stress relieve

Chill the *%&@ Out - The Ultimate Guide to Calming Your Anxiety

Yesterday I drove my brother to the airport after a short 2 day visit from NYC. After we said our goodbyes I welled up with emotions of loneliness and began to cry. I usually have this reaction after a visit from my close family. We all live on opposite corners of the continent so unfortunately, I only get to see them a few times a year.  

As I had a little cry on my drive home from the airport I reflected on how much I love my family and how heartbroken I would be if I lost any of them. Then I began to worry, what if something happens to my brother and I never see him again? And my kids, what if something were to happen to them? A wave of anxiety swept over me. 

Ayurveda is a holistic medicine that looks for the root cause of disease. To effectively address the symptom, we need to explore the underlying cause. In my case, my bout of anxiety surfaced on the heels of a few days off my regular routine. We had spent the night at a cabin on the lake where we ate late, I didn't sleep well and it was cold. Looking at it from my Ayurvedic lens it all became clear – all those things increased vata dosha which triggered anxiety and spiraled into needless worrying. Once I got home and got settled back into my routine I was fine.  

Vata is the energy of movement and is made up of the elements of air and space. These lighter elements are naturally light, cold, dry, rough, mobile, subtle, and clear. When we're exposed to those qualities, whether it be through food (cold drinks, dry or light foods), or lifestyle (being overly busy), or environment (cold weather) it increases that energy inside our body and mind. When too much vata accumulates, we suffer from fear, anxiety, worry, and loneliness. Because of vata's mobile nature, it swings out of balance easily. But on the upside, little tweaks can make a world of difference. 

The following is a list of common ways vata gets increased and causes anxiety: 

  • Stress 
  • Fall and winter season 
  • Dry and/or windy climate 
  • Lack of sleep 
  • Staying up too late 
  • Lack of routine 
  • Skipping meals 
  • 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 

Once we identify what may have triggered our anxiety, we can take measures to chill out and calm down.  

The daily routine of Ayurveda, or dina charya is a series of habits done daily which is extremely grounding to the nervous system. Not only are the habits themselves deeply nurturing, but having a routine in general balances vata dosha and allows the mind to relax into ease. Simple things like going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, eating at regular meal times and having consistent morning and evening routines is very supportive to our physiology on all levels.  

Meditation is the ultimate antidote to a busy mind. Although when we sit it might feel like our thoughts are just getting louder and the monkey mind busier – we're actually just becoming aware of what was already happening. Once we have the awareness, with consistent practice we get better at creating space between our thoughts and enjoying moments of peace. Start with a few minutes a day and work your way up. Try one of the one minute or less stress relievers below.

Pranayama is a powerful practice that directly affects the mind. Prana, or life force energy is the refined essence of vata dosha so it makes sense that what we do with our breath has an impact on our mind. The saying goes that our mind is the kite and our breath is the string. In yoga, we practice controlling the breath to direct the mind. My favorite balancing breath is a few rounds of deep belly breathing followed by alternate nostril breathing. Instructions here.  

Abhyanga is the daily practice of self-massage with oil. It's a loving act of self-care that insulates and calms our nerves and nourishes our bodily tissues. Even a simple foot massage helps to bring the energy down and is incredibly grounding. 

Diet is one of the most powerful ways to balance our doshas. Soups, stews, root vegetables, and other warm, simple, grounding foods are excellent for balancing vata dosha. The health and quality of our digestive fire lies at the root of our health. When we're anxious we don't digest as well so eating easy-to-digest whole foods prevents further imbalances from taking root.  

Last but not least, simple things like taking a bath, going for a walk, spending time in nature, decluttering your space, restorative yoga or yoga nidra might be just what the doctor ordered. 

The power of the Ayurvedic approach to body-mind health is more than a prescription of recommended foods and strict daily routines. It lies in our ability to observe our experience, to intuit what is throwing us off, and then through simple wisdom of what helps our body thrive, taking sweet care of ourselves.

Dear Mr. Harrisons, (3).jpg

Girls Gone Wild

My other title is: Why YOU Should Eat Your "Weedies"

Several years ago I was introduced to the idea of eating my weeds, or put more politely “invasive species” by my Ayurvedic teacher Cate Stillman. I was intrigued but didn’t know where to start. Three years ago after having accrued my very first garden, I was a raw beginner and didn’t know an invasive species from a cultivated one. But I was curious and the desire was there to learn more and integrate these superfoods into my diet (more specifically my green smoothies). Over the past few years, foraging has become more widespread and is picking up speed - and for good reason! Below are a few of my reasons for eating my “weedies”:

It’s free. My husband calls me “depression-era Dana”. I hate wasting. I squeeze my toothpaste tubes to death. Organic produce is expensive! You have an abundance of chlorophyll-packed greens right in your backyard!

It’s environmentally responsible. Take eating “green” to a whole new level. Wild-crafting is local, sustainable, seasonal and organic (provided you don’t spray your yard) AND your carbon footprint is non-existent.

It’s healthier. Farmed veggies have less phytonutrients than their wild ancestors and weeds that haven't been subjected to thousands of years of selective breeding.

It’s detoxifying. Green = clean. Leafy greens are bitter and many have pungent and astringent tastes which, according to Ayurveda, help clean the blood and detoxify the bodily tissues.

It’s stress-relieving. A stroll in nature is one of the best ways to ground and calm yourself.

It’s retro. Channel your hunter-gatherer ancestors. It’s the real-deal Paleo diet!

It’s life-affirming. Foraging connects you to the abundant nature of the universe and cultivates gratitude and appreciation for earth’s many gifts. It fosters trust in the fact that you are supported by life.

Are you ready to take a walk on the wild side?

lamb's quarters
lamb's quarters

Mild, entry level weeds include: lamb’s quarters (contains more protein, calcium, and vitamins B1 and B2 than cabbage or spinach) 

Purslane (has the highest amount of absorbable heart-healthy omega-3 fats of any edible plant AND scientists also report that this herb has 10 to 20 times more melatonin—an antioxidant that may inhibit cancer growth—than any other fruit or vegetable tested)

purslane
purslane

and chickweed (high in protein, liver decongestant, dissolves cysts, appetite suppressant)

chickweed
chickweed

For the more daring: dandelion (excellent liver and kidney detoxifier, ranks in the top 4 green vegetables in overall nutritional value):

Dandelion-emoedgars-sxc.jpg2_
Dandelion-emoedgars-sxc.jpg2_

thistle (liver detoxifier) and nettle (great for spring allergy prevention) **use gloves and blend or sauté lightly.

How to eat them: Blend them into a green smoothie, add to salad or sautéed greens, make superfood “greens” powder (see below) or bittersweet treats (see below).

WILD GREEN SUPERFOOD POWDER FOR WINTER (DRY IN SUMMER OR FALL) byCate Stillman

De-Stem  & Dehydrate at 110 degrees (or spread on your trampoline in the heat of summer), until crisp:

1 lb dandelion leaves

1 lb lambs quarter

1 lb thistle

1 lb nettles

1 lb chickweed, or whatever else you have too much of!

Once the leaves are dry you may choose to put them in a coffee grinder or vitamix to make a powder. Store in a dark glass jar in a cool cupboard.

Add teaspoon of this powder in your smoothies in the winter.

BITTERSWEET TREATS a brilliant idea from Celeste Davidson: Dried cherries (or other dried berries or raisins) wrapped in dandelion leaves

This beautiful book is an excellent guide and cookbook to inspire you to go wild : )

feasting-and-foraging-1
feasting-and-foraging-1