Vagus Nerve Massage
Did you know that strengthening your vagal tone can help you recover from an accumulation of stress? Not only that, you can be more content, and improve resiliency for future challenges.
But what does the vagal nerve do that is so important to our nervous system? Well, it happens to be a key component of what helps our entire nervous system define if we are okay to feel safe or if we are in danger.
By hacking our nervous system with physical and mental choices, we can train it to make this key component not only stronger but to play in our favor to improve our responses and how we handle stressful situations.
Stimulating the vagus nerve is key to helping to calm our nervous system and manage stress more effectively. The vagus nerve is our tenth cranial nerve, extending from its origin in the brainstem through the neck and the thorax down to the abdomen, connecting with major bodily organs.
It carries an extensive range of signals from the digestive system and organs to the brain and vice versa.
The vagus nerve regulates body temperature, heart rate, and functioning, impacts our inflammation within the body, and helps the brain get signals when we are full and should stop eating.
For folks with anxiety disorders, PTSD, or autonomic disorders, a vagal nerve massage and vagal nerve stimulation may be helpful.
Vagus Nerve Massage:
This is a practice you can do at home to stimulate the vagus nerve, help calm the nervous system and build vagal tone. Essentially the vagus nerve is what helps us detect safety in our environment and with others.
Improving our vagal tone is key to helping us improve our ability to create this sense of safety. For a full video of a vagus nerve massage, click here.
There are a lot of nerve endings for the vagus nerve in the ear, which is where the practice begins. This introduction to Vagus Nerve Massage is a general ear massage practice that can be a helpful foundation to beginning to stimulate the vagus nerve in this way.
This stimulation of the vagus nerve will help us build vagal tone, which is our ability to effectively respond (not over-respond or under-respond) to sensory input. Yoga, meditation, and biofeedback are all ways to begin to build vagal tone.
For more resources and videos for building resilience and healing, as well as learn about upcoming classes, you can join my newsletter by clicking here.
May we all love the life we live...
Breathwork is one of the most accessible ways we can regulate the nervous system and build resilience. It's something we can do anytime, anywhere, which I think of as sneaky self-care.
There are many breathwork practices to explore but 4:7:8 is a well researched practice to support with emotional regulation, stress management and sleep.
A trauma-informed approach to more advanced breathwork practices, like 4:7:8, is to use a stair-step method to build up capacity for breath retention and extension.
Using this stair-step method helps to build comfort and confidence within these practices, which is essential to building new habits.
Click here for a video of a Grounding Breathwork practice that can be a helpful stair-step to a 4:7:8 breathwork practice.
For more trauma-informed tips and resources, join me for my Ethics of Trauma-Informed Care Level 1 & 2 Training this spring! Self-paced and live workshop options available.
See the flyer below or click here for more information!
May we all love the life we live...
Why does sleep matter? How sleep affects our brain and what we can do to sleep better
Sleep is one of the greatest tools we have at hand for healing.
In the past years, I have shared some simple tools for sleep support, and I have written about the importance of finding rest so we can better manage stress and feel calm within our bodies.
Now, I want to go deeper into why sleep matters and how it affects our health.
At bedtime, some key parts of the brain work together to regulate sleep. In this process, some genes turn on that help manage restoration and metabolic pathways. It is also a fundamental part of the physical process of neuroplasticity - which is the ability of our brain to change and adapt through lived experiences.
When we allow ourselves to have a truly restful sleep, our creativity improves, and so does our capacity to learn new things. Sleep allows us to heal and recover, so we can continue to do all the things we love during our waking hours.
Studies show that, in otherwise healthy adults, short-term consequences of sleep disruption include increased stress responsivity, somatic pain, reduced quality of life, emotional distress and mood disorders, and cognitive, memory, and performance deficits.
Relaxation techniques before bed have been shown to improve sleep quality and are another common technique used to treat insomnia. Creating a bedtime routine can help signal to the body and mind that all activity is done for the day and it is time to rest.
Here are 5 tips to help you create a bedtime routine:
If you want to learn more, I am excited to share that I will be having lots of more resources on sleep, self-care, and burnout prevention coming out soon so please stay tuned for more!
