Anxiety, the Vagus Nerve, and Your Nervous System

Do you struggle with anxiety and the symptoms that go along with it? Continue reading to learn how anxiety is connected with your nervous system and some strategies to help calm it and your symptoms of anxiety.

Many, many years ago during prehistoric times our nervous system was designed to keep us safe. If there was a large, meat eating animal of prey, our sympathetic nervous system (think fight or flight) would switch on so we could avoid being an animal’s next meal. We no longer need to worry about being eaten by a tiger, but our nervous system still gets activated. Today, it’s often activated by stress, even though it’s not life threatening. Whether it’s traffic, children, a hectic job, or any other number of things, the stress in our lives can prompt us to go into “flight or fight” mode. If we are a survivor of childhood trauma, we may still be activated as an adult and quick to go into full survival mode.

As ominous as that all sounds, we do have options to lower our level of anxiety and our tendency to be triggered into “fight or flight” mode. The vagus nerve is a hot topic on social media at the moment and perhaps you’ve come across it and wondered about the validity of what you’re seeing. Let me explain the connection between the vagus nerve and your symptoms of anxiety. The vagus nerve is one of your cranial nerves, cranial nerve X to be specific. It is related to your parasympathetic nervous system, which you may know as “rest and digest.” It is associated with breathing, digestion, and heart rate. In ancient times, once the tiger had left the scene, it was the vagus nerve that helped calm your nervous system.

What can we do to activate the vagus nerve and calm a nervous system that’s been triggered by our high stress modern day lifestyle? There are several things! One of my favourites, because it’s so easy and relaxing, is to meditate. This is why meditation is associated with a reduction in blood pressure, it is calming the nervous system. For best results you will want to meditate twice a day for about 20 minutes followed by a brief rest period.

A healthy lifestyle will also support and activate your vagus nerve. Eat a balanced, whole foods diet, get plenty of high quality sleep, and maintain an active lifestyle. Other ways to activate the vagus nerve is through mindfulness (focus on the present moment and task and avoid multitasking), breathing exercises, yoga, and cold stimulation (cold compress to your neck, taking a cold shower, or splashing cold water on your face).

Need more help in reducing symptoms of anxiety? Please send me a message at and let’s book a complimentary session.



Caron, C. (2022, June 2). This nerve influences nearly every internal organ. Can it improve our mental state, too? The New York Times.

Cleveland Clinic. (2023, April 20). Your vagus nerve may be key to fighting anxiety and stress.,to%20put%20it%20in%20motion.

Cox, C. (2022, September 22). Vagus nerve stimulation: Why icing it helps with anxiety. PsychCentral.\

Jungmann, M., Vencatachellum, S., Van Ryckeghem, D., & Vögele, C. (2018). Effects of Cold Stimulation on Cardiac-Vagal Activation in Healthy Participants: Randomized Controlled Trial. JMIR Formative Research, 2(2), e10257.



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