I feel compelled to share when I’m anxious. Or, more to the point, I feel compelled to share when I find a pithy solution that might just help others orbiting the same tetchy vibe in the Zeitgeist.

Image via Favim
Image via Favim

And even more to the point, I know that when I do share (from on tetchy high) so many readers on this site cry out saying they’re feeling the same way. And I reckon just this sense of commonality, of knowing you’re no Robinson Crusoe in the orbit, of feeling that “you’re seen” in some way, that there’s a special synchronicity to it all, helps us all. (The reader comments that follow the posts do this for me; call this a comment-bait post, if you like!)

A lot of people are feeling anxious this week. There’s a reason for this, and a fix, which I’ll get to in a moment.

For me, my current anxiety, which is causing me to not think straight and to have a permanent flutteriness in my solar plexus, is not pegged to any particular stressor. There’s no ostensible, external reason as such. Nope, it’s an anxiety that’s in my bones. I’m anxious at a cellular level, almost independent of my head and point-a-finger-at-it circumstances.

This is a really clear distinction to make. Why? Because we can get straight on with fixing – or easing – it. The fix isn’t dependent on external ducks that we have to get lined up. We don’t have to sit in our tedious tetchy orbit waiting for the meeting with our boss to address our work frustrations, or for the week to go by before we can make a credible ultimatum to our partners, or for the noisy neighbour upstairs to sort out their renovation plans before deciding whether it’s time to move out and finally get some sleep. We can cut to the practical fix and ease our cellular pain. Now. What a bloody relief.

So why are we anxious just now?

Vata is out of whack. Which, I know, sounds a bit whacko. I’ve shared about the very grounded and ancient ayurvedic approach to wellness before which works to three types (vata, pitta, kapha). And how we all have a dominant type. And how the vata type is notoriously anxious (I’m archetypal vata – spindly, dry, fast talker, agitated; hates air-conditioning and noises), and how modern life is particularly niggling for vatas. Oh, and how if vata energy is out of whack, we all (regardless of your type) get out of whack. Vata is the oxygen to the fire. Too much and off we burn, out of control. If you haven’t read my previous posts on this or Googled it or read Perfect Health, please do. It’s worth the catch-up.

So vata gets out of whack when it’s whipped into a frenzy by the wind or dryness or changes in temperature… in fact, changes of any sort. Right now, here in Australia, it’s windy, dry, with cold spells as we approach the change of season. Voila! Vata whackiness…and anxiety.

So what’s the practical fix?

Taming your vata with as many practical grounding, nourishing, wind-minimising tricks as you can. Like, now. I’ve touched on these techniques before. But the point I’ve realized this time around is this: when cellular anxiety kicks in, you really have to load up on the techniques. One or two won’t cut it. You have to treat it like you might a cold when you can’t afford to get sick (me, I douse myself with Vitamin C and Echinacea, go to bed early, eat veggies…the whole catastrophe all at once). To this end, I thought I’d share my checklist.

If you’re anxious right now, try to do as many as you can from this list…now! And please add any extra tricks you turn to below.

My Anxiety Fix Checklist

  • Eat oil. I eat coconut oil straight from the jar. Or olive oil on my dinner.
  • Rub yourself in oil. Especially the feet and hands, where 75 per cent of nerves end. (I’ve written about why here.)
  • Turn off air-con and fans. And get out of the wind. I take a shawl with me if I can’t do either of these.
  • Don’t go to cafes. Sit in a park instead. The noise is too much.
  • Try Sleep Sound  (I rate it.)
  • Drink green tea. Not coffee.
  • Eat lunch at 1pm. And dinner at 7pm. Or whatever. The routine bit is key. Vata energy needs routine to be happy.
  • Sit still for 5-20 minutes several times a day. Try sit on a small wooden bench with yourself.
  • Rest your adrenals. Get off the coffee, sugar and alcohol.
  • Tell friends you have to leave by 9pm when you’re out. This is so you can get to bed by 10pm. This is to get your body into the best, most restful routine.
  • Stop toggling. Switch off.
  • Walk everywhere. This is to slow down. I avoid car travel, even bike travel.
  • Check your stress levels. There’s a clever little test here.
  • Don’t go for a run. Again, go slow with a yoga class.
  • Meditate. Your anxiety appears comical when you meditate. You become rather fond of it eventually.


Have your say, leave a comment.

  • Lisa Olko

    great article…..I love the tips…and yes I share this cellular anxiety….it is very uncomfortable as if something bad is about to happen…..but I love that I am not alone it makes it more okay….that it’s not just me.
    thank you sarah!

