More Natural Support for Anxiety and Insomnia

Anxiety and insomnia are two related conditions that are common in our fast-paced culture. According to Ayurveda, these conditions are treated based on their underlying cause, which is generally related to either vata or pitta imbalance. (For more information on the doshas see my Learn page.) In a previous post, I shared about specific foods that can help with these conditions.  Today I will share other natural ways to resolve these issues using Ayurvedic wisdom.

When anxiety and insomnia are caused by vata imbalance, they are marked by the qualities of the air and space elements: cold, dry, light and mobile. This may show up as cold hands and feet, trembling, dry skin, dry constipation, feeling “spacey” or ungrounded, excessive movement (such as pacing) and walking and talking too fast. Vata-type anxiety shows up as feeling nervous or fearful and is usually accompanied by scattered actions, such as starting multiple projects that may not get finished. Vata-type insomnia is usually marked by difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, with the mind wandering or worrying.

However, both of these conditions can also be related to increased pitta, which is the dosha of the fire element. When related to Pitta, these conditions will show up as feeling overly competitive, over-working and perfectionism. Pitta-type anxiety comes with an urgency to get things done, and done to the highest standard. Usually pitta-type insomnia is marked by difficulty falling asleep because the mind is focused on problem solving or sorting through a to-do list.

Help for Vata-Type Anxiety and Insomnia
The air and space elements of Vata means an increase of the qualities listed above: cold, dry, light and mobile. To bring balance, we focus on increasing the opposite qualities: warm, moist, heavy and stable. To this end, some actions you can take are:

· Warm: Focus on warm environments, food and drinks. Bundle up on cold days, avoid raw or cold food/drinks and spend time in a wet sauna or hot tub, if possible.

· Moist: One of the most profound home remedies for anxiety and insomnia of both types is daily self-massage using oil. Vata-type people do best with organic, unrefined sesame oil; pittas can use coconut oil. This process calms the nervous system while touching on various marma points in the body (similar to acupressure points) that support calmness. To apply the oil, start at the top of the head, placing a drop in the part of the hair and massaging in. Continue moving downward, making sure to massage the ears. Use circular motions over joints and the center of the body and long strokes down the arms and legs, going in the direction of hair growth. Be sure to end by liberally applying oil to the soles of the feet.

· Heavy: Focus on foods that have a heavy quality, such as avocados and good oils, as well as applying oil liberally for self-massage.

· Stable: Spend time in quiet contemplation or meditation daily, or as often as possible. Keep activities to a minimum. This grounds the air and space elements that cause anxiety and insomnia.  Root veggies, such as carrots, beets, potatoes and sweet potatoes also bring stability.

Help for Pitta-Type Anxiety and Insomnia
The fire nature of Pitta means an increase of qualities that are hot, light and sharp. To balance, we can focus on the opposite qualities of cool, heavy and gentle. Some actions that support this include:

· Cool: Spend time in cool environments and limit time spent in the sun, hot baths or saunas. A walk in the moonlight or near water can be very cooling. The term “chill out” also gives some guidance: find ways to relax and find a healthy balance of work and play time.

· Heavy: A daily self-massage using oil (as described above) brings grounding to the light quality of the fire element. 

· Gentle: The main mantra for pitta-types is surrender. Be gentle with yourself and surrender to the process. Again, allow plenty of down time.

 As always, be sure to consult your care provider before making any diet and lifestyle changes.