Not uncommonly, the fall season, characterized by the dominance of Vata dosha, can lead to feelings of stress and anxiety.
These can also be exacerbated if we already have a predisposition for the Vata energy.
The dry, light, cool, and erratic qualities of Vata can lead to heightened nervous system activity, making us feel unsettled, ungrounded, and fearful.
However, Ayurveda offers natural and simple ways to reduce these feelings and help us restore balance.
Let’s find out.
Understanding Stress and Anxiety
At the peak of my Vata dosha, I can often hear myself worrying about a multitude of situations. Some that matter, some that don’t. This is the time when even things that might be simple to navigate can become extremely stressful.
I admit that during these moments I lose sight of the bigger picture. (If you are Vata dominant, I know you understand the overwhelming feeling).
Stress and anxiety, while typically used interchangeably, are distinct experiences.
Stress typically occurs in response to outside pressures, such as a looming deadline or a challenging event. It subsides once the situation is resolved. Symptoms may include headaches, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, and upset stomach. Chronic stress can lead to more severe health issues like heart disease and depression.
Anxiety, on the other hand, is the body’s innate reaction to stress, manifesting as a sense of fear or worry. It involves persistent and excessive worry about everyday situations, and it’s out of proportion to the triggering event. It can get worse if not treated.
Anxiety disorders can cause such physical symptoms as insomnia, heart palpitations, a feeling of restlessness, and a sense of impending doom. It can significantly impact the individual’s daily life and routine. This intricate emotion can stem from a multitude of factors, spanning from genetic predisposition and environmental influences to brain chemistry intricacies, as researchers suggest.
Ayurvedic vs. Western Perspective on Anxiety
In Ayurveda, stress and anxiety are viewed as imbalances in our bodily energies or doshas – Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. When Vata dosha is out of balance, one might experience anxiety as restlessness, fear, or insomnia. Pitta imbalance can manifest as irritability or anger, while Kapha imbalance might lead to lethargy or depression.
Ayurveda offers profound insight into anxiety management, governed by the principle of “like increases like”. In the context of anxiety, this principle can be explained as follows: the unpredictable, fast, and unsettling nature of anxiety mirrors the qualities of Vata dosha, which is known for its light, mobile, and erratic characteristics.
According to Ayurveda, engaging in activities that mirror these qualities exacerbates the imbalance and, therefore, the anxiety. For instance, consuming caffeine, which stimulates movement and activity, or variable schedules, extreme weather conditions, travelling, long working hours, poor dietary habits, and inadequate rest can all contribute to heightened anxiety levels.
Conversely, we can alleviate anxiety by incorporating opposite or grounding elements to balance the overactive Vata. Understanding and applying this principle can guide us in managing our anxiety much more effectively.
The western perspective on stress and anxiety often categorizes them as mental health disorders that result from a combination of factors including genetics, brain chemistry, personality, and life events. Commonly prescribed medications like benzodiazepines, antidepressants, and beta-blockers aim to regulate these factors but can have negative side effects like drowsiness, confusion, and dependency issues.
Ayurveda encourages a more holistic approach, focusing on diet, lifestyle changes, and herbal remedies to manage stress and anxiety, reducing the need for medication and its potential side effects.
Lifestyle Factors to Balance Anxiety
To calm our mind and manage anxiety, we need to balance Vata dosha, one of the three primary energies in Ayurveda. Since Vata tends to get aggravated during Autumn, leading to imbalances in the mind and body, it is important to pay attention to various lifestyle contributing factors.
These strategies may include incorporating warm and nourishing foods, practicing grounding and calming activities like yoga and meditation, maintaining a regular sleep schedule, and staying hydrated. By consciously addressing these aspects, we can support our overall well-being and promote harmony during the fall months.
Ritualize your life
Ritualizing your life through a consistent daily routine is a potent method to pacify an aggravated Vata dosha, particularly during the tumultuous energy of the fall season, or when experiencing heightened anxiety. From an Ayurvedic perspective, the predictability, and steadiness of routines serve to counteract the inherent erratic nature of Vata, providing a sense of security and grounding that calms the nervous system.
In essence, routines become rituals when they are undertaken with mindfulness, intention, and reverence. This transformation from routine to ritual allows us to infuse everyday tasks with a sense of sacredness, making even mundane activities like eating, sleeping, or exercising a potent vehicle for self-care and healing.
- Begin by identifying the routines that are already part of your day. This might include waking and sleeping times, meal times, work schedule, and times for relaxation or leisure.
- Once identified, consider how you might infuse these routines with a sense of intention and sacredness. For instance, you might start your day with a short meditation or gratitude practice, eat your meals mindfully and without distraction, or end your day with a calming self-massage or a warm bath.
- Over time, these rituals will become an integral part of your daily life, serving to ground your energy, provide stability, and nurture a sense of calm and well-being.
Vata, the Ayurvedic dosha associated with coolness and movement, tends to benefit from warmth and stability. Embracing cozy clothing made from soft fabrics like wool or fleece can provide a comforting layer of insulation. Sipping on hot drinks such as herbal teas or warm spiced beverages can further enhance the soothing experience, promoting a peaceful mind.
Consuming warm meals also plays a crucial role in soothing Vata and promoting overall well-being. Warm foods are easier to digest and are more comforting to the body, especially in the colder months when Vata is likely to be aggravated. They enhance digestion, ensuring optimal nutrient absorption and promoting gut health.
