Vagal Tone and Vagus Nerve Reset Exercises: Finding Balance and Self-Soothing

Understanding Vagal Tone and the Autonomic Nervous System

Do you suffer from stress and anxiety. Does one negative event ruin your entire day. If so, you may have low vagal tone, which affects your ability to self-soothe. In this article, we'll explore vagal tone and the rest and digest response of the autonomic nervous system. We'll also discuss vagus nerve reset exercises that can help you find more balance and improve your overall well-being.

What is Vagal Tone.

Your autonomic nervous system consists of two main branches: the sympathetic nervous system (fight-or-flight) and the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest). The vagus nerve plays a crucial role in activating the rest and digest response, which is more beneficial in our modern world. However, individuals with low vagal tone struggle with self-soothing and may experience prolonged negative emotional states.

Signs of Low Vagal Tone

Imagine a situation where you almost get hit by a car while crossing the street. If you have low vagal tone, this one event can ruin your entire day. You feel nervous, unable to eat, and constantly ruminating on the incident. Individuals with high vagal tone, on the other hand, can bounce back more quickly from such events and continue with their day. The goal is to develop a healthy, balanced nervous system that allows you to respond rather than react to negative stimuli.

Improving Vagal Tone

To improve vagal tone, it's important to focus on holistic health practices such as exercise, diet, and sleep. However, there are also specific techniques that can provide short-term relief and help reset your vagus nerve. Here are a few exercises you can try:

  • Cold Therapy: Cold water on your face and neck can stimulate the mammalian dive reflex, slowing your heart rate and increasing heart rate variability. Use a cold compress or ice pack on the sides of your neck for 15 seconds on and off.
  • Modified Valsalva Maneuver: This technique involves inhaling, closing your nose and mouth, and pushing out without exhaling for 15 seconds. It increases intrathoracic and intra-abdominal pressure, triggering your vagus nerve. Elevating your legs afterward can enhance the effect.
  • Balloon Breathing: Inflate a balloon and hold it for 15 seconds, then release. This creates intrathoracic and intra-abdominal pressure changes, activating your vagus nerve. Repeat this exercise several times.

Remember to consult your doctor if you have hypertension, heart disease, or glaucoma before attempting these exercises.


Improving vagal tone is essential for finding balance and self-soothing in our daily lives. By understanding the role of the vagus nerve and practicing specific exercises like cold therapy, the modified Valsalva maneuver, and balloon breathing, you can reset your vagus nerve and promote a healthier nervous system. Incorporate these techniques into your self-care routine to enhance your emotional well-being and resilience.

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