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Vagus Nerve Stimulation & Stress Management: How It Helps

Vagus Nerve

Stress is something that impacts all of us at some point in our lives. Unfortunately, for many people, stress becomes ongoing, chronic, and detrimental to our health. When this happens, it’s particularly important to explore stress management techniques that could help. One such method that’s becoming increasingly popular is vagus nerve stimulation. Today, we’ll talk more about exactly what vagus nerve stimulation is and how it can provide stress management benefits.

What is the Vagus Nerve?

First, let’s briefly touch on what the vagus nerve is.

This nerve starts in the brainstem and extends down through the neck, chest, and abdomen. It plays an important role in several involuntary body functions, including heart rate, digestion, and immunity. The vagus nerve is also involved in stress response and relaxation. When we experience stress, our body goes into “fight or flight” mode. (More on that in a moment) This causes the release of stress hormones like cortisol, which can have negative impacts on our health over time when stress becomes chronic rather than acute.

Vagus Nerve Stimulation

This leads us to vagus nerve stimulation and what it can do for stress management. Vagus nerve stimulation is a technique that involves sending electrical impulses to the vagus nerve. This can be done using a device that’s similar to a pacemaker. The device is implanted under the skin and sends electrical impulses to the vagus nerve regularly.

More invasive methods such as surgical implantation could be necessary for treating medical disorders, including seizures. But are such invasive methods necessary for stress management? Luckily, the answer is no.

Rather than surgical implantation, the vagus nerve can also be stimulated through the ear. This is done using a small device that’s connected to vagus nerve-stimulating headphones. The device emits electrical impulses that stimulate the vagus nerve. This, in turn, can help to reduce stress and anxiety.

The Vagus Nerve and Stress

Next, let’s consider the role of the vagus nerve in the parasympathetic nervous system and exactly how it can help the body recover from and manage stress.

The parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for “rest and digest” functions in the body. This system helps the body to conserve energy, promote tissue growth, and absorb nutrients. To do this, the parasympathetic nervous system slows the heart rate and increases intestinal activity.

In contrast, the sympathetic nervous system is responsible for “fight or flight” stress responses. This response is characterized by an increase in heart rate, blood pressure, and respiration. Fight or flight mode serves a purpose, but we don’t need to be in this state all the time if we aren’t actively facing a threat.

And that’s where the vagus nerve comes in!

The vagus nerve is an integral part of your parasympathetic nervous system. As such, the more toned and strengthened this nerve is, the better it can take control when you’re in fight or flight mode and return you to rest and digest mode.

Vagus nerve stimulation is effective for stress management in several studies. One study looked at the effects of vagus nerve stimulation on soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The results showed that those who received vagus nerve stimulation experienced significantly reduced symptoms of PTSD compared to those who did not receive vagus nerve stimulati on.

Another study looked at the effects of vagus nerve stimulation on police officers with PTSD. Again, the results showed that vagus nerve stimulation was associated with significant reductions in symptoms of PTSD.

These studies suggest that vagus nerve stimulation could be a promising stress management technique worth exploring for yourself.

Other Benefits of Vagus Nerve Stimulation

Its stress management potential isn’t the only benefit worth exploring when it comes to VNS.

Other potential benefits include:

  • Reducing inflammation
  • Strengthening the immune system
  • Regulation of blood sugar levels
  • Lowering of blood pressure
  • Promoting recovery
  • Better sleep
  • Brighter moods

If you’re struggling with stress, don’t hesitate to explore the potential benefits of vagus nerve stimulation. It may be exactly what you need to help you find relief.

Other Stress Management Techniques and Hacks

Along with vagus nerve stimulation, there are several other “hacks” that can function as stress management techniques. Let’s discuss those next.


The first stress management hack involves using something called a “grounding technique.” This can involve anything from sitting or standing barefoot on the ground to holding onto a piece of metal. The goal is to connect with the earth and allow its energy to flow into your body.

Cold exposure

Another stress management technique is cold exposure. This means exposing your body to cold temperatures for a short time. This can be done in several ways, such as taking a cold shower or ice bath.


Breathwork is another stress management hack that can be extremely helpful. There are several different breathing exercises you can do, but the goal is always the same: to focus on your breath and slow down your breathing rate.

Visualization exercises

This stress management technique can be used in conjunction with vagus nerve stimulation. By picturing yourself in a calm and relaxing environment, you can help your body to feel more relaxed.

Standing up straight

Believe it or not, simply straightening your spine can help to reduce stress levels. When we slouch, it sends a signal to our brain that we are in danger. This increases stress hormone production. But when we stand up straight, it signals to our brain that we are safe and relaxed.


ASMR, or autonomous sensory meridian response, is a stress-reducing technique that involves listening to certain sounds. These sounds can include anything from soft speaking to gentle crinkling noises. It can be a helpful way to relax and de-stress.

Try These Stress Management Techniques Today

By understanding how stress affects your body and mind, as well as learning different stress management techniques, you can take control of your stress and start living a healthier life. Vagus nerve stimulation is one such technique that can help to reduce stress and improve your overall well-being. If you think this stress management method may be right for you, be sure to speak with your doctor to get started.

In the meantime, experiment with different techniques and see what works best for you. And don’t forget, if you’re struggling to manage your stress on your own, it’s always worth seeking out professional help. A therapist or doctor can provide additional support and guidance as you work to reduce stress in your life.