Anxiety: Start With Your Food

Through Ayurveda's perspective all aspects of life are made of different qualities. Foods, drinks, weather, places, people, relationships, experiences, even feelings. These qualities could be hot or cold, dry or moist, rough or smooth, cloudy or clear e.t.c. These qualities help us understand how to balance our imbalances, as like will increase like and opposites are very attractive here.

Take for example the Vata dosha. The Vata dosha is our constitution made of air and ether elements, so naturally as air is, the qualities that make up these types of foods, drinks, feelings, people, and experiences are as follows: light, cold, dry, rough, mobile, subtle, and clear.

Now let us apply those qualities to our feeling of anxiety. When we experience anxiety it could show up as a whole host of physical ailments. Some of which are heart palpitations, inability to breathe, racing frantic mind, fear, uneasiness, insomina, not being able to sit still, dry mouth, nausea, tense muscles, dizziness, or cold/sweaty/numb/tingling hands or feet. Almost each and every one of these sypmtoms have qualities of air: light, cold, dry, rough, mobile, subtle, and clear.

So if one was to have an anxiety attack, which action do you think would help calm the anxiety: quickly pacing around your room breathing shallow wringing your hands, or sitting down in a quiet place with your eyes closed focusing only on breathing slowly? Hard to do at the time of an anxiety attack but we both understand that similar actions to air or Vata will only increase the problem.

The causes of anxiety can be many different things but the root of it almost always points to a traumatic event-- whether getting in a car accident or being in an abusive relationship. Each and every one of these types of experiences rock our nervous system and unfortunately we are not trained in how to nourish our nervous system after the event or series of events. Therefore, anxiety can slowly creep into our lives and never leave, especially if we live a busy//crazy//hectic//stressfull//pressure-filled life.

Below is a list of foods, drinks, and actions I hope are helpful in understanding how your diet and lifestyle may be perpetuating your struggle with anxiety.

Opposite qualities of Vata: heavy, warm, smooth, nourishing, substantive, oily, and stabilizing.

Foods that cause anxiety:

Generally frozen/dry/raw/ vegetables, artichoke, black olives, bitter gourd, bitter melon, broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, celery (fully cooked is fine), dandelion greens, kale, lettuce, watercress, sprouts, cabbage, green beans, peas, ANY bean besides red lentils and tofu/tempeh products, hummus, white potatoes, raw foods, raw veggies, salads, chips, popcorn, rice cakes, dry granola, dried fruits, persimmons, pomegranates, raw apples and pears… do you see a trend of cold, dry, and rough/cruciferous?

Drinks that cause anxiety:

Alcohol, caffeine, bitter teas such as dandelion, astringent teas such as hibiscus, jasmine, nettles, mint teas, rosehips, or passion flower, frozen smoothies, any drink with ice in it or very cold drinks

Actions that cause anxiety:

Running, travelling, driving, jumping, frantic/hectic movements, too much screen time, standing or talking while eating, excess stimulation-- especially noise like loud music or excited music, always having ear buds in, constatntly talking on the phone, listening to audiobooks while driving/in motion.

Foods to counteract anxiety:

Making sure your food is warm, cooked, well spiced, and well oiled; any fresh raw fruit besides apples and pears (apples and pears you stew with a little ghee/coconut oil and cinnamon), pumpkin, sweet potatoes, soaked nuts, avocado, asparagus, cucumber, okra, squashes, mushrooms, lean meats, beets, carrots, corn, garlic, onions, oils, grains that are spiced and oiled well, goat dairy... see a trend of moist and heavier?

Drinks and teas to counteract anxiety:

Lavender, chamomile, lemongrass, fennel tea, Tulsi-brahmi tea, aloe vera juice, coconut milk, coconut water, grape juice, lemonade or limeade, licorice tea, warm spiced and sweetened milk drinks.

Actions to counteract anxiety:

Walking not running, yoga that DOES NOT require you to be in a new pose every 30 seconds (think ashtanga, hatha, iyengar, or well thought out vinyasa sequence), choose calming meditative music at some point in the day if you listen to a lot of music, meditation or find at least once in your day to sit in silence for 10 minutes with just yourself no distractions, try moving slower from place to place or cut out unnecessary rush, sitting down to enjoy each meal and chew thoroughly, cutting out screens for at least an hour before bed, journaling, self-massage or abhyanga... take a minute to figure out in your day how you can cut down stimulation and move a little slower.

Photo by Yeshi Kangrang on Unsplash