Anxiety is an unpleasant emotional state of uneasiness and distress, or feeling of impending doom, although there is no obvious threat. It is characterized by apprehension and worry. Some anxiety is normal; it becomes a problem when it interferes with normal activities. According to Ayurveda, anxiety is a classic sign of imbalance in the body. Prolonged anxiety, stress and tension affects the nervous system, and can cause many further complications if left uncorrected.
Ayurveda provides a clear, concise and cohesive regimen to help people correct conditions such as anxiety in a natural way. Yet it is much more than just very effective holistic treatments. It provides a complete system of preventive medicine and health care which has proven its effectiveness over thousands of years in India.
Ayurvedic View of Anxiety
Anxiety is a Vata disorder with the primary subdoshas involved being prana and vyana. When the mind (manas) and nerves are overcome by Vata it causes anxiety. Prana Vata is what moves prana (life force) into the air we breathe, and the food and water we consume. This prana is the glue that binds body, mind and spirit together. In acute anxiety, the impairment of the Prana Vata is what makes the individual feel disconnected as the mind and senses do not function at optimum levels.
Vyana Vata finds its origin in the heart and is present throughout the body, causing energies, such as the nervous energies to circulate within our being. When the Vyana Vata is aggravated, the person might seem like they have boundless creative energy. But a closer look might reveal that that it is a disorganized overabundance of energy, common in the case of inefficient Vata dosha.
What is an Anxiety Attack?
An anxiety attack affects your body, your mind and your behavior. During an attack, you become worried and anxious about something you believe will be dangerous in the future. Then your body and mind become focused on this fear.
* You may have physical sensations such as tension, shakiness, stomach distress or sweating.
* You may find it difficult to stop worrying about this future danger that you are afraid will occur. If you are worried about certain themes such as your health or the well-being of loved ones, it may be hard to focus on anything else.
* Focusing on these concerns, you may prepare yourself either by avoiding certain places and activities, by constantly checking to make sure you are safe or by procrastinating because your excess worry is blocking concentration.
* The diagnostic manual that mental health professionals use categorizes worried thoughts and gives names to the condition associated with these thoughts. People with social phobias, for instance, fear being embarrassed in social situations. People with a generalized anxiety disorder often worry about issues such as health, physical danger, losing their job and financial problems.
Root Causes of Anxiety
- Negative thinking
- General weakness
- Prolonged malnutrition
- Family/personal problem
- Menstrual disorder in females
- Abuse or neglect
- Physical reasons like gut issues and inflammation
- Extreme exposure to high levels of EMFs (electromagnetic fields)
Symptoms of Anxiety
Typical symptoms of anxiety can be classified into emotional, physical and behavioral as shown below:
- Emotional instability
- Tendency to be irritable without an obvious cause
- Tendency to cry without an obvious reason
- Inability to relax
- Loneliness and isolation
- Becoming restless over petty things
- Feelings of tightness in chest
- Belching, nausea, occasional diarrhea
- Sleeplessness or feeling too sleepy / lethargic
- Heart palpitations
- Sweaty palms and feet
- Repeatedly washing hands
- Waking up from recurrent nightmares
- Lack of appetite or tendency to overeat (comfort eat)
- Living in a shell and ignoring things happening around
- Nervous behavior like biting nails or frantic pacing
Ayurvedic Ways to Overcome Anxiety
1. Consistency is key: A clear, consistent routine is a great way to find balance in everyday life. This may include establishing routines like eating at the right times, waking up early, carving out an hour for exercise, and even incorporating some self-care practices. The Ayurvedic concept of dinacharya (daily routine) can be a good place to start.
2. De-clutter your surroundings: The idea of making external changes to bring about internal healing holds true for the removal of clutter and chaos from your immediate environment. Take the time to clean out your closets or organize your work desk to have that clean, organized feeling on the inside as well. This is because our environment is a reflection of our mind and vice versa. Since it is easier to focus on de-cluttering and organizing our surroundings than doing so for our thoughts, this is the right place to begin. Create your home or workspace as a sacred sanctuary where you feel secure, happy and comfortable.
3. Make self-massage a part of your routine: The skin is deeply connected to the nervous system. Massage is a calming and restorative to the body and mind and one of the most excellent anti anxiety remedies. Start by gently massaging lukewarm oil into your scalp, forehead and face, slowly working your way downwards to your feet. Let the oil seep into your skin for 30 minutes to an hour. You can also apply at bedtime and keep on overnight. Sesame oil is the best massage oil for Vata.
4. Eat warm, cooked meals with healing oils and spices: Consume a Vata-pacifying diet – the properties of which are warming, heavy and oily which counteract Vata’s cold, heating and dry properties.
5. Chant meditative mantras and listen to meditative music: Since sound is transferred by Air and into Space, it has an intrinsic connection with the act of chanting. Mantras (energy sounds) can be used as an object of concentration for meditation. They make an excellent tool for dealing with anxiety as the sound fills your mind and dislodges anxiety-causing thoughts while strengthening the will. Choose repetitive sounds and chant out loud to build a rhythm and induce tranquility.
Something along the lines of these:
I’m stronger than I think — I’ve been through this before and I’m here still.
