Published by Kerry Meath-Sinkin
Stress and anxiety are becoming more common all the time. In the United States alone, more than 40 million people suffer from some type of anxiety disorder (https://www.anxietycentre.com/anxiety-statistics-information.shtml). Yet, very few people have a good grasp on how to deal with it. From my experience I have found that Ayurveda’s understanding of yoga and breathwork provides powerful information and tools to overcome anxiety.
How Does Ayurveda View Anxiety?
Ayurveda often uses examples from nature to describe what is happening in our bodies. Below you will find two experiences, and the effect those experiences have on our mind and body.
Imagine you are walking down a dirt road in late fall, the sky is gray, the wind whips around you, and the fall chill seeps into you as you pull your jacket in tighter to fight the cold. Think about how you feel in this type of weather. Often words like uncomfortable, cold, scattered, and a little shaky come to mind. Very rarely will this experience leave you feeling grounded. In this example you feel cold, you have a lot of movement happening around you, you feel a sense of fragility as the wind moves, and you may feel this weather drying you out. Now think about anxiety. You may notice you feel fragile, unsure, hollow, or frantic. Physically you may notice you have tense muscles, cold sweats, tremors, tachycardia or very quick shallow breathing.
I mention the qualities associated with these experiences because if you understand them, you can begin to use opposite qualities to find balance. For example, when you are cold, you will often find ways to warm yourself up. Below we will explore some ways to bring in qualities that naturally start to help us start grounding ourselves, which helps balance out the cold, ungrounded, frantic energy of anxiety.
Now imagine vacationing in a cabin in the woods, you are sitting on your porch on a cool summer morning, bathing in the glow of the morning sun, sipping your favorite warm beverage as you hear the wildlife around you and nothing else. How do you feel? Often words like warm, grounded, calm, or earthy come to mind. At least that is what comes to mind for me. You may have noticed this experience feels totally different, or opposite from the first experience. It is warming, opposite of the coolness experienced above. It feels slow and grounded, opposite from the lightness and moving wind of the first experience.
The things we do, think, and eat make up our daily lives, affecting us in gross and subtle ways. Without context, it is hard to think about how all these parts work together influencing our experience. Using the lens of nature makes it easier to think about our experience. When the ground is dry it needs water for a plant to grow, and in the dead of winter animals seek shelter and warmth. Thinking about our experience in the terms of the elements of nature, makes it easier to think about what would help us find balance in our selves. When you are cold you need warmth, when your skin is dry it needs oil, and when you are blowing around you need something to anchor you. What activities in your life are light, cool, dry, mobile, or clear? Light foods can include light and dry foods like crackers, salad, popcorn, chips, or dried fruit. Mobile activities can include multi-tasking, driving, flying, spending time on Facebook, listening to the news, or irregular routines. Are there any activities that you do on a daily basis that leave you feeling less grounded and less stable?
What Can You Do?
While this is a much bigger topic, and one that I feel requires much greater amounts of attention, I did want to provide a few simple ideas to get started. You’ll notice that each of the activities listed below help to bring in qualities to oppose what we might experience if we are anxious. The blowing, windy, airy, quality of anxiety, e.g. our anxious thoughts pulling us every which way, is grounded by structure and routine. Meditation, or quiet stillness, can help our system have an anchor, even if the wind continues to whirl around us. Warm foods, already cooked by the fire, helps the cold constriction and tightness of anxiety, relax and let go.
Tips to Help with Anxiety
- Establish a daily routine – Check out my blog to learn more!
- Regular meal times with warm grounding real foods:
- A few examples include – coconut milk, ghee, olive oil, soaked almond, sweet and juicy fruits, soaked dates, and grounding vegetables such as beets, and sweet potatoes.
- Exercise – Mild exercise, especially yoga, can improve circulation, strength and endurance. Just don’t over do it!
- Breathe!!! – Try some deep belly breathing, or alternate nostril breathing. You can also try this simple exercise found on the Overcome Anxiety Project’s website
- Inhale through the nose gently, but not slowly; exhale through pursed lips; blow on your palm very gently as if making a candle flame flicker, but not blowing it out. Count your inhale and exhale, make the exhalation at least twice as long as your inhale…as long as possible.
- Meditation – Spend a few minutes sitting quietly. Don’t let the word scare you off. Meditation comes in all different forms, the most important piece is to find something you connect with. Check out some of these amazing practices to learn more: Genevieve Yellin, and Tara Brach.
I sincerely believe we can all start to overcome our anxiety, but it requires finding the tools and support system to help us get there! I would highly encourage anyone who needs more help to find the right resources for you. That may be a therapist, psychologist, or it may be a program that can support you. My personal favorite resource is the amazing program that Genevieve Yellin started almost a decade ago. You can learn more at their website.
Kerry Meath-Sinkin is a registered investment advisor and financial planner based in Minneapolis. She graduated with honors from Brown, and works with clients not only in the Twin Cities, but nationwide. Kerry believes in a holistic approach to finance. She works with her clients to develop a practical plan with their finances, while also working on their inner relationship with money. Together, these aspects allow clients to feel healthy, abundant, and free. Kerry also has a passion for healthy living, is a certified Ayurvedic practitioner, and public health educator. Click here to learn more about Kerry.
Disclaimer: All material provided here is provided for educational purposes only. You should always speak with your care provider regarding the information provided with respect to your specific symptoms or medical condition. The information provided is not intended to substitute for medical care. Consult with your care provider before beginning the program, and ensure that they are aware of any medications or supplements you are taking.