In the pursuit of quick anxiety relief, have you ever considered turning to your freezer? Here at Men’s Health, we’re always on the lookout for innovative hacks to improve your well-being. So, when our feed introduced us to the concept of “vagus nerve icing” as a fast-acting anxiety remedy, we knew we had to explore it further.
The Vagus Nerve: Your Body’s Communication Superhighway
Surprisingly, there’s some scientific backing to this unconventional approach.
Let’s begin by diving into the fascinating world of the vagus nerve, the longest cranial nerve in the human body. It traverses a path from the brain to the abdomen, transmitting signals between the brain and vital organs. This remarkable nerve plays a pivotal role in regulating critical bodily functions such as heart rate, respiratory rate, digestion, and even reflexes like swallowing and vomiting.
The Vagus Nerve’s Role in Calming the Body
The vagus nerve is a key player in the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), responsible for promoting the “rest and digest” mode, as opposed to the “fight or flight” response governed by the sympathetic nervous system (SNS). When activated, the vagus nerve acts like a gentle commander, signalling the body to ease off the gas pedal by reducing heart rate and lowering blood pressure. Surprisingly, this is one instance where we happily heed the advice to calm down.
Cold Therapy: A Scientific Approach
Research has indicated that stimulating the vagus nerve with cold temperatures can effectively regulate the nervous system and reduce heart rate.
From Therapy to Your Freezer: The Cold Connection
Now, you might think this freezer therapy is just another TikTok trend, but it has roots in the world of therapy. Cold exposure has long been recognised as a valuable distress tolerance technique in dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT). Distress tolerance is all about managing intense emotions without feeling overwhelmed. It’s a short-term strategy that can swiftly dial down emotional intensity.
Approved Methods for Activating the Vagus Nerve with Cold
So, how can you tap into the power of the vagus nerve with cold therapy? Here are some approved methods:
- Cold Water Splash: Simply splash cold water onto your face to trigger the response.
- Submersion: Hold your breath and immerse your face in a bowl of cold water for an invigorating experience.
- Ice Pack Magic: Gently place a soft ice pack over your eyes for an instant calming effect.
- Hydrate with Cold: Sip on ice-cold water to give your vagus nerve a refreshing nudge.
- Cold Shower: Take a brisk cold shower for a full-body reset.