Om Shri Dhanvantre Namah
This is a mantra to the celestial physician Dhanvantari, Lord of Ayurveda. He is the deity associated with physical, mental and emotional healing.
In the same way, listening to chants, nature sounds or meditative music can be extremely soothing in times of anxiety.
6. Walk your way to a feeling of peace: Walking is considered to be one of the best forms of exercise in Ayurveda. Taking a walk allows you to collect your thoughts, while being invigorated by the fresh air and sunlight. It is not necessary to brisk walk to soothe stressed nerves, a gentle walk for 20-30 minutes can give you the break you are looking for. One of the most potent natural remedies for anxiety is to walk barefoot on grass early in the morning.
7. Tap on the right marma points: Marma points are very similar to acupressure that are pressure points along an energetic pathway (called nadi or meridian). The left hand has a special marma point that works for anxiety reduction. This point is located just below the bottom knuckle of the middle finger on the left hand. Look for this point just below the bottom knuckle a quarter to a third of the way down from the top of the palm. Allow your hand to relax and you press down with your right thumb. Take deep breaths and focus on being relaxed.
Natural Relief for Anxiety
|Herbs||Brahmi (Bacopa Monniera): Bacopa is a medicinal plant used for centuries in the Ayurvedic system of medicine. More recently, it has gained popularity as a ‘brain tonic’ capable of improving mental ability, anxiety and memory. It improves memory and builds energy by increasing the circulation to the brain. Aside from increasing intellectual and cognitive function, Brahmi induces a sense of calm and peace. It is unique in its ability to invigorate mental processes while reducing the effects of stress and nervous anxiety. This makes Brahmi extremely applicable in highly stressful work or study environments where clarity of thought is as important as being able to work under pressure. Additionally, Brahmi helps soothe the restlessness and distraction that nervousness causes. Brahmi is ideal for students and workers faced with this problem.
Tulsi (Ocimum Sanctum): Tulsi (Holy basil) is a potent antioxidant with antibacterial, antifungal and anti-inflammatory properties. Primarily, tulsi is an adaptogen which helps the body respond better to physical and emotional stress. Tulsi basically works by reducing the levels of corticosterone. The lower the levels of corticosterone, the more mental clarity and memory one will have.
Shankhapushpi (Convolvulus Pluricaulis): Popularly known to treat sleep disorders like stress and anxiety, Shankapushpi is quoted in the Charaka Samhita to be the single greatest herb for enhancing all three aspects of mind power — learning (Dhi), memory (Dhriti), and recall (Smriti). Thus, it is called the greatest Medhya Rasayana (that which enhances the mind). It helps the quality of sleep by improving mind-body coordination. Shankapushpi is very beneficial for the nervous system, enhancing the quality of bone marrow and nerve tissue.
Ashwagandha (Withania Somnifera): Ashwagandha is highly valued for its restorative action on the functioning of the nervous system and counteracting high blood pressure. It corrects loss of memory arising out of long term stress, illness and overwork. Restores vitality in those suffering from overwork and nervous exhaustion. In fact, having the ability to nurture the nervous system, counteract anxiety and stress to promote a calm state of mind, plus having powerful anti-inflammatory properties, it is specific in Ayurvedic practice for treating arthritic and rheumatic conditions.
Ashwagandha stimulates the immune system and is one of the top herbs for anxiety and stress. It has also been shown to inhibit inflammation and improve memory. Taken together, these actions support the traditional use of Ashwagandha as a tonic or adaptogen. It counteracts the effects of stress and generally promotes wellness.
Vacha (Acorus Calamus): The Sanskrit word ‘vacha’ means ‘speaking’ which is why it is used to cure speech-related disorders like stammering. According to Ayurveda, sweet flag or vacha is used as natural anxiety treatment because it works on alleviating Vata and Kapha disorders both of which are responsible for anxiety and depression. It acts as an all-natural sedative and is used to enhance coordination, memory and speaking abilities.
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|Lifestyle||Face your fears: Don’t procrastinate, hide, or run away. Believe that you have the power to overcome your anxiety. At the present moment, it may not feel good to face your fears directly, but if you apply this strategy consistently, it always works.
Thought stopping: Often anxiety is rooted in exaggeration of one’s worst fears and negative thoughts. If you are the kind of person who embraces “worst-case scenarios” regularly, you may need a cognitive tune-up. Strategies such as thought stopping might be helpful. Whenever a negative or anxiety-based thought occurs such as “I’m going to make a fool of myself” or “I don’t measure up,” tell yourself to STOP! Stopping these types of thoughts is essential to interrupting the cycle of anxiety.
Switch off from social: While having friends to talk to and enjoying a healthy social life can really help you in situations where you need someone to share with, over involvement in social media may be the cause of anxiety. At times, the pressure to get more likes, followers and friends or even face cyber bullying on various social channels may make you feel anxiety and nervous.
Get enough sleep: Getting your zzzs is the best natural therapy for anxiety. When we don’t get enough sleep, we feel less coordinated and half-present. Sleep is a time when the body is rejuvenated and the nervous system restores its balance. This is key for reducing anxiety by healing the source of the problem with rest and assimilation.