Are you drowning in how much you have going on in life, and things needing your attention? Here's the Ayurvedic explanation, and my three top tips for dealing with it.
By overwhelmed I mean more than just being very busy; I mean the feeling that there is a huge wall of 'stuff' looming over you. I often see clients who have so much on their plate that they don't know where to start, or start things but don't finish them, or are trying to do everything and feeling like they're failing. Often they can't find the words or even the energy to explain it. But when they hear the word 'overwhelmed' they realise that's it.
In Ayurvedic terms, it's an excess of Vata dosha, your air and space energy. This subtle energy is what makes all movement in the body possible: movement of the breath, the muscles, hormones, digestion, nerve impulses, and including movement of thoughts. When Vata is balanced, the right movements happen at the right time. But when Vata is out of balance, our mind and energy becomes scattered, and we can feel unfocused, indecisive, anxious, unable to concentrate, overwhelmed, ungrounded, spaced out, light headed, erratic or experience mood swings. Any of these familiar?!
So, how did this energy has become aggravated? One of the main ways is by irregular habits in your daily life such as mealtimes and bedtimes. It could be through eating cold dry foods, such as salads, as Vata energy is itself cold and dry, so doesn't respond well to these.
It could be through not breathing correctly (e.g. doing so many things and being so distracted from your mind and body that you forget to breathe), too much talking, trying to multitask (which by the way is impossible!), checking emails and social media until late, or as soon as you wake up. It is very easy in modern life, with the myriad sources of overstimulation, for Vata to get out of whack.
So, if you're feeling overwhelmed – or any other high-Vata emotions – try these three top tips from my Vata rescue plan.
1. REST AND RELAXATION... TODAY!
An excellent way of taking control of very high Vata is a day of complete rest and relaxation. Stay warm and grounded at home, not working or running around, to give your overactive mind and body a rest. Start the morning with pranayama, if you know how. Ideally, meditate – though often when we most need to meditate is when we feel least able. Don't put pressure on yourself; just sit quietly on a cushion, place your hands on your tummy, and focus on the movement of your breathing, letting other thoughts and go and constantly returning your mind to your breath.
Then spend the day relaxing, pottering around, reading, cooking, gardening, and making your home lovely. Put flowers and candles around the home. Do a bit of simple decluttering, just one drawer or cupboard to start you off. Getting rid of excess stuff is very freeing. Clear space, clear mind!
Allow yourself to take a nap in the afternoon if you feel like it. Importantly, give yourself permission for a day of self-care. Don't spend it thinking about what you 'should' be doing! Today, your job is to settle your Vata, so that you feel calmer, happier and more able to manage.
2. WARM OIL MASSAGE
Ayurvedic massage calms excess Vata dosha, and helps to rebalance the flow of prana (energy) around the body, leading to you feeling calmer, soothed and more grounded. And it can help you sleep better, which is so important. Ayurvedic therapists use warm oil, which further calms Vata. Follow it with a sauna for just a few minutes, if you can.
If you can't get to a therapist, do a self massage: lovingly rub warm oil such as sesame oil or Pukka Herbs' Relax Oil into your whole body while a bath is running, then get into the bath with the oil on your skin, and relax.
Regularity in your daily life is the number one lifestyle priority for balancing your Vata dosha. Vata is wind, and has the qualities of movement and irregularity. So living an irregular lifestyle aggravates it. To regulate internal movements (rhythms) of the body, we have to consistently and regularly perform movements on the outside.
And when I say regular, I mean regular! Eat every meal at the same time every day, to within 15 minutes. Having lunch between 12 and 2pm is NOT regular! Go to bed at the same time every day (10pm) and get up at the same time. If it gets to 9pm and you're still on email and social media, switch it off – you've run out of time!
Jacqui Gibbons is an Ayurvedic health coach at triyoga, London's biggest and best yoga studio. She has eight years' experience helping busy London professionals to better health through Ayurveda and has a warm, practical and supportive approach.