Relief from Seasonal Anxiety
Q. Every fall I start feeling anxious and crave sugar. Why does this happen in autumn?
A. There’s actually an explanation for seasonal anxiety. According to ayurveda, the changing weather affects your emotions as well as your body. When the weather turns cool, dry, and windy in late autumn and winter, it increases your vata dosha, which governs activity in the brain and nervous system. Too much vata can create excessive thoughts and anxiety. You may have felt some relief from anxiety during summer—when the hot, humid weather dampens vata—but once the cold weather returns, so does vata-based anxiety.
It makes sense that you would reach for the sweets, because pleasurable foods high in carbohydrates and fat are known to increase endorphins in the brain, which help maintain a calm, happy mood. Obviously, though, the downside of eating refined sugar (mood swings, obesity, and nutritional depletion) will only add to your anxiety in the long run.
Instead, take a clue from ayurveda, and choose wholesome sweet food instead of sugar to calm your worries, boost endorphin levels, and balance your vata. Rice, milk, fresh and dried fruits, as well as whole grains and other complex carbohydrates are all sweet by ayurvedic standards and will satisfy your craving without creating further imbalances.
Another solution: Reach for a soothing hot drink, which will calm your agitated vata by its warmth and hydrating effects. Rather than caffeine, which can add to anxiety, try steamed milk (latte, hold the café), chamomile tea, or a blend of chai-like spices. As I mentioned earlier, even plain hot spring water can do the trick and has the added bonus of reducing cravings and aiding digestion.
Some additional dietary tips to balance vata include favoring cooked foods over raw and moist foods over dry, crunchy ones. (Out with the crackers, in with the rice pudding!)
It’s also important to address your overall tendency toward anxiety. Practices that might help dampen your overactive sympathetic nervous system—your fight-or-flight response to stress and anxiety—such as meditation, yoga, and breathing exercises, as well as regular exercise and an early bedtime, can all help stress roll off your back both at work and at home.
Originally published in Natural Solutions magazine.
Reprinted with permission.
Nancy Lonsdorf, MD is a prominent Ayurvedic physician, speaker and author of The Ageless Woman: Natural Health and Beauty After Forty with Maharishi Ayurveda (MCD Century, 2004).