To be the first to know, join my newsletter here.
May we all love the life we live…
Bilateral Healing: Tip Tap Fingers
Bilateral stimulation is one of the ways we can help orient ourselves to the present moment and support our nervous system to regulate and ground to create a deeper sense of safety within the body.
My favorite bilateral tool to use is called Tip Tap Fingers. This tool can be used to help create space in the mind from triggers and intrusive thoughts.
This tool can also help us "keep our lids on" when we feel stressed or triggered.
This bilateral brain game can be practiced in the following layers to continue to increase the mental challenge and help build more neuroplasticity in the brain. These tools can help us build resilience and learn to stay checked in with our body for a sense of safety.
Tip Tap Fingers:
This past week, I was interviewed by Hannah Levin of Heartfelt Wellbeing where I talk about the practical applications of this tools along with other Yoga for Trauma principles and practices. To see the full interview on Yoga for Trauma, you can click here.
For more trauma-informed tools, my Ethics of Trauma-Informed Care training starts on April 29th! You can choose between a live version or self-paced version with lifetime access to the recording. Click here for more information and to reserve a spot today!
Bilateral Healing: The Pretzel
As humans, we are always changing and growing.
Using bilateral stimulation is one way to help our brains build new pathways, regulate the vagus nerve and manage stress more effectively.
Bilateral healing is utilizing bilateral stimulation through the senses in a rhythmic pattern. Using something that we can hear, see or feel and allowing the brain to process and regulate more effectively.
This month I am going to be sharing a series of weekly resources on bilateral healing methods.
This week's tool is a bilateral position called The Pretzel (coined by Linda Harrison, LPCS) that when paired with deep rhythmic breathing, can help calm the nervous system and repair the MindBody connection.
For a free video of The Pretzel practice, click here.
Follow these steps to move into the body position:
It takes 2 minutes for the neurological system to respond by slowing your heart and breath, moving from the sympathetic activated part of your nervous system to the parasympathetic nervous system. Therefore, it is important to rest in this position for at least two minutes.
For more trauma-informed resources, you can join my Ethics of Trauma-Informed Care training on April 29th from 9-11 EST! For more information and to reserve your spot, you can click here.
We live in a chronically overstimulated world. For many of us, it is important to focus on creating time to decompress from the day in order to avoid burnout.
Often many of us are so exhausted by the end of the day, we will just collapse. If we can take a few moments to consciously decompress, we allow our nervous system a chance to complete the stress cycle and reset.
Some decompression practices include:
Not allowing the nervous system time to decompress would be the same as eating nonstop every day - our bodies wouldn’t have time to effectively filter out toxins vs. nutrients.
These decompression practices can happen during transitions throughout the day or as a conscious way to unwind in the evening.
Whatever you choose, start small.
Try to do something for just 2 minutes a day. Every week, add slowly to those practices and over time it will make a big impact on our stress and resilience.
For more trauma tips and tools, join my newsletter for free weekly resources by clicking here!
My Ethics of Trauma Informed Care virtual training is Friday, April 29th from 9-11 EST. Participants have lifetime access to the recording so you do not have to attend live to receive the 2 Ethics CEs!
For more information and to reserve your spot, click here.
As a therapist, managing my own dance with burnout is one of the most important things I can do to remain trauma-informed in my work with clients. If I am burned out, I can not provide the most quality care and space holding.
When people are depleted and burned out, it can be hard to focus, our memory can get impacted and our ability to be tuned into our body's needs can become more difficult.
One of my favorite ways to manage my burnout is to have sensory items around me during sessions with my clients. Having sensory objects to hold, see, stand on or place upon my body can help me stay attuned and focused during a session.
Sensory tools can help us “keep our lids on”, regulate our vagus nerve and manage our energy so that we do not take on the pain of others.
There are so many forms of burnout and I believe these tools can help all forms of burnout (professional, parental, caregiver, etc.) be managed more effectively.
My favorite sensory tools include:
There are pros and cons to virtual therapy, but being able to have self-care tools and resources more readily surrounding me has been a huge help to managing the intensity of space-holding during a two year pandemic.
