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How to Calm the Vagus Nerve

Updated Apr 23, 2024

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We’ve been talking about the vagus nerve for a long time, but only in reference to adults, athletes, and people wanting to biohack their nervous system. It does not get talked about enough for kids. We need to learn how to calm the vagus nerve for our children.  

The vagus nerve is under attack in kids today because they are under so much stress starting at the very beginning of their lives. 

The pregnancy process for a mom can bring about a lot of stress, anxiety, and fear. That stress continues into the delivery process, especially if a mom needs a C-section, assisted delivery, or cord wrap. All these different scenarios cause stress along the way. Then you add on childhood falls, inflammatory foods, and chemicals that come at kids from every direction. 

Lastly, is all the social stress and anxiety manifesting in our kids these days? All these components continue to affect the vagus nerve as these kids get older. 

These stressors all do one of two things. They either turn up the vagus nerve making it stronger and able to calm, chill, rest, or relax the nervous system. Or when there is too much stress, that turns the vagus nerve down and can lead to vagus nerve disorders. That stress tightens up around it and can cause it to be fast, overactive, and more in fight or flight. In that case, the vagus nerve is truly under attack in our kids. 

What is the Vagus Nerve, and How Does It Relieve Stress?

The vagus nerve, also known as the “wandering nerve,” is the longest cranial nerve in the body and plays a crucial role in the parasympathetic nervous system. It extends from the brainstem to various organs, including the heart, lungs, and digestive system. One of its primary functions is to regulate the body’s relaxation response and promote a sense of calm. When activated, the vagus nerve releases neurotransmitters that help reduce stress and anxiety. It slows down the heart rate, lowers blood pressure, and enhances digestion, all of which contribute to an overall state of relaxation and well-being. By understanding and engaging the vagus nerve, we can harness its power to relieve stress and promote emotional balance in our daily lives and the lives of our children.

How Can We Help the Vagus Nerve?

I want to educate you on some things we can do as parents to help the vagus nerve turn up or how to calm the vagus nerve. Two tips are quick, easy, and short term and the other long term. If we turn up that volume, we actually turn up kids’ ability to calm down, chill, relax, focus, sleep better, exhibit sensory calm, hang out with friends, be in loud rooms, etc.

3 Ways to Stimulate and Calm the Vagus Nerve

Here are 3 ways we, as parents, can help our children stimulate their vagus nerve.

#1 Breath Work

Taking deep breaths from the diaphragm can be extremely beneficial.  Some kids may be able to do this, and some may struggle to figure it out, but there are a lot of cool exercises out there you can google to help them along. 

Your diaphragm is located in your lower lungs. You want to take that deep breath and do a series of those breaths for a minute or two. You’re taking almost six seconds in and another six seconds to blow all that air out. That is going to stimulate the vagus nerve, which starts in the upper neck. This allows the body to get more oxygen as the vagus nerve picks that sensory sensation up from your body and lungs and feed your brain calm, chill, rest, and relaxation. So if you can get your child to practice that breathwork, it should really help.

#2: Singing, Chanting, Humming, or Meditation

The second quick fix is any kind of singing, chanting, humming, or meditation. These will all help to stimulate that vagus nerve as well. When my nine-year-old gets stressed out, he’ll actually make noises and walk around the house humming. It’s because he’s trying to intuitively stimulate that vagus nerve. This is the same thought process as to why music can be so calming, so feel free to turn on that Apple or Amazon music and let your kids sing along. This can help the vagus nerve to turn up and the body to calm and relax.

#3: Long-Term Fix – Chiropractic Adjustments

The third option is the long-term reset, and this is what pediatric chiropractic can do. We can measure how much stress the vagus nerve is under. Every kiddo is unique and comes into the world a bit differently. They come in contact with different stressors along the way. So we measure how much stress that nerve under the upper neck is under and how wound up and overwhelmed it is. Then we develop a plan to help calm the body so that we can turn up that vagus nerve’s ability to regulate and boost your child’s ability to heal, develop and grow in a calm and chill manner. 

If this is something that is top of mind for you and you’ve already tried a lot of things that aren’t necessarily working, we would love for you to reach out to a PX Doc on our directory. We need to start talking more about the vagus nerve in kiddos because it is truly one of those things that can get the nervous system online and help so many kids that are overwhelmed, stressed, and anxious.  Let’s learn how to calm the vagus nerve and help these kiddos focus better while feeling that calm!

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