6 Things You Can Do Daily to Calm Your Anxiety
“I've had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.” ― Mark Twain
Incessant worrying, fear, panic, restlessness, feeling ungrounded, unsettled, – anxiety runs rampant in our go-go culture affecting nearly ¼ of all women. In fact, it is the most common mental disorder worldwide.
From an Ayurvedic perspective, the way we currently live our lives is a recipe for anxiety - tied to our stimulating screens, rushing from one place to another, and in constant movement but never being fully present.
Anxiety is considered a “vata” imbalance. Vata is the energy of movement, characterized by the elemental qualities of the wind – its erratic and unpredictable nature throws everything out of whack.
Here is a list of vata-aggravating (and anxiety producing) things:
Fall and winter season
Dry and/or windy climate
Lack of sleep
Staying up too late
Lack of routine
Poor diet choices
Raw, cold food and beverages
Caffeine and other stimulants
Overworking, overexertion, being too busy
Excessive aerobic activity such as jumping, jogging and extreme cardio
Excessive use of electronics such as computer, cell phones, etc
Excessive talking and social activity
Past trauma (PTSD)
Major life changes such as marriage, divorce, moves and job changes
Loss of a loved one
Most of us can check off at least a few of these. Therefore, ALL of us can benefit from incorporating some anxiety reducing practices into our daily lives.
Ayurveda provides us with simple, yet profoundly effective rituals and routines to become calmer, relaxed and more grounded in our everyday lives.
6 Things Every Person with Anxiety Should Start Doing Today
Consistency is key
“Figure out the rhythm of life and live in harmony with it”
– Lao Tzu
One of the most powerful things you can do to ease anxiety is to create regular, consistent daily routines. Wake up at the same time, eat at the same time and go to bed at the same time. every single day.
Circadian science recognizes and has proven the profound effects the rhythms of nature have on our body. When we sync up with these larger rhythms and align our daily routines to them, everything runs more effectively and our mind is more steady.
Master your mind
“The goal of meditation isn’t to control your thoughts, it’s to stop letting your thoughts control you.”
A regular meditation practice has been proven to reduce anxiety. I’ve definitely experienced the benefits of my daily morning meditation in my own life. When I miss it, my sleep suffers and I’m less patient and grounded.
The power of meditation is not only a result of the few minutes of stillness in your day, but in the complete change in how you deal with your thoughts.
When you meditate you learn to detach from and observe your thoughts, without becoming identified with them. This is why it’s so essential for those who struggle with anxiety. When anxiety-producing thoughts pop into your head, you can simply notice them and let them go.
Meditation teaches you to recognize thoughts as just made up sentences in your brain that have no bearing on reality. When you can see them as such, they cease to control you.
Another reason why meditating is a must have in your day is that it trains you to stay present in the moment without reacting to it.
When a wave of anxiety arises, you can learn to sit with it, instead of fight it. When you stop resisting and start allowing, the feeling comes and goes more quickly. But when we layer anxiety on top of anxiety, we’re adding needless suffering to an already challenging situation.
“If you want to conquer the anxiety of life, live in the moment, live in the breath.”
― Amit Ray
Pranayama is a powerful practice that directly affects the mind. A few deep breaths can calm you in an instant, but regular rituals of conscious breathing practices can completely change your life.
Nasal breathing specifically has the capacity to turn on your parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest), while mouth breathing can actually turn on the stress response. If you’re a mouth breather, train yourself to breathe through your nose. Yes, you can even sleep with your mouth taped shut!
Here’s a simple one to try:
Lay on your back and put a sand bag or heavy blanket on your belly. Close your eyes and focus on breathing into your belly and feel the blanket lift and lower with your breath. Practice slow, deep, even breathing into your belly for 5-15 minutes.
Insulate your nerves
“Abhyanga should be resorted to daily. It wards off old age, exertion, and aggravation of vata.”
— Ashtanga Hrdayam: Sutrasthana: II: 8-9
Abhyanga is the daily practice of self-massage with oil. It's a loving act of self-care that insulates and calms your nerves and nourishes your bodily tissues. It’s the queen body practice of Ayurveda that has numerous positive effects. Even a simple foot massage in bed at the end of your day is incredibly grounding.
“When you eat, just eat.”
Ayurveda recognizes that it’s not only WHAT you eat – but how, when and why you eat that matters. These all play a role in how you digest your food – which determines how you will be nourished by it.
There’s a reason it’s called “rest and digest” – when you’re in a stress response your body is geared up to run, fight or freeze – not sit down to eat. Take a few deep breaths before eating to turn OFF the stress response.
Here are 3 simple eating guidelines that can reduce anxiety.
Eat at regular mealtimes and avoid snacking
Eat mindfully and slowly, while sitting down in an undistracted, calm environment
Eat warm, easy-to-digest, spiced, foods. Avoid sugar, caffeine, and cold carbonated drinks
“Get grounded and you can navigate even the stormiest roads in peace.”
- Steve Goodier
For those of us who tend towards experiencing anxiety, building in grounding practices into our morning and evening routines can be a game-changer. Daily walks outside in nature, am yoga practices, and nightly baths can help our body drop into a relaxation mode.
Here is a recipe for an Anti-Anxiety Bath:
1/3 c baking soda
1/3 c ginger
10 drops of warming essential oils (clove, orange, cardamom, juniper, ylang ylang)
As our lives get fuller and we’re faced with more and more options, more decisions and more stimulation, it’s essential that we add in antidotes to help balance out the busy.
Start small, pick one of the practices above to add into your daily routine and notice the effects. These are not quick fixes, but habits when done over time which yield profound effects.
“A well-lived day is medicine unto itself.”
― Acharya Shunya