There’s tension in your chest, your heart is pounding and your mind is restless. During the day, you find it hard to concentrate, you feel tense and you’re quick to overreact. Everything feels a bit too difficult and troubling. During the night, your sleep is chased away by the vicious cycle of your own thoughts.

Does this sound familiar?

There is a scientific reason explaining these feelings. The functioning of the vagus nerve, historically known as the pneumogastric nerve, is found to be connected to these symptoms.

Our team has named vagus nerve as the love nerve as its common functions are closely related to us humans experiencing the feelings of love. Those feelings, in turn, improve the functioning of the vagus nerve itself.

The vagus nerve extends from the brain to the lower abdomen. Its fibres reach most of the internal organs. The nerve ensures the optimal functioning of the heart, digestive system and respiratory system.

Heartburn, vague abdominal symptoms, heart palpitation and anxiety may be indicative of a dysfunctional vagus nerve.

The key purpose of the vague nerve is to restore the body to a state of resting and digesting to help the body calm down and recover from strain. When the vagus nerve works properly, it’s easier for us to listen to our inner voice and remember what is truly important. We are able to see the bigger picture, think in new ways and, therefore, find creative solutions to our problems.

Heartache, prolonged uncertainty, chronic lack of sleep or tension in the neck and shoulders may result in a dysfunctional vagus nerve. That is when the nervous system may enter into a long-lasting fight-or-flight mode. That makes us suspicious and anxious, and makes the world seem black and white. Even the smallest issues may feel overwhelming.

During the most challenging times, my vagus nerve suffered from a long-term imbalance. Due to the dysfunction, I experienced many of the symptoms described earlier. When I learned how to improve and balance the functions of the vagus nerve, I started to feel better – very soon.

It is important to understand why some situations feel scary and agonising. And also, to understand what makes you feel safe and secure. Personally, I aimed to increase the presence of those things that made me feel safe in my everyday life. Hearing a voice of a close friend over the phone was sometimes all it took to balance my nervous system after a busy and stressful day.

Good ways to balance the vagus nerve, or the love nerve as we call it, are spending time in nature, deep breathing and singing. You can strengthen the vagus nerve also by laughing, hugging and kissing. A cold shower or winter swimming boost its functions.

I’ve taken cold showers since I was a teenager. The next time you feel tense, maybe you want to try the benefits of cold water, or try the other tips and see which of them work the best for you and nerves.