If we want to combat stress and anxiety one of the first things we need to do is understand what is going on, and one of the best ways to do this is to learn about the stress response.
The vagus nerve provides a transmission channel that connects to our brain and wonders throughout important systems and organs in our body (hear, lungs, stomach, etc). These nerves gather and send information bidirectionally, meaning from various systems of the body to our brain and from our brain to our body systems. About eighty percent of the information sent through the vagus nerve moves to the brain while only twenty percent is sent from the brain to various systems of the body.
Just by understanding this we can see how powerfully our lungs and heart can influence our brains. This interchange of information and response starts what I call the stress cycle. Lets say you start breathing erratically and signals are sent to your brain that this is going on, the brain then reacts and sends information to other parts of your body (like the heart and stomach, and these parts of our body react the best they know how. I have found that when folks get anxious or stressed these signals really amp up and this means that other systems in the body begin to respond more frequently and powerfully and if gone unchecked this can lead to anxiety, exhaustion, and irritability.
Some common indicators that the stress cycle is moving are clenching your fists, getting sweaty palms, irregular breathing, upset stomach, and tense shoulders, or muscles around the chest or lower back.
Although we cannot directly control our heart rate and some of these other natural responses, with a little practice we can successfully control our breathing. Essentially, just like an increased heart rate can signal that something is wrong, a calm and steady breath sends a strong signal to other parts of your body that everything is okay. This is why I have included a few videos about the breath.
I hope this was helpful and please give us a call or schedule an appointment (individual counseling, marital counseling, herbal therapy, and yoga) if you think we can assist you in your journey of getting, being, or staying well.
Luke Einerson, LAMFT, AFC
Doctoral Candidate Certified Herbalist
Luke owns a counseling clinic in Rexburg, Idaho and enjoys working with couples, and cases of anxiety and depression. He is also a clinical herbalist and uses herbs to help people gain and retain personal and interpersonal wellness. Luke is currently accepting new clients and can be contacted here.
Warning: This and all of my online posts should not be construed as medical advice. I view my online posts regarding herbs as a form of community herbalism designed to educate folks on local herbs and potential uses—nothing more. Just like anything used in excess or ignorance, herbs can be harmful to your health if not used properly. Especially if your current medications and current state of physical and mental health are not considered. If you are not 100% sure of an herbs safety please see a trained herbalist or take the time to get educated to better understand the herbs contraindications.