8 ways to stimulate your vagus nerve and ease anxiety

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Harness the power of your own body to reduce stress and anxiety

8 ways to stimulate your vagus nerve and ease anxiety

When we’re feeling stressed and anxious, it’s usually because of our oversensitive brains. Hard-wired to look out for danger and sound the alarm when it perceives danger (whether it’s a hungry tiger walking your way or an ambiguous email from your boss), our brain triggers chronic stress and anxiety when we stay in a fight or flight state.

Moving out of this state isn’t always easy, but the body has a secret weapon we can take advantage of - the vagus nerve. This cranial nerve is the longest nerve in our body, connecting our brain with many organs (vagus means ‘wanderer’ in Latin, which fits as the nerve wanders around our body).

The vagus nerve does many things, but the one we’re interested in here is the way it triggers a relaxation response in the body and increases something called vagal tone.

“Since the vagus nerve is part of our parasympathetic nervous system, when it gets stimulated it increases what is known as vagal tone; slowing our heart rate and our breathing and calming our nervous system down. In 2010 researchers at the Cleveland clinic found a positive correlation between a high vagal tone and positive emotions and overall good health.” Counsellor Fiona Austin explains in her article, The vagus nerve - our biological antidote to anxiety and stress.

And the best part? We can stimulate our vagus nerve and help ourselves move out of a stressed and anxious state. Here’s how.


1.  Breathe deep

Breathing exercises are often recommended when it comes to stress and anxiety, and here’s another great reason to give it a try. When we breathe deep and slow from our abdomen, we stimulate the vagus nerve. Try breathing out for longer than you breathe in as this helps to activate our parasympathetic nervous system (our relaxation response).

If you want to take things a step further, meditate. Loving kindness meditations especially are thought to stimulate the vagus nerve, help you feel more relaxed and connected. Try this guided meditation by our very own Hannah:

2. Sing it out

The vagus nerve runs up our necks, so when we engage our vocal cords we can give it a gentle nudge. Singing can do this and improve our overall wellbeing, so why not make a playlist of your favourite sing-along songs?

Not a singer? Try humming or gargling water instead.  

3. Massage

Massaging any part of the body is great for rest and relaxation, but it’s thought that massaging the feet in particular can help stimulate the vagus nerve. Try self-massage, ask a partner or treat yourself to a reflexology session and see how you feel.

You can also gently massage your neck, shoulders and behind your ears for more direct contact with the vagus nerve.

4. Cold water immersion

Exposing yourself to the cold may not sound relaxing, but as well as trig

10 tips you can use to transform your health

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Hi friends! Happy Monday and I hope you’re having a wonderful day. We’re finishing cleaning and organizing our closets (they were an epic mess lol) and enjoying the day with the crew.

For today’s post, I thought I would share some simple but powerful health tips from myself and Mia (a Registered Dietitian). It’s easy to think that changing your health requires a huge overhaul at once, but the beauty is in creating small habits and building from there. If you haven’t read Atomic Habits, I highly recommend it!! It explores the power of habit building and how to use small habits to make huge changes.

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Here are some of the things that come to mind that you can use to build on over time. I’d love to hear if there’s anything else you’d add to the list!

10 tips you can use to transform your health

5 tips from Gina, a Precision Nutrition coach, NASM certified Personal Trainer and Women’s Fitness Specialist

1. Meditate

Meditation is one of the most powerful habits I’ve added to my personal health routine. When I meditate, it immediately affects how I feel on a mental level (more calm, patient, less anxious, more present) and it also affects my blood glucose when I’m wearing a CGM. The days that I meditate, I notice that I sleep much better that night and have vivid dreams. If you’re not sure how to start a meditation practice, check out this podcast episode.


2. Hydrate yourself throughout the day.

Even better? Sip on some LMNT electrolytes or another electrolyte you love. Hydration affects so many processes in the body, from digestion, skin tone, immune function, hormones, satiety, etc. I like to aim for at least half my body weight in ounces, and definitely have one serving of electrolytes each day, especially when it’s hot outside or I’ve had a longer or more intense workout.

3. Swap out frequent high-intensity exercise for low-impact or lower intensity options.

If you’re currently doing lots of high impact and high intensity workouts, assess your routine and make sure that you have some lower intensity days and at least 1-2 days completely off each week. After a certain point, you will experience diminishing returns with super intense workouts, usually through hormonal issues (exercise is a stressor for the body and it really comes down to how we recover from exercise!), and potentially overtraining symptoms or overuse injuries. If you’re not sure how to balance your workout plan, join us for Fit Team Read more

How to Make a Perfect Smash Burger Recipe

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Nothing says summer quite like a good burger! This time we are teaching you how to make a perfect smash burger and there’s one secret that is life-changing.

Look, I don’t know why smashing a burger, literally the one thing you should NEVER do to meat totally works in this recipe, but it does. Ok, I do actually know why, it’s because it caramelizes every single piece of that patty thus making for more flavor in each bite, but the point is, it doesn’t make sense and so therefore you should absolutely eat it. 