  • Betty

    I’ve recently started a new job – I have to commute over an hour each way in my car, to an old fluorescent-lit overly air-conditioned building 🙁

    • Ah, use the “traffic light” trick – rest your hands calmly on the steering wheel, breathe deep etc at every traffic stop. And listen to classical music!

      • Betty

        Thank you, Sarah. That’s very thoughtful advice. Will give it a go!

  • angela

    Thanks Sarah. Great reminder. Perfect timing. Appreciate it! x

  • Megan

    wow thanks I have never heard of that before but I can identify with a lot of that, especially an aversion to wind, I really dislike feeling wind inside my home like when both the front and back doors are open and my husband finds that really weird, now I can say it’s because I’m Vata!

  • Anna

    As always – spot on Sarah! I rode to work this morning feeling, well, angry. For no reason at all. I was well rested, I had taken my dogs for a swim, the morning was cooler than it has been. All perfect. But by the time I got to work I was in a rage against the world! Then I read your post and the comments from other readers and, as you said, sharing it somehow makes it better. I feel calmer already and can now get on with my work today. Thank you and everyone for sharing!

    • So nice to get an understanding isn’t it, to not blame ourselves? Last night I got angry too…I spilled water all over the kitchen floor and generally hated everything around me. It was a bit of shock as anger isn’t commonly an issue for me.

  • Laura

    I love this! I’ve often have anxiety with no identifiable triggers but I’ve never heard it described in this way. It makes so much sense and I’m looking forward to trying out some of these tips. Thanks 🙂

  • Nicole

    awesome article – thanks Sarah, i remember reading an article by you a few months ago about “smiling with your eyes” which is now a technique i use multiple times a day…. thanks again for helping me stay sane!

  • Amber

    loved this Sarah. I often feel this way. as I drive to work I tend to either sit in silence or listen to classic fm. it’s a great top tip. I also find a hot water bottle on my belly at night helps too.

  • Em

    Thank you so much!

  • gratefultoday

    Just what I needed, thank you Sarah. Your words always hit the spot.

  • Irene

    Thank you Sarah, this is just what I needed today. Your practical tips are very helpful and it’s always so good to hear you speak so honestly about anxiety.

  • Ange

    I’ve been feeling like this for the last two days. My toddler daughter picks up on it too and reacts badly, so I’m going to try these techniques for the sake of the household! (and my own sanity of course) Thanks for the info.

  • Thanks for sharing Sarah, so so many of us experience anxiety- seemingly it’s just a part of us and our lives. I’ve already had 2 strong coffees today, not enough food… and yes the weather! Hello adrenals! So here’s to ticking off your ‘list’ of Vata friendly musts. Thinking peace-full vibes for me, you and all of us who hang out in the anxiety club. One of the things that happens to me when I’m anxious or overwhelmed is a sense that I could cry, a tearfulness. Do you get that too? Would love to hear about how anxiety manifests for you.

    • Trish

      I definitely get the urge to cry. I’m not really one to cry so when I feel like that I know its my trigger to look after myself a bit better.

  • Brooke

    Yet another amazing post.
    One of my go-to fixes for anxiety is to totally switch off once work is done for the day – being in an office job I have to sit at a computer screen all day so when anxious I head home and either lay on the bed in the quiet or sit and read a book – no ebooks allowed, just old school tactile calming influence of reading and taking in the distinct smell of an actual book (a little weird for some I know). just be careful what book you decide to read isn’t too suspenseful

    • that takes discipline!

      • Brooke

        some how reading clears the mind… well my mind anyways 🙂

        • Reading clears my mind too Brooke – I totally do exactly what you do x

  • So timely – I had such a bad anxiety day today, was just totally unable to get it in hand. I had an appointment downtown, and it was very uncomfortable. Then I thought afterwards “perhaps I’ll pop into the cafe next door to have a tea”, and walked in and was standing there staring at the menu, but all the hub-bub was just like a cheese grater to my brain. i promptly walked out without ordering anything…

    Thanks for the reminders of things to do on days like this – I’ve been writing my heart out in my journal, but it’s still not quite enough to shake the strung out anxiety feeling.

    My other fave tip is to make a cup of tea, pile myself up in a cozy blanket, and just sit there and blow on the tea while it cools. There’s something really slowing and comforting in it.

