A Letter from Your Vagus Nerve
To the lovely human in my care,
I am writing with great warmth, and a desire to serve you better.
It recently occurred to me as I’ve been watching you work hard day-after-day to maintain your well-being that I have never formally introduced myself, or shared just how helpful I can be in supporting your efforts to live a good life.
I am your vagus nerve. I have an awesome job. I get to send cues of safety and comfort into your nervous system helping you know that everything is going to be okay.
I work with the other parts of your nervous system day and night trying to assure that you can approach situations with a measured response. I help your system move in and out of different states as needed, always returning back to the place where you get to relax knowing ‘it is safe to be okay.’
When parts of the nervous system detect threat, I am there. I step in to help moderate fight, flight and freeze responses. For example, if you are a customer service employee and you have someone begin shouting at you, your sympathetic nervous system will likely get anywhere from a little to a lot activated. It is my job to send cues of safety into your body to assure that it doesn’t go unnecessarily deep into a survival response and result in you taking swings at the customer to protect yourself. Some people refer to this as vagal braking. I am putting the brakes on sympathetic nervous system activity.
I will be trying to say, ‘It’s okay. You’re safe. You’ve got this. Stay calm. Take a deep breath. If you remain calm, you can help assure your customer that you are on their side.’
However, the more dangerous the situation becomes, the more I step aside and let the other parts take over. If the customer begins getting particularly aggressive, it will become helpful for you to experience increased sympathetic nervous system activation so you are readied to protect yourself. Or, in more extreme situations, if it should become helpful for you to shutdown, I will remove myself altogether until the coast is clear.
It is important to me that you know, I give my best effort at all times. That said, it is possible for me to become weak, and for my functioning to become impaired.
When you go through difficult times or have limited support and care in your life, the tone of my signaling transmission system often begins to falter.
If you have been feeling that you are over-reacting to situations, and wish you could feel calmer in the face of challenges, I am going to need to ask you to apply the Jerry McGuire principal, ‘Help me, help you.’ 😊
What I mean is that if you are willing to do some specific vagal nerve exercises to assure routine cues of safety and support are being sent to me, various aspects of the signaling transmission system will return to their toned, optimized state. As this happens, I will return to being able to fully support you by assuring cues of safety are being sent ‘loud and clear’ to help the other parts of your system.
Please consider that not only are these activities helpful in restoring an optimized state, but they are important to maintaining it. If you are willing to consider helping me out, please check out the list of activities on the ‘Calming Activities’ Post.
Before you go, I’d love if you would listen to a fun, little song that really captures the essence of what I can do for you.
Your Vagus Nerve
Safe And Sound
I could lift you up I could show you what you want to see And take you where you want to be
You could be my luck Even if the sky is falling down I know that we'll be safe and sound We're safe and sound
I could fill your cup You know my river won't evaporate This world we still appreciate
You could be my luck Even in a hurricane of frowns I know that we'll be safe and sound (safe and sound) We're safe and sound (safe and sound) We're safe and sound (Hold your ground) We're safe and sound (safe and sound)
I could show you love In a tidal wave of mystery You'll still be standing next to me
You could be my luck Even if we're six feet underground I know that we'll be safe and sound We're safe and sound
I could lift you up I could show you what you want to see And take…
Safe and Sound (Capital Cities)