What’s my mind got to do with it? Everything!
It is the end of summer and the living is easy, busy, and filled with lots of activities. I saw a client yesterday who told me she has no idea how, but it seems, “Somehow I have managed to get a rash.” She went on to tell me that, “This is not usual for me. When I start to get all stressed out, all I do is worry and then I have trouble eating. I get the runs, and I start to get these odd rashes. Even in other seasons, it seems that when I get overwhelmed I either get a ‘mystery rash’ or start to feel like Speed Racer!”
During our session she went on to explain that she feels like she moves in and out of cycles of anxiety, or nervous energy. When deadlines appear, or her kids schedules change she starts to "amp up" and writes several to-do lists. She described this process saying, “It seems like these lists will help me when I get overwhelmed. I want to take care of every small detail. That makes me feel better.”
This client is like many of us. When we feel overwhelmed we want to have a sense that something is within our control. The excessive thinking or worry can become exhausting. It can even create havoc with our relationships. When I asked my client about this she said,
Here it is, the cycle that keeps us hostage and can get expressed in our behaviors and physical body. The cycle of overwhelm, agitation, anger, and then guilt...UGH!
This client was describing a common situation that many of us feel when our lives start to expand with demands, changes, and time constraints. When this sense of being overwhelmed lingers it can become problematic in how we navigate our daily lives. The recommended support varies, depending upon the symptoms and the situation. One useful intervention is to educate the client to understand the relationship between their thoughts, feelings, and actions.
Ayurvedic practitioners and Ayurvedic health counselors are in a unique position. We can use our specific skill set to educate our clients that the mind is the seat of all illness. We can then offer clients a range of support with what I like to call daily anchors, or dinacharya, and lifestyle adjustments using the Ayurvedic Clock. We can introduce how to use food as medicine via the six tastes and educate our clients on how digestion of our food impacts digestion of our thoughts and feelings too.
I often recommend that we start with a two-part focus: regulate digestion, and build ojas! Nothing is better than abhyanga with brahmi coconut oil (summer) to cool and calm the mind and body. This pitta and vata pacifying practice is a “go to” in my work with clients who describe this type of “task driven” anxiety. I find that supporting the often sharp, or tinksha, agni is an important foundation so I will add in some Pitta Digest as a digestive support to start off the process, while educating on specific foods or tastes I might want clients to introduce to their daily diet. Next on my list of anxiety busters is the trifecta of: balancing/calming pranayama, grounding asana, and deep relaxation!
As professionals in the world of healing—Ayurvedic minded yoga teachers, Ayurvedic health counselors, practitioners, or doctors—we have a range of accessible tools to share with our clients that will give a long lasting support to decreasing symptoms of generalized anxiety. We simply start with educating our clients, hold the space to offer sincere validation for their experience, and then support the mind with some sattvic interventions. In our role, we can provide cost effective tools that create the building blocks to self-healing.