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AYURVEDIC APPROACH TO THE MANAGEMENT OF ANXIETY

Anxiety is the body’s physical response to stress – by a real threat or perceived threat – and is part of an autonomic nervous system response to protect the individual. It is a feeling of apprehension and/or fear about what is to come and can lead to e.g. a pounding heart, rapid breathing, butterflies, restlessness, trouble concentration, restless sleep, and the instigation of the flight/fight response.

Stress and anxious feelings are a common response to a situation where an individual is under pressure. This response usually passes once the stressful situation is over, or the ‘stressor’ is removed. However, in some individuals, they remain locked in this stressed state for a multitude of reasons, and when this occurs, daily life can be more difficult to cope with, which can then develop further into chronic anxiety.

Common types of anxiety include: Generalised anxiety disorder; social phobia or social anxiety disorder; panic disorder; agoraphobia; specific phobias; obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD): and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Whilst anxiety is idiopathic, there are risk factors which can include:

  • Family history of the condition
  • Having another mental health issue
  • Ongoing stressful situations, any kind/form of abuse
  • Life-threatening events
  • Pregnancy and childbirth
  • Physical health issues such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease or hormonal issues
  • Substance use/abuse
  • Consuming caffeine
  • Having a certain personality type, e.g. perfectionist, or a need for control


Conventional Treatments:
Treatment for anxiety falls into two streams: psychotherapy and medication.

Management strategies can include: Exercise regularly, taking the time for self-care and self-reflection, meditation, yoga, mindfulness, limit caffeine, limit alcohol and cigarettes, breathing techniques, counselling, change self-talk, tackle small tasks, diet and lifestyle changes, counselling and alternative/holistic therapies.


Ayurvedic Approach to Anxiety (Chittodveda):
Ayurveda sees anxiety as an imbalance of predominantly Vata dosha, with the emotional response to life problems within an individual playing a significant role in leading to the condition. Ayurveda sees that those with more resilience to life’s stresses are less prone to anxiety, whereas those with less resilience, being more prone to the development of the condition. With extended and prolonged exposure to stress, along with other factors, a build-up occurs in respect to exaggerated responses to emotional disturbances. Over time, this vitiates aspects of the mind/psyche, leading to the development of symptoms such as worry, fear and/or grief. When these responses continue, they then influence the bodily doshas, causing the initiation of anxiety.


BENEFICIAL AYURVEDIC HERBS FOR ANXIETY:
Vata Pitta Balancing: brahmi, jatamansi, shankpushpi, mandukaparni
Vata Kapha Balancing: brahmi, jatamansi, shankpushpi, mandukaparni, ashwaganda, vacha (external use only)
Pitta Vata Balancing: brahmi, jatamansi, shankpushpi, mandukaparni
Pitta Kapha Balancing: brahmi, jatamansi, shankpushpi, mandukaparni
Kapha Vata Balancing: brahmi, jatamansi, shankpushpi, mandukaparni, ashwaganda, vacha external use only)
Kapha Pitta Balancing: brahmi, jatamansi, shankpushpi, mandukaparni


Traditional Ayurvedic Treatment(s) for Anxiety:
Ayurvedic treatment approach(es) are individualised and are fully dependant on a full consultation with an individual, the current imbalances, their age, strength, severity of the condition, and if other conditions are also present. Treatment approaches can include:

  • Avoid causative factors
  • Balance Jataragni, and digestion
  • Remove Ama (toxins within the digestive tract and body)
  • Balance doshic imbalances/blockages through diet/lifestyle/herbs
  • Abhyanga, shirodhara, shiroabhyanga, steam sauna bodywork therapies
  • Intake of clean, wholefood, organic eating as much as possible
  • Panchakarma detox therapies (where required)
  • Stress management and holistic counselling (as required)
  • Establishing a healthy relationship to life balance, self-care and balanced exercise


General Ayurvedic Nutritional Guidelines for Anxiety:
Ayurvedic nutritional approach(es) are individualised and are fully dependant on a full consultation with an individual. One should eat compatible foods, and in accordance to one's imbalances. Some additional general guidelines include:

  • One should eat the foods that one does not react to
  • One should eat according to the digestive capacity, keeping meals light, cooked, warm moist and easy to digest. Food substances should be dry and light to digest, without too much oil or fat. As a guide, eat to fill the stomach 1/3 with solid food, 1/3 with liquid and leaving 1/3 empty to allow room for digestive secretions in the stomach.
  • One should eat at regular times/intervals. Avoid skipping meals.
  • One should eat wholegrains and non-processed foods, be sure to use some ghee in cooking.
  • Foods to avoid: Cold foods, raw foods, leftover foods (24 hours), frozen foods, cold water, processed and packaged foods, soft drinks and aerated beverages, high fat foods, greasy foods, extra salty foods.
  • One should avoid overeating. Allow 6 hours between meals and snack 3 hours after a meal and eat only if hungry. If digestion is poor, then 4 light meals per day is advisable in place of three regular meals.
  • Breakfast should be easy to digest, lunch the main meal, and dinner should be lighter than lunch.
  • Buttermilk consumed after meals is advisable.
  • Eat home cooked meals, preferably made on the same day as being prepared.
  • Water should be drunk warm in the cooler months and room temperature in the summer months. Avoid chilled water.
  • Use all of the five senses at mealtimes.


General Ayurvedic Lifestyle Guidelines for Anxiety
Ayurvedic lifestyle approach(es) are individualised and are fully dependant on a full consultation with an individual. Some general guidelines include:

  • Allow for sufficient rest and sleep. Go to bed at a regular time each day, and best before 10pm. Avoid also sleeping during the day.
  • Keep to a routine as much as possible during the day.
  • Keep a solid social network, be involved in hobbies/activities that you enjoy.
  • Get sufficient daily activity and exercise, without overdoing exercise. Balanced activity/exercise is healthy, but avoid overexertion to the point of exhaustion.
  • Avoid stress and tension. Highly recommended is counselling for self-care and working through mental health and/or emotional issues and the development of resillience.
  • Deep breathing for 10 minutes a day is very beneficial. Meditation, yoga and pranayama can also be highly beneficial.
  • Avoid smoking and minimise alcohol and caffeine intake.
  • Stay motivated and use family and social network to help with this.


If you have any concerns about your health please be sure to consult an Ayurvedic Practitioner or your local health physician. See our Ayurvedic Practitioner Services and Consultation Page for more information.

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Disclaimer:
The above information is for information and educational purposes. As such we are not, diagnosing, treating, curing, mitigating, or preventing any type of disease or medical condition. Before taking any form of natural, integrative or conventional treatment regimen, it is advisable to seek the advice of a licensed healthcare professional.

 

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