Diagnosing Stress

The American Journal of Public Health reported that numerous chronic diseases, including heart disease, depression and Alzheimer’s, are associated with high-stress levels. Today it is easy to diagnose stress thus anxiety, which go hand in hand. We can put a number on it when we measure heart rate variability (HRV). The tighter the heart beat, meaning the more similar each beat is to the next one the more stressed out we are. The heart was designed to be flexible changing its rhythm from beat to beat. When our HRV flatlines we head to the hospital.

Low vagal tone is associated with poor emotional and attention regulation, inflammation and depression. Low vagal tone is even used as a measurement for a person’s sensitivity to stress. A healthy vagal tone is associated with the opposite, with positive emotions and psychological balance. Low vagus nerve tone is associated with low HRV, fast and shallow breathing and sympathetic activation, which depressed the parasympathetic nervous system.

Besides breathing, there are a host of different ways to give your vagus nerve a much-needed workout. Singing and music, laughter, intermittent fasting, cold water, using HRV feedback, yoga, meditation and of course exercise will help fight anxiety and stress on a neuro-biological level.