6 Tips for Balancing Anxiety & Stress
photos by SweatNet
I don’t know about you, but this summer felt like a whirlwind. For me, it was the perfect balance of work and play between leading the summer immersion teacher training and traveling and spending time with family and friends. It’s hard to believe we’re almost into mid-September, but I’m doing my best to stay in the flow and enjoy the ride.
Even though it’s still hot here in Charlotte, I’m starting to feel the shift into fall season. According to Ayurveda, fall is a time of transition. For me personally, this is the season when I have the greatest tendency towards imbalance. I tend to feel a sense of constant movement around me, like there’s so much to do but I lack the focus and/or time to get everything done. I'm easily distracted, even when I make a conscious choice to sit down and do something, like write this blog post. I'm only on the second paragraph but I've stopped four times already to get water, check on hurricane updates, respond to an email and play with Shanti. As the kids these days say: the struggle is real.
I'm also experiencing increased anxiety, which is also common in the fall and when I am out of balance. It's been happening for about a week now, but it's heightened over these last few days. Granted, some of that is understandable due to the major hurricane heading towards the Eastern Carolinas right now. I'm not as worried about Charlotte, but I am worried for my friends in Wrightsville Beach, Wilmington, The Outer Banks, Raleigh and my family in the Washington Area. There has been a pit in my stomach since I realized last night this is happening and will likely be catastrophic. It's a familiar sense of unease turned into fear that I and so many experienced last year around this time surrounding Hurricane Irma. It becomes physical - the feelings of apprehension and possibility that something bad may be about to happen. Most of the time I am able to let these feelings move through me, but it's been hard to shake these last few days.
The thing about being out of balance is most of the time it's tough to recognize when it starts to happen. Then you may end up fueling the imbalance by spending hours wandering around your apartment and reading 25 articles on hurricane predictions until you're completely overwhelmed with anxiety and you have to close your computer, close your eyes and take deep breaths for five minutes so you don't completely spiral out of control. This may or may not have happened today, just sayin'.
Even though I've been feeling this sense of imbalance, or feeling "off" for about a week now, it can be hard to acknowledge and then understand how I got here. My tendency is to give my inner critic a voice and start blaming myself. My inner dialogue has been filled with:
"What's wrong with you? It shouldn't be so hard, why can't you just sit down and write?"
I start blaming myself for being scattered, anxious and disorganized. Obviously, chastising myself in my head doesn't make things any better. It dawned on me looking at the date yesterday that it's almost mid-September. Something about that (probably the 90 degree weather) just hadn't sunk in. Ahhh...we're shifting into fall. The hundreds of hours I spent studying Ayurveda that I somehow manage to forget every year at this time suddenly came rushing back.
I started to reflect on my diet and lifestyle the last few weeks. I realized I'm still eating foods best for balancing my mind/body type in the summer. I've been so worried about balancing all the fire in my life that I wasn't tending to the air and space. It suddenly became clear I'm not going crazy, I haven't lost my ability to focus or create, I'm just all out of whack because of my crazy schedule, diet and lifestyle.
Once I realized this, I felt relieved. I'm simply out of balance. There is so much power in recognizing this, in honoring where you are - because it means I can now take steps to bring myself back into balance.
According to Ayurveda, there are things you can do to bring balance into your life during the fall or when you are experiencing high vata. First thing's first: if you have no idea what Ayurveda is, head over to Banyan Botanicals and take their Dosha Quiz to learn your Ayurvedic Body Type and identify your current imbalances.
If we're on the same page and you're feeling anxious, restless and overwhelmed, there are some simple things you can do to bring balance into your life.
1. Start by using food as medicine. Emphasize warm, cooked foods. Look at what’s in season in your area and cook those foods with plenty of high-quality oils (sesame, sunflower, grapeseed, olive and ghee). Limit raw, cold foods such as salads and raw vegetables and favor foods that will make the intestines feel nurtured rather than put through a difficult digestive battle. Pay attention to your body and how it feels after you've eaten. Trust in your body's intelligence.
2. Back off the caffeine. I realized I've been drinking coffee every day and I'm typically a coffee every few days kind of person. Caffeine aggravates the nervous system, so if you're already feeling a heightened sense of nerves but you like your routine of warm coffee in the morning, whip up some warm milk (I prefer almond milk) instead. Add a pinch of ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, and nutmeg. It tastes delicious and it helps soothe your nerves.
3. Move your body mindfully. Skip the run and go for a walk. Consider shifting your power yoga practice (or beginning a yoga practice) with a slow flow or restorative class, emphasize groundedness and fluidity in your movement, allowing energy to flow freely in the body. If you're in Charlotte, I’m offering a Soul-Full Flow + Guided Mediation class on Wednesday evenings from 6:15-7:30p at Yoga Shala for the month of September for this very reason.
4. Ashwagandha is is considered one of the best herbs for calming vata and one of the most highly regarded and commonly used adaptogens (meaning that it can help your body manage stress) in Ayurveda. It can lower blood sugar levels, reduce cortisol, boost brain function and help fight symptoms of anxiety and depression. Maximizing the body's ability to resist stress, it enables the body to reserve and sustain vital energy throughout the day while promoting sound, restful sleep at night. Here is an evidence-based article from Healthline if you want to learn more.
5. Enjoy a relaxing, warm bath before bed and get lots of sleep (but you know this).
6. Most importantly, be easy on yourself. Tell your inner-critic to chill out and honor where you are.
Oh, and take a break from the internet. All the yoga and Ashwagandha in the world won't save you from refreshing the hurricane radar every 10 minutes, trust me.
To everyone in Florence's path: be safe. I'm holding you all in my heart and hoping for the best as we all prepare for the worst.