I named my left kidney “Kiki,” weeks before she was to be removed from my body after a cancer diagnosis. During those weeks leading up to my surgery I talked to Kiki, yes I did. I lit a candle, put on some meditation music and each night, explained what was going to happen. I thanked her for her exemplary service and told her I loved her. This personalization of one of my internal organs helped me to focus my energy in a positive way forward while dealing with something quite scary.

When Kiki left the building, the burden was on “Dexter,” my right kidney, to pick up the slack. Conversations with him were of the encouraging kind. “You’ve got this, Dex!” And he did have it. He took over the filtering like he was born for it.

When cancer spread to my bladder, “Vladimir” stood in the spotlight. I talked to him daily, encouraging him to fight and heal as he went through treatment and confidently came out the other side cancer free!

Hoping that was the last of my internal organs to get into trouble, I made sure they all got the attention they deserved, so I named every one of them; Liv the liver, Pam the Pancreas, Bella the heart, Ute the uterus, Virginia the…you get the idea. I talk to them all daily. They are my team and they need encouragement!

My favorite of them all, the master of ceremonies, the one that is really pulling all the strings is my Vagus Nerve, which I have aptly named “Elvis.” Elvis is a real showman, the top of the bill, all rhinestones and glitz. His job is to be the engine room of the body, so he and I talk a lot.

The Vagus nerve, if you didn’t know, is a long nerve that wanders from your brain all the way down your neck, chest and abdomen, connecting the brain stem to the body. It’s associated with a host of different functions including swallowing, digestion and heart rate. Activating the Vagus nerve basically tells your brain all is A-OK, stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system to relax you. Ooh, raise your hand if you could use a little relaxation right now?

I’m in! If R&R is what you’re going for, you want to make sure your Vagus nerve is a happy camper. So, question, how does one do this?

There are many ways to stimulate the Vagus nerve, but here are the quick and dirty ones:

1. Start talking to your body. Come on, take a leaf from my book and try it! Start with your Vagus nerve, give it a name and whisper some sweet somethings to it. It’ll be fun, I promise!

2. Sit comfortably or lie down and take many low, deep and long breaths.

3. Try blasting very cold water on the back of your neck at the end of a hot shower (I mean, who doesn’t love to do this?).

4. Gargle with some warm water! Make some noise! Your Vagus nerve will love you!

5. Try a coffee enema. (Wait, what?)

All those are pretty good at helping to improve ‘vagul tone,” but the method that really gets my rocket launching is something I happen to do professionally; I sing! Go on! Give it your best Adele Dazeem! Sing in the shower, sing loudly, sing softly, hum, chant, belt! This is one of the best ways to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system and chill that body right out. And, let’s face it, folks, who doesn’t need that very thing right now.

Let’s talk about that. We are in a pandemic, the world is on fire, quite literally, so it’s understandable if your nervous system is frayed just a little (and by a little I mean a lot). Let’s take extra care. My tips? Self care it up. Turn off the news (for a bit anyway), meditate, eat well, get some exercise, take epsom salt baths, get out in nature and best of all, start crooning. Sing songs that you love, that move you, songs that make you happy, which in turn will get the good vibe hormones strutting through your body. It boosts your immune system and just makes you feel darn good. Sing with a friend, your dog, your family, a coach, your neighbors (socially distanced, of course). Hey, how about singing with your internal organs? Dexter, Vladimir and especially Elvis and I are currently working on “Love Me Tender” and you know what? They are surprisingly good singers… for organs!

Catherine Porter
Catherine Porter is an American singer, songwriter, and musician. She is a former member of The Brian May Band and has appeared in several musicals and films. Porter has worked as a back-up singer for Queen, Tony Hadley, Edwin Starr, Kiki Dee, Paul Rodgers, Sam Moore, Mel B and Chaka Khan.
Check out Catherine's latest book on vocal health, 'Honeymoon in Vagus'

10 Responses

  1. You are an amazing person and a huge inspiration to so many people. I sincerely hope that, when all this is done, I can find a small harmony part in Love Me Tender and join you, Elvis, Dex and Vlad!

  2. Enjoyed the article. You are an inspiration with mega talent. I love to make a noise..not really singing but I enjoy trying.

  3. Great article and you pit such a light twist on a heavy subject. Thank you for encouraging us all during this pandemic. Go Elvis Go!

  4. This is great, Kitty! I remember reading about Kiki et al before. Here’s to you & your rockin’ team – thank you all for the inspiration! Luv you xox

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