It’s kind of like that crazy wedge salad story; it’s simple and therefore it’s the beeeeeest!

a photo of a double patty cheesy smash burger with shredded lettuce and pickles on a golden bun.

Cade and I discovered smash burgers when we were in our first few years of marriage and I think it’s actually what kind of turned me from burger hater to burger enjoyer and now lover. I still loooove a crispy chicken sandwich, don’t you get me wrong, but a smash burger will always make my mouth water. 

They are juicy, buttery, and have those crispy edges that are the star of this burger show. And the best thing about this is that smash burgers are simple and cook so fast…exactly what you want to feed the fam on a busy summer weeknight or to feed a crowd for your 4th of July festivities!

Ingredients for Smash Burgers

There’s nothing crazy going on with these ingredients. The crazy comes in the cooking technique, so your ingredient list looks like this:

Burger Patties

  • Canola Oil
  • Burger Buns
  • Butter
  • Ground Beef (60/40) – this probably sounds crazy, but just ask your butcher and trust me on this one…all the flavor comes in the higher fat content!
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Toppings

The measurements for each ingredient can be found in the recipe card down below.

 

Grilled Corn and Roasted Tomato Pesto Pasta

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Grilled Corn and Roasted Tomato Pesto Pasta

It’s one of my favorite quick dinner ideas for summer – grilled corn and roasted tomato pesto pasta is so fresh and ready in just 15 minutes!

When you find something that the whole family will eat, you make it in every form possible! By some miracle, all my kids will eat pesto. PESTO! Of all the things! I’m not complaining because pesto is life!

We have pesto pizza, pesto paninis, pesto veggies, pesto chicken pasta, and even pesto tarts! See…all forms possible and every one is so delish!

This recipe is so tasty with a little smokiness from the roasted tomatoes and grilled corn. I love the addition of the bocconcini for the creaminess and added protein. It’s also healthy and so satisfying!

a photo of a bowl full of pesto pasta topped with grilled corn, mozzarella balls and roasted tomatoes.

What Ingredients Go in Roasted Tomato Pesto Pasta?

This ingredients list is simple and so yum! You’ll need the ingredients for homemade pesto and then just a few other items to get this recipe on the table. Here is your list:

  • Pine Nuts
  • Garlic
  • Basil
  • Olive Oil
  • Tomatoes
  • Grilled Corn
  • Parmesan (fresh)
  • Sea Salt
  • Pepper
  • Penne
  • Bocconcini

The measurements for each can be found in the recipe card at the end of this post.

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5 effective tips to slow down time and savour the moment

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The older we get, the faster the years pass, but what if there was a way to slow things down and savour every moment?

5 effective tips to slow down time and savour the moment

Do you remember how long the summer holidays felt when you were a kid? Weeks stretched out like aeons, and the next school year was but a distant dream. As we grow up, those weeks seem to shrink. Suddenly, we find ourselves in disbelief – not quite sure how another year has passed.

Time is a tricky thing, and our perception of it can stretch and shrink. When we’re young, we haven’t got many years under our belts, so it tracks that years feel longer (for a 10-year-old, one year is 10% of their life). Children are also developing, soaking up new information and growing. They’re having more new experiences, and creating formative memories.

As adults, one year feels like a blink of an eye compared to the number of years we’ve been around. We have far fewer new experiences, and tend not to be learning and growing at such a rapid pace. Days become more formulaic and predictable, making them seamlessly blend together. After all, our brains can only hold onto a certain amount of memories, so unless we do something out of the ordinary, we’re likely to let go of the same-y ones.

Now we understand why time rushes past as we age, what can we do to slow our perception of time?

1. Inject some new experiences

Routine and sameness makes the days whizz by, so try to incorporate spontaneity into your life. Taking trips to explore new places, learning a new skill, and connecting with new people are all brilliant ways to do this, but it can be as simple as finding a different lunchtime walking route, or changing up where you’re working from.

Tap into your inner child and see the world through their lens. Ask ‘Why?’ more often, say yes even when it scares you, and follow the threads of your curiosity – see where you end up.

2. Pay attention and savour more

An easy way to hit the pause button in your daily life is to be more mindful and pay attention. This may be noticing the gorgeous light streaming through the window, taking a minute to relish your morning coffee, or even being fully present during a conversation.

Savouring is about really enjoying and taking in every detail of something. This may look like going for a walk and focusing on the way the sunshine feels on your skin, or taking pictures of the flowers you pass. Try engaging all your senses and notice what you see, hear, smell, taste, and feel. When we stop to pay attention, we pull ourselves out of auto-pilot, and plant ourselves in the present.

3. Start single-tasking

When we try to do many things at once, our attention flits around like a butterfly which, understandably, can make it feel as if time’s going by faster. Single-tasking encourages us to focus on one thing at a time which, as well as improving productivity, can help us slow down the perception of time.

So, next time you have a task to do, shut out any distractions and focus on that, and only that.

4. Carve out some white space

The more we stuff our time with to-dos, the more our days feel rushed. We slip into reactive mode, and lack a sense of spaciousness. One way to change this is to intentionally

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