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Polyvagal Nerve Reset

The Vagal nerves are a network of fibres in our brainstem (located at the base of our neck). They are the main nerves of your parasympathetic nervous system. This system controls specific body functions such as your digestion, heart rate and immune system. These functions are involuntary, meaning you can't consciously control them.

Polyvagal theory is a scientific framework developed by Dr. Stephen Porges. Through a series of experiments on the brain’s vagal nerves, which serves the calming aspect of our nervous system, he explains how our sense of danger can impact our behaviour. It proposes that physiological state limits the range of behaviour and psychological experience.

Polyvagal theory shifts in the autonomic nervous system (involuntary actions such as heart rate, breathing and internal organs) produces three states: rest-and-digest (social and safe), fight-or-flight (mobilisation) or shutdown (immobilisation (Porges, 2009).

Therapeutically, this theory has allowed the development of a number of exercises to help reduce distress in the body including symptoms of anxiety and trauma. The following are a number of things you can do to stimulate or reset the vagus nerve;

  1. Exercise

  1. Meditate

  2. Diaphragmatic breathing

  3. Cold water immersion

  4. Massage therapy

The benefits of stimulating the vagus nerve include;

  • Improve depressive symptoms.

  • Reduce anxiety symptoms.

  • Regulate your emotions.

  • Reduce blood pressure.

  • Lower your heart rate.

  • Reduce inflammation.

You can also copy the link below to learn some skills to reset the vagus nerve.


Porges SW. (2009). The polyvagal theory: New insights into adaptive reactions of the autonomic nervous system. Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine, 76:S86–90.

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