Anxiety, Depression, Fight-Flight-Freeze

Fight-flight-freeze and the Vagus Nerve

May 02, 2022

Finding it hard to unwind? Want to learn how to relax?

In today’s world, all of us live our daily life under constant pressure, whether this is doing well at work, or studying, or being good parents, or to keeping up with everything that is thrown at us, etc, etc.

This continuous demand on us, creates an emotionally and mentally aroused state in the body (basically a state of stress), and this causes the adrenal glands to release adrenaline, which makes our heart rate go up, our breathing rate increases, muscles tense up, blood is pushed towards the legs and arms, the digestive system slows down, etc. Basically, our body responds to stress by getting us in a state of fight-flight or if the stress is intense, even a state of freeze. This state is a natural survival state for the body, on which it relies in times of real danger to get us fired up and ready to fight back or run-away.

These days, most of us are not physically in danger from lions or tigers, but we experience many of our daily stresses as if we had a close encounter with a dangerous animal. Many of us spend a great part of the day with elevated heart rate, with shallow breathing, with digestive issues, with rigid and sore muscles, etc. Over time, this often becomes chronic pain or a chronic condition, and even potentially life-threatening conditions.

The good news is that the human mind and body has an inbuilt mechanism that helps calm down the system, and brings back the state of calm, of relaxed breathing, of relaxed muscles, of clam digestion, etc. This mechanism is the Vagus Nerve.
The Vagus Nerve is the longest nerve in our body, runs from our brain to the base of the abdomen. It is responsible for communicating information from the gut (but also from the rest of the body) to the brain.

Activation of the Vagus Nerve results in an activation of the para-sympathetic system in the body, which results in a calming-down of the mind and body (slower heart rate, more relaxed breathing, more relaxed mind, increased salivation, etc).

We cannot do much to eliminate the stresses in our daily life, but we can help ourselves cope with those stresses by leaning how to activate our Vagus Nerve ‘on demand’, so we can do this whenever we need to calm down our nervous system.

To see how you can learn to activate your Vagus Nerve ‘on demand’, see my blog on How to Activate Your Vagus Nerve.

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