Everyone suffers from anxiety occasionally, but when anxiety takes over your life it’s a very different experience to a spell of short-term anxiety that’s related to a specific event. Ayurveda offers some useful insights into how anxiety manifests and what you can do to help yourself control it.
According to Ayurveda, anxiety comes from aggravation of vata dosha. One of the key attributes of vata is movement, vata is always moving and its movement is by nature erratic rather than flowing, you can see this in a vata type person, they have a restlessness about their head and eyes.
Ayurveda teaches that like increases like, when you move around a lot you aggravate vata by increasing it's own movement, that aggravation in turn affects your nervous system and your mind.
An Attention Deficit Disordered Society
Another cause of vata disturbance and anxiety is over stimulation of the mind caused by computers, stimulants (tea, coffee), TV, movies, video games, and hours spent on the phone. We are living in a society set up to disturb vata! Many of us are out of touch with nature, we don’t notice dawn and dusk, we’re too busy to walk on grass or smell a flower, we do the same thing every day with little awareness of our surroundings and we are always busy. Some Ayurvedic doctors refer to this as the hurry and worry lifestyle.
Ayurveda and Chinese Medicine have long taught that excess travel weakens the energy of the kidneys which can cause feelings of fear and anxiety. If you combine loads of travelling around with excessive mental stimulation you have a recipe for strong vata aggravation that will soon start producing feelings of anxiety, and overwhelm akin to adult ADD.
Pete Quily Adult ADD Coach explains: "Anxiety almost always involves a distinctive set of changes in your mind and body.
Namely, your sense of self and your vitality and attention shift upwards and away from the body in general and into the head. When you are stressed out and worrying hard, you are probably “in your head,” as opposed to being “in your body” or “comfortable in your skin.”
This fits well with everything I've studied on anxiety. Anxiety means being in your head rather than in your body. It's a dissociative state where our consciousness becomes constricted and discomforted by being buffeted around in the confined area of our disturbed thoughts.
In his article A Cure for Worrying, Pete goes on to explain the benefits of grounding. Saying that "most people don’t know that grounding exercises can be this quick and relevant to a crisis — assuming they know what grounding is in the first place!
Grounding is associated with all those flaky eastern spiritual disciplines and calisthenics: yoga, taiqi, qigong, meditation and so on. Most people treat these things as slow and preventative medicine for stress, instead of a source of efficient and curative responses to episodes of anxiety."
He's right, we are often habitually dismissive of the very things that can help us most. When crisis strikes we want something "proper", a pill, a diagnosis, something we feel serious enough to be respectful of our distress.
Finding Solace in Simple Solutions
Yet there are simple things that can help and we need to learn to experiment with them and feel the benefits. The secret to their success lies in the fact that they go with the flow of the body's intelligence. If anxiety is aggravated by movement, is it so whacky that sitting still and quiet can help us begin to rebalance and find relief? Of course, during an anxiety episode that's the last thing we feel like doing and that's understood. But we can use guided audio support to do it at other times and gradually start to take our system off red alert and allow ourselves the relief of invoking the relaxation response.
By using a guided exercise you can find relief without having to sit with a disturbed mind. I know when I’ve felt anxious in the past the last thing I want to do is pay any attention to what’s going on in my head. It’s natural to seek diversion, but it’s the choices we make in seeking diversion that can either help us sink further into the problem or find a way up and out.
If we avoid our mental pain by drinking, watching TV, playing video games etc we are temporarily distracting ourselves but adding to the undercurrent of disturbance. But if we can choose something calming and diverting we have a chance of moving away from the problem in a healthy and balancing way.
Here are 3 simple ways to help you calm vata and feel in control of anxiety:
- Use the Calming Pressure Point
Make a fist with your left hand and look at the point where your middle finger touches the palm, now press that exact point with the thumb of your opposite hand and gently massage it for about a minute. Take some deep breaths as you hold the point and, when you feel ready swap hands and repeat.
For an enhance experience with this exercise you can download the Calming Point mp3 at the end of this article
- Give Yourself an Oil Massage
One of the most effective, yet little known, ways to reduce anxiety is to perform a regular oil massage. Vata responds well to gentle touch and rubbing oil into the skin treats dryness that so often accompanies vata problems and nourishes your nerves from the outside in. You can find more detailed instructions on abhyanga oil massage here
- Learn a Simple Meditation or Breathing Technique
The Calming Breath is a good starting point. Here's how to do it: take a deep breath in for the count of four (count one thousand, two thousand, three thousand, four to set a slow and steady pace), then hold your breath for the count of two, and release slowly through slightly pursed lips for the count of eight.
The calming breath is also useful if you feel angry or irritated, it can quickly calm and cool your mind and help you gain a sense of clarity and control.
These simple techniques all work because they are grounding and calming. They involve slowness, or stillness, which are the opposites of vata’s inclination to move.
Related Resource The Grounding Breath:
The Grounding Breath
Time:8 minutes |Price:$3.95