What is the Vagus Nerve and Why is it so Important?

This post contains information from Sukey and Elizabeth Novogratz’s book, Just Sit: A Meditation Guidebook for People who Know they Should but Don’t. This book contains quick, simple, and practical tips to incorporate mindfulness into your day. Finding that time can be tricky in the busy days of early childhood educators and caregivers, but to care for little ones, we have to first care for ourselves to ensure that we are healthy and able to give.


What is the Vagus Nerve

Sukey and Elizabeth Novogratz explain that “the vagus is the longest nerve in the body. It runs from deep within the brain, through the heart, and into the gut…It controls breathing, digestion, and heart rate, as well as our reactions and responses, and can act as a brake pedal for fight-or-flight.

Meditation and deep breath work give the vagus a workout…the more you activate the vagus, the better your ability to slow down and observe what the situation actually requires of you. High stress, a lack of sleep, and long work weeks are a few of the things that make your vagal tone drop.”

Stimulating the Vagus Nerve

Working long hours in a high stress environment can make your vagal tone drop. In order to increase it, you can actually stimulate it by doing any of the following recommendations suggested by the authors:


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  • Give a hug

    One of the perks of working with early learners is lots of hugs! Little ones love a good hug, and you should too! Modeling love, compassion, and healthy relationships can also be a learning opportunity for the children in your care.

  • Singing and dancing

    Another perk of working with infants, toddlers, and preschoolers is that it’s easy to incorporate music and movement into your daily curriculum. So next time the children start singing “Baby Shark” you should join too!

  • Breathe

    Nap time can be a great time to take some deep breaths and allow your body a few seconds of peace. While you are sitting next to the children, sit upright, close your eyes, and slowly take 10 deep breaths. You deserve it!

  • Kindness

    Do something to help out one of your co-teachers. Say something positive, compliment the good work that they’re doing with the children, or surprise them in the morning with a cup of tea. Working in early education can be hard work, and it’s important for us to support each other and have each other’s backs; and taking a minute to think outside of yourself can be a perfect way to give your own brain a break!

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