and Reclaim Your Life”
Here’s the link:
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