Our Body’s Superpower

To "Maximize Love," we definitely need to control stress. Read our blog to learn how to combat stress and maximize love as a caregiver or parent.

Published on July 9, 2021

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By Ali Sullivan ( Family Engagement Manager, Children’s Museum of Richmond)

We have all heard hundreds of times about the effect of stress on our physical and emotional well-being. Stress can affect our thoughts, feelings, and behavior, and when it becomes chronic, our body produces hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. The latter is particularly harmful to the body and can create many health problems such as chronic pain, anxiety, mood changes, and bowel inflammation.

How does stress affect our children?

In his book: ”Children Absorb Everything: How Parental Stress Is Toxic to Children,” David Code explains it this way: “Research shows that children can “contract” their parents’ stress just as they contract a virus. They absorb the stress that pervades a home until their developing nervous systems become overloaded. This is when kids act out or get sick.”

To “Maximize Love,” we definitely need to control stress. This is one of The Basics principles. Children grow and develop emotionally healthy when they are surrounded by love and feel that their world is safe and predictable. What can you do when you know you need to provide love to your child through dialogue, smiles, and caresses, but you don’t feel well emotionally? Parents also need, and can maximize self-love, by applying techniques to combat stress. Below are a few ideas to get you started. 

The vagus nerve and its superpowers

The vagus nerve is one of the longest nerves that travel through our body and transmits information from the brain, passing through the neck and connecting to the heart, lungs, and intestines. The name Vagus comes from the Latin “vagabundo (wanderer)” because it travels through the body connecting with our vital organs.

The vagus nerve is a crucial part of the parasympathetic nervous system, which controls the body’s involuntary functions and actions, such as heartbeat and breathing. This nerve influences breathing, digestive function, and heart rate, and all of the above can significantly impact our mental health.

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One of the easiest ways to manage stress is to stimulate this remarkable nerve, and for that, all we have to do is use our abdominal breathing, the same way babies breathe. The 5-2-8 technique suggests inhaling through the nose, counting to five, holding your breath for two seconds, and exhaling through your mouth for eight seconds. Exhaling produces a relaxing response and helps us respond in a given situation instead of reacting.

.https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/ease-anxiety-and-stress-take-a-belly-breather-2019042616521

Returning to The Basics principle of speaking and singing to your baby (Talk, Sing and Point), not only is your child learning and developing their language skills while you sing or hum a song, but you are de-stressing as well. The vagus nerve is connected to the vocal cords and throat muscles! And that’s when you not only help yourself by practicing these fun calming techniques, but you also connect with and provide your child with the love and connection you both need.

Finally, here are some other practical, relaxing, and fun ideas that stimulate the vagus nerve: foot massage, gargling, dipping your face in cold water for 15 seconds, laughing, and socializing.

The human body is sage, and when we use these tools that we have at our disposal all the time, we can send the message to the body to relax and enjoy the present moment. When our children see us happy and relaxed, they respond and feel the same way. It’s an effortless way to enjoy life, don’t you think?

If you are interested in learning more about this way to manage stress and maximize love, visit https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/318128.

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