Eliminate Anxiety With These Foods, Thoughts, & Actions, According To The Ancient Wisdom Of Ayurveda
Megan Fahey, MS, RD, CDN is a Registered Dietitian, Functional Medicine Nutritionist and Registered Yoga Teacher. She holds her Masters of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics from Bastyr University, where she was trained to artfully blend eastern and western healing modalities.
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.
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 quick, and unpredictable. When vata is balanced, you feel creative, imaginative, intuitive, and free-flowing. However, when in excess, it can quickly escalate into a tornado.
As a society, we all experience a vata imbalance. We’re constantly multitasking, trying to eat, work, and post to social media in any given moment. This mindless approach to the day creates confusion within the body, making it impossible to be fully present to each task at hand. .
In order to counterbalance excess wind, we need to ground the energy of the body. Vata is in the upper chakras (third eye and crown); therefore, we must connect to our lower chakras: root and sacral. This is accomplished by rooting our physical body to the earth, reconnecting to what is happening around us rather than what is happening in the mind.
One way to better understand the three doshas is to look at their relationships with time. Vata is fixed on the future, while pitta is acutely present, and kapha is in the past. We experience anxiety when we are disconnected from the physicality of the present moment and instead engaged in thought loops focusing on the future. Therefore, in order to ease anxiety, it is important to balance excess vata energy with more pitta (fire) and kapha (earth).
Step 1: Increase pitta
To increase pitta (fire), rev up agni, the Sanskrit term for your digestive fire. Ayurveda teaches that the body not only digests food, but also digests thoughts, emotions, and experiences. When our digestion is weak, we have a more difficult time processing all that life throws at us.
To help manage the physical, mental, and emotional symptoms of anxiety, heat up that fire in your belly. This can be accomplished through the diet by eating warm, easily-digested food prepared with stimulating spices such as ginger, cumin, fennel, and coriander. Avoid raw, cold foods, which actually increase that light, airy vata energy. . Instead of your usual smoothie and salad routine, opt for a warming breakfast and cooked lunch inclusive of the six tastes (sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent and astringent). My book, Idiot’s Guide to Ayurveda, outlines meal recommendations for balancing vata.
Step 2: Increase kapha
To increase Kapha (earth), establish a set routine. It is taxing for nervous system to manage the stress of a chaotic routine (e.g. eating, sleeping and exercising at different times each day). Adapting a routine acts to ground and stabilize the body, which will counterbalance anxiety-inducing vata.
When creating a routine, focus on the importance of doing one task at a time. Relax the nervous system by clearing out your busy schedule and prioritizing sleep, which is a time when the mind can detoxify from negative emotion. To really enhance kapha, try walking barefoot in nature to receive the balancing negative ions of the earth (a practice known as “earthing”).
Step 3: Increase gratitude
So often we become anxious because of that never-ending to-do list. . Take a moment to pause and 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? Shift your perspective to see that most items on that to-do list are truly blessings. We are so lucky to live lives full of abundance, meaning, friendships, and opportunity. To have a full life is to be full of life.
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