    • Katiebobatie

      I really like the idea of blowing on your tea and just waiting for it to cool while cupping it in your hands and being cosy. Sounds so soothing. I love tea rituals. This is a nice anxiety busting tea ritual. I think I will borrow it:-)

  • Maree Ellen Brown

    Thank you again for you insight Sarah. Your blog and many of the suggestions put into practice has eased my life over the last couple of years. Funny how so many people in my office this week are feeling the effects of Vata – cold, flu-ey, headaches, tetchiness, well, the list goes on. And yes, green tea & walking help.

  • This makes me feel better.. I had a full on anxiety attack when I went to bed on Tuesday night with no discernible trigger.. chills, tingling limbs, pounding heart, shallow breath…Felt like it came completely out of nowhere.

  • may

    Can totally identify with this! I usually get acupuncture once a week to manage anxiety and stress, but was just thinking this week I feel like I need an extra session – not unheard of for me but I have only ever done it when I have had identifiable stressors. Good to know there’s a reason behind it all!

  • Velvet

    I hear you. I’m 37 and have had anxiety and depression for about 16 years. Every time I think I’ve smothered it for good, there it comes again. I’ve tried everything from antidepressants, chinese medicine, natural herbal medicine, cognitive therapy, psychotherapy, sleep apps, meditation, exercise, (everything from cardio to yoga…even bikram yoga), the list seems relentless. My anxiety seems to be getting worse lately (the whole blushing issue is just ridiculous). I try to conceal any angry days, only because my partner believes I should be able to “control” it. My hope is that a simple list like this can be another starting point for me.

    • Brooke

      I usually dont pipe in, however, I was interested to read the post for this one. When reading your post, it was as if my heart went out to you for the lack of compassion your partner has for you about this issue. Sometimes I wish people could live one day in our anxious moments and we would make since to so many more people. However, they cant so what I have done is to hang out with God. Yep, the big dad upstairs. Most people dont want to which I could totally get it if they see God or anything “spiritual” as their personal father figure, which can be a horrid experience or have a view like me to where he’s the best dad in the world (this is b/c God has proven himself to me in ways far beyond what my real dad could). The reason I started “soaking” regularly in his presence is because I have tried so many things as well and the only place I have found inner healing and restoration was from his presence. All I do is put on some amazing music from either Katie and Bryan Torwalt, Brooke Fraser, Bethel (Jenn Johnson), Jason Upton…etc people who have solid “coffe shop” type sounds to their voice and I just sit and soak/ relax , pray quietly, journal, worship (singing), sit in silence, or talk to God because his presence is so real … its insane how much healing I’ve experienced from just hanging out. I’ve cried in my release, I’ve laughed from my belly, I’ve been put to rest… its just awesome. Anway, its a method thats calmed my madness. Just thought i’d share.

      • Velvet

        Thank you so much for sharing, Brooke. I really appreciate your kindness. Yes, sometimes I truly wonder what else is left to try…there is a cynicism creeping into my life that was never there before and I don’t recognise her.
        I will take your advice on board. x

    • Amy

      Velvet, I’ve never commented on here before but your post is compelling me to do so. I too have had issues on and off with anxiety, and one of the things that has helped me the most is the works of Dr.Claire Weekes. I have all of her audiobooks and a hardcopy of “Hope and Help for your Nerves”. I’ve loaded the audiobooks on my iphone and use them whenever I’m traveling and anxiety hits. You can buy the audiobooks on itunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/dr.-claire-weekes/id66777956 Her work is slightly dated, but it’s seriously some of the best material I’ve ever come across regarding panic/anxiety/depression. I also found that totally eliminating caffeine (including green tea) and a daily dose of cod liver oil does wonders. Hope this helps!

  • Dannii

    Thank you for this reminder Sarah; it helps 🙂

  • This is amazing!!! I’m not in Oz (though I am on my way in a week)but the weather here in Europe is also kicking up a fuss and with it my anxiety. I have an anxious nature, but this week, it has been so frustrating because I can’t find the source, thus creating more anxiety. Reading this post was like one long exhalation. Funny enough, I started my day with a spoonful of coconut oil in my green tea, for no other reason than I felt compelled to. Also glad to know I am not alone!! 🙂 Thank you!!

  • Suzanne

    I have suffered with this for years also. Can anyone recommend what works for them when you can’t leave a noisy place? One of the problems I’m exposed to jet fighter plane noise. What do you think of humming to oneself to cover up any noises, when you’re alone or not in public?

