Originally published in Mind Body Green.
Anxious? The feeling is all too familiar in this day and age. Between texts to respond to and emails to read and bills to pay and kids to take care of, keeping your head above water can feel like a full-time job in 2018.
What causes anxiety, according to ayurveda?
In ayurveda, anxiety is a symptom of excess vata in the mind. Vata is the Ayurvedic dosha (energy type) related to air and space energy. I like to call it the “wind” dosha—like the wind, it’s moving, quick, and unpredictable. When vata is balanced, you feel creative, imaginative, intuitive, and free-flowing. However, when there is excess, this same wind can quickly escalate into a tornado.
As a society, we’ve all become very vata. We’re multitasking, working while eating while moving around. This causes confusion within the body, causing us to do none of these things with full efficacy.
To settle down the excess wind, we have to do the opposite—ground. Vata is in the upper chakras (third eye and crown); therefore, we must connect to our lower chakras: root and sacral. This means connecting in with earth, our body, and nature, reconnecting to the physical and what is actually happening around us rather than what is happening in the mind.
You can understand the doshas by their relationship with time. Vata is fixed on the future, while pitta is acutely present, and kapha is in the past. When you are anxious, you’re thinking only about the future without being aware of the present or past. Therefore, you must bring more pitta (fire) and kapha (earth) into your life to bring you back into balance.
Step one to eliminating anxiety: Increase pitta.
To increase pitta (fire), rev up the digestive fire. In Ayurveda, we do digest not only food but also thoughts, emotions, and experiences. When our digestion is weak, we have a more difficult time digesting everything life throws at us. To become more capable human beings, we must stimulate our digestive fire, called agni in Sanskrit.
Step two to eliminating anxiety: Increase agni.
To increase the agni, eat warm, easy-to-digest food with stimulating spices such as ginger, cumin, fennel, and coriander. Avoid raw, cold foods, which will increase vata (the dosha we want to decrease for anxiety). Instead of your usual smoothie and salad, go for a warming breakfast and cooked lunch inclusive of the six tastes. My book, Idiot’s Guide to Ayurveda, outlines many appropriate meals recommended for balancing vata.
Step three to eliminating anxiety: Increase kapha.
To increase Kapha (Earth), you want to create routine. When you’re doing something totally different every day (including eating and sleeping at different times), your body doesn’t know what it’s supposed to expect. Because of that, its systems go haywire. Adapting a routine creates grounding and stability for the body, which will counterbalance anxiety-inducing vata.
Stick to one task at a time instead of overwhelming yourself with multiple things to do. Rest instead of going to another event or workout class. Sleep soundly and deeply to give your mind a chance to detoxify from negative emotions. Practice earthing, the act of walking in nature with bare feet to receive the balancing negative ions of the earth.
Lastly, be grateful. A lot of times, we become stressed out because we have so many things to do. Ask yourself, “Would I want it any other way?” Would you rather not have emails to respond to? Would you rather not have kids to pick up? Would you rather not have electricity and gas? Many of the things we complain about are truly blessings. We’re so lucky to live lives full of abundance, meaning, friendships and opportunity. To have a full life is to be full of life.
As you go through your tasks, remain in a state of gratitude that you have a full schedule, a job, a family, an audience, whatever it is that may be causing you what you perceive as stress. Life never throws at you more than you can handle.
And are you ready to learn more about how to unlock the power of food to heal your body, prevent disease & achieve optimal health? Register now for our FREE Functional Nutrition Webinar with Kelly LeVeque.