How to Calm Down at Any Age

Human beings are designed to calm down from the bottom up. Look at this picture of the vagus nerve  to see how it works.

Path of the vagus nerve
Drawing of the path of the Vagus Nerve through the body

The vagus nerve (colored green in this drawing to contrast with the internal organs) is the communication highway from the body to the older, nonverbal parts of the brain where trauma is activated and stored. The vagus nerve coils around the intestines, stomach, lungs, and heart, then continues up into the neck around the vocal cords. From there, branches enter the brainstem behind each ear.


While communication between body and brain flows both ways, 80% of the information transmitted by the vagus nerve flows in an upward direction, from the body to the brain.

Using this powerful upward communication, you can tell your lower brain that it’s okay to relax, calming fear and fight-or-flight impulses, by doing activities like yoga, tai chi, walking, running, singing and slow, regular breathing. Knitting, drawing and caring for animals provide similar release. For children, all kinds of play release vital healing, relaxing and soothing nerve signals directly to the hyper-vigilant housekeeping brain.

People around the world use this natural internal highway to calm and regulate their bodies in stressful situations where words and mental concentration can fail.

NEXT:  Ways Children Experience Abuse, Neglect and Trauma

Read the 20-page series “Helping Children Cope…” which includes this page. 
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