Moreover, warm meals can have a comforting and calming effect on the mind, reducing anxiety and promoting feelings of satiety and contentment. To this end, incorporate warm, well-cooked foods into your diet, favoring soups, stews, and other hot dishes, especially during the fall and winter months. By doing so, we align our eating habits with nature’s rhythms, enhancing our body’s ability to cope with seasonal changes.
Rest, rest, rest
In our increasingly interconnected world, it’s easy to fall into the habit of constant scrolling and excessive social media usage. These activities can stimulate the nervous system, making it difficult to achieve a state of relaxation and hindering quality rest.
It is therefore essential to establish boundaries for digital usage, especially close to bedtime. Consider setting aside specific “digital detox” periods each day, during which you commit to abstaining from all digital devices. This can assist in calming the mind, reducing anxiety, and promoting a more restful night’s sleep.
Meditation is also a powerful tool for calming the mind, reducing stress, and enhancing overall wellness. Regular meditation practice encourages mindfulness, a state of active, open attention to the present. This can help us to disconnect from the distractions of daily life and tune into our inner experiences. Whether you choose guided meditations, mindfulness practices, or contemplative prayer, the key is to find a method that resonates with you and make it a regular part of your routine.
In addition, ensure you get plenty of rest. Aim for 8–9 hours of sleep each night and carve out time to calm the mind. This could involve activities such as reading a book, listening to soothing music, practicing gentle yoga, or simply sitting in nature.
Simple ways to reduce anxiety with Ayurveda
Ayurveda offers several practices designed to manage anxiety and promote overall mental health. These Ayurvedic methods offer a holistic approach to anxiety management, aiming to restore balance not only in the body, but also in the mind and spirit. Let’s explore some simple yet effective techniques for calming the nervous system.
A beneficial Ayurvedic practice involves consuming Golden Milk, a nerve-soothing beverage prepared with almond milk derived from soaked raw almonds overnight, then peeled in the morning, and a blend of warming spices, including cinnamon, ginger, and turmeric.
The act of soaking almonds overnight renders them more digestible, allowing the body to absorb their rich nutrients more readily. One benefit of ginger is that it can influence serotonin levels, which has an impact on anxiety. In fact, it’s possible that ginger might be as effective as benzodiazepine drugs in reducing and treating anxiety.
The warming spices, such as cinnamon and turmeric, assist in grounding the body, calming any internal turbulence, and promoting a sedative effect. Regular consumption of this soothing drink not only aids in reducing anxiety but also boosts immunity and promotes overall wellness.
Prana Golden Milk
- 1/2 cup Almonds (raw)
- 1 inch Fresh turmeric root (sliced)
- 1 Cinnamon stick
- 1/4 tsp Ginger powder
- 1 Fresh vanilla
- A pinch of black pepper
- 1/2 tsp Maple syrup (optional)
- 1 cup Filtered water
- Soak the almonds overnight.
- In the morning, peel the almonds and blend them with filtered water and fresh vanilla. Set aside.
- In a pan, add the homemade almond milk, fresh turmeric slices, and the rest of the spices. Mix well and bring to a light boil.
- Then, simmer for 8–10 minutes on low heat.
- Strain the spices, and serve in a mug.
- Drizzle maple syrup on top and sip slowly.
Write about your impressions
Keeping an impression’s journal is a mindful practice to understand our emotions better and manage anxiety. This strategy involves monitoring what you consume through your senses — what you see, hear, taste, smell, and touch — and noting down any corresponding feelings or emotions.
For instance, if you listened to a particular piece of music, and it made you feel relaxed, jot it down. Similarly, if a certain type of food increased your anxiety levels, make a note of it. Over time, this practice can help you identify patterns and triggers that influence your anxiety, helping you take proactive steps to manage your mental health. It can also provide a sense of control, as you become more aware of the impacts of external stimuli on your emotions, giving you the power to make informed decisions about what experiences you choose to engage with.
Take a warm, soothing bath
One of the simple ways to reduce anxiety with Ayurveda is a warming bath crafted from rice milk, sweet orange essential oil, dry ginger, and chamomile flowers. Rice milk, rich in vitamins and minerals, nourishes the skin while promoting relaxation. The sweet orange essential oil, known for its uplifting scent, aids in reducing stress and enhancing mood. Dry ginger, with its warming and soothing properties, helps in relaxing the muscles. Chamomile flowers, a well-known natural relaxant, can offer instant relief from anxiety.
To incorporate this practice into your weekly routine, add these ingredients to your warm bath water and soak in it for at least 20 minutes. Do not hurry, take your time and relax! Ideally, this is done after a self-massage (abhyanga) with warm almond oil. Once you’ve dried off, give yourself a soothing mist of rose water.
Box breathing or four-square breathing is a simple yet powerful technique for instant stress relief and is particularly effective in managing anxiety. The process involves inhaling, holding the breath, exhaling, and again holding the breath, each for a count of four. This technique helps to slow down the heart rate, encouraging calmness and relaxation.
To practice box breathing, find a quiet, comfortable place and follow these steps:
- Inhale for a count of 4
- Hold your breath for a count of 4
- Exhale for a count of 4
- And again hold your breath for a count of 4.
Repeat this cycle for a few minutes or until you begin to feel calm. Make sure to keep your breathing slow, deep, and controlled, focusing your attention on each breath. Just like other strategies, note down your feelings before and after the practice to understand its impact on your anxiety levels.
Remember, Ayurveda emphasizes individuality. What works for one person may not work for another. So pay attention to what you feel with these simple ways to reduce anxiety with Ayurveda to guide you towards peace, balance, and tranquility.