I hope you found these tools and tips supportive on your journey. For more trauma-informed and self-care resources, my Ethics of Trauma Informed Care training on April 29th is a virtual live training that will include lifetime access to the recording if you can’t join live.
For more information and to reserve your spot, click here.
Trauma Informed Care Tip: Language
As a trauma therapist, I know the language I use with my clients is key to helping them feel safe and empowered.
Trauma informed language is all about invitation, allowing people to have freedom to explore their own experience without shame or expectation.
When we invite someone to try something with their bodies, we allow them choice and agency - two key things that are taken away when someone goes through trauma.
Making sure we give options and emphasize that if it doesn't feel right for that person's body, they can stop a practice at any time.
Somatic tools are a key component to trauma recovery but each person has their own relationship and triggers within their body so invitation and curiosity is key.
In my upcoming Ethics of Trauma Informed Care live webinar on April 29th, I will be providing a range of somatic tools and trauma informed practices to use with clients and on our own personal healing journey.
Participants will receive 2 Ethics CEs through NASW-NC and will have lifetime access to the recording if you can't attend live.
For more information on the course and to reserve your spot, you can click here.
To receive weekly free trauma informed resources and tools in my newsletter, you can click here.
Breathwork is one of my favorite tools to help clients (and myself) build resilience and recover from the effects of trauma.
Breathwork is a term used to describe any type of therapy that utilizes breathing exercises to improve mental, physical, and spiritual health.
Breathwork is a way to combine the ancient practices of yoga with modern neuroscience. It can be beneficial for people experiencing anxiety, chronic pain, depression, trauma, and anger issues, to name a few.
I believe it is important to ease people into breathing practices in phases in order to minimize triggers and increase a sense of empowerment with a new practice.
Square Breathing is a common breathing technique that can be used to help calm the nervous system and build resilience. It is used by everyone from athletes to US Navy Seals, police officers, and nurses.
Traditionally in this practice, you inhale for the count of 4, pause for 4, exhale for 4, and pause for 4.
I believe there are important factors to introducing a breathwork practice that can make it more trauma informed.
Tip #1: “Pause” vs. “Hold”
Words matter. Referring to the practice as a “pause” rather than a “hold” can have a more neutral connotation for trauma survivors.
Tip #2: Reduce the length
A Modified Square Breathing practice can include inhaling for the count of 3, pausing for 2, exhaling for 3, pausing for 2.
This modification can help to ease individuals into the practice of breath retention, which can initially feel uncomfortable, especially for beginners. For a free video of a Modified Square Breathing practice, click here.
Tip #3: Always by invitation
Inviting someone to try a breathwork practice is key for empowering an individual to make choices about what happens with their body. Reminding a client that they are in control of their own body and that they can modify or stop the practice at any time can feel empowering to a trauma survivor trying to reintegrate back into their body.
For more trauma informed tips, you can join my upcoming Ethics of Trauma Informed Care training happening on April 29th from 9-11 EST.
This will be a live virtual training and participants will receive lifetime access to the recording so you do not have to attend live to receive CEs. 2 Ethics CEs approved by NASW-NC will be included in the course.
Click here for more information and to reserve your spot today.
Orienting for the Vagus Nerve
Orienting to the space we are in is an important tool to help stimulate our vagus nerve and calm the nervous system.
Our vagus nerve is always tracking our environment to create what’s called “neuroception” which is our ability to detect safety in our environment.
Intentionally turning our bodies and orienting to the space we are in can stimulate our vagus nerve, help us become more oriented into the present moment and help to build this neuroception and our vagal tone.
Identifying exits and parameters of the room and confirming what is behind us can help us feel more grounded, safe and present. After orienting ourselves, we can begin to take deep belly breaths to continue this calming of the nervous system.
Join me in this simple grounding and orienting practice to support the vagus nerve by clicking here to help feel safer in our bodies and our environment.
For more free resources and weekly tips to build resilience, you can join my newsletter by clicking here.
May we all love the life we live…
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.