  • Peta

    Love it.. People often walk on eggshells around me because they don’t know what kind of mood I will be in.. what they don’t understand is that I am not mad at anyone – I am just anxious. And when people react like I am mad at them that makes me more anxious… I know it’s not their fault but I want to be less anxious and so people can just see me as myself and see past the results of my anxiety

  • Amie

    In love with your words, as always Sarah. I can wake up in a good mood, go for a morning walk, get sunlight and be absolutely glowing and buzzing with positive vibes… but as soon as I step in my tiny cubicle, air con office space with people sneezing, coughing and being loud around me I can literally hear my mind just SNAPPING and I turn into a rage machine and want to cry and throw a tantrum like a three year old. Working on a career change at the moment that allows me to work outdoors, so happy times ahead (I hope). Thanks so much for sharing! x

  • Christa Robijn

    Thank you for this post Sarah. It is 4am and I can’t sleep – and having read this took the ‘edge’ off. Mostly I just want to reflect on what you have said, but also share a strategy I use at work when anxiety creeps up. I had to learn to instead of going inwards, into my head and stare at the computer screen, I get up and walk around the office – greeting those I haven’t seen yet, asking how projects are going etc. Somehow, that quick connection assists in channeling the anxiety into a smile and I feel so much lighter for doing so.

  • Kate Fulton

    Another great tip to calm your vata is drink hot water and fresh ginger when you wake up. Works a treat!

  • Bee

    Perfect timing Sarah. When I was at my most anxious five years ago, my yoga instructor’s mantra was my tool for managing tricky moments.. “if you have breathe, you have live”. I love it.
    This week has been anxious (more than for years that I can remember) and your reach-out is timely, appreciated and welcome. I definitely feel the ‘inner anxious’ that doesn’t relate the the external ducks. Love your work. 🙂

  • Amy Landry

    Love this article Sarah, and that you’re gently sharing the wisdom of Ayurveda.

    Some extra points to help tame the Vata:

    – Coconut oil has a cooling effect on the body, which is not great for vatas, particularly heading into Autumn. Try using cold pressed black sesame oil on the skin/hair instead, and cooking with macadamia oil/olive oil, etc.

    – Avoid ALL carbonated drinks (mineral water). Avoid any cold food or drinks all together. No ice in drinks, no ice-cream, and no raw veggies (very cooling and drying on the body).

    – Avoid apples (unless stewed, and with spices). Very bata aggravating.

    – Also, if possible, eating dinner around 6pm, giving the body around 4 hours to digest and assimilate. Then be in bed no later than 10pm as you mentioned… going to bed after 10pm with aggravate the Pitta dosha, and will in turn create sleeping difficulties.

  • Rach

    I think this is my first comment here, but this is just so wonderful to read, as it’s so easy for people to think you are alone in anxious thoughts, hearing that other people are feeling the same (especially the type of anxiety that can’t be blamed on anything in particular) helps ease the pressure a little. I can’t help but worsen the situation when it comes to myself, I stay up too late, drink too much caffeine and think “I just need to tick X or Y off my to do list and I’ll feel calm!”…I think I’ll do myself a favour and try your list above instead! So thanks for the needed encouragement to slow down!

    I was also wondering what your thoughts are on echinacea? I used to take some when I had a cold or whatever, but in the UK some packages contain warnings that it can worsen autoimmune conditions, and as these run in my family it made me weary – but I’m loathe to let it go as it really seemed to help when I was run down.

  • mazzystar

    Hi Sarah, another great post!

    (Not sure if others had an issue with the Sleep Sound Link but it took me to an error page instead of http://www.blackmores.com.au/products/sleep-sound-formula?utm_source=Blogger&utm_medium=SW&utm_campaign=stress just FYI) x

  • Cherie Vardy

    BLURGGGGG from the land of anxiety and chest flutters. Thyroidy and don’t even get me started on my poor adrenals. I’m super glad I have made time to catch up on your posts today Sarah.
    We all need to be a bit kinder to ourselves. Sheesh we can be tough. This weekend I am heading for a bush walk and the ocean. I can’t wait to take off my shoes and rub my feet on the grass, feel the sand between my toe’s, the wind in my hair and the predicted rain on my face.
    I hope you and the IQS team can take some time out too. Let mother nature ground us and sooth our souls. x

    • Jane

      Hi Totally new to the blog – and I love it – just stumbled on this one and thought that I would also share what helps me – The good old Dali Lama advocates that sincere and pure motivation protects against anxiety – do your best and have no course for regret reduces anxiety and increases confidence. After all we cant do much better than our best…..

  • Ellie Camp

    Put one hand at the top of your chest and the other under it covering ypur heart. Breathe deeply so that the top hand moves and the one ovee your heart stays in place. Best trick for regulating breathing and snapping out of an anxiety attack.
    The 5 senses trick works well if you feel anxious – stop and think of things that you can: see, smell, touch/feel, hear, taste. