Polyvalgal Theory And How To Calm Your State
The Polyvagal theory is proposed by Stephen Porges. It describes how the mammalian autonomic nervous system evolved to keep us safe and alive.
The term polyvagal refers to the vagus nerve, which connects the brain and the gut. The vagus nerve has many branches of sensory fibres that run throughout the rest of the body – from the brain stem to the heart, lungs, genitals, you name it – connecting every major organ to the brain. The location and function of these nerves help us understand why the body reacts swiftly when we’re stressed: why our hearts race in particular situations.
When our self-defense systems are repeatedly or chronically engaged or we aren’t able to communicate with others effectively, our bodily systems can become stuck in certain stress states. Porges’ theory highlights the importance of how our physiological state impacts both our behaviour and psychology.
When we are in a state of homeostasis, the vagus nerve acts as a ‘neutral break’ keeping us calm and open, helping us be our most social selves. When activated, it enters its defensive system, fight or flight responses can manifest themselves immediately.
Metabolic homeostasis ultimately refers to your innate ability to manage your own metabolic health. This means managing blood sugar levels, hormone sensitivity, inflammation, and cardiovascular function (Brestoff, 2015).
Ways to move our bodies into a state of homeostasis are:
- Exercise – moving your body will move energy throughout the body and stimulate the vagus nerve. exercise has been shown to cause vast improvements in insulin sensitivity, blood glucose management, and cardiovascular health and function – all of which lead to a much-improved state of homeostasis.
- Cold water immersion – Spending time in cold water means that the body has an opportunity to reset. Learn about sea swimming (some of the same principles can be applied to cold water showers).
- Healthy diet – Eat a diet mostly consisting of vegetables, whole fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and a variety of protein dense foods, including seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, legumes (beans and peas), as well as nuts, seeds, and soy products. What we consume affects our energy. Therefore, in general, it is recommended that a healthy diet is maintained. Keep it as simple as possible.
For more on managing your nervous system, visit:
- Ways to regulate your nervous system when stressed.
- The truth about your comfort zone
- The power of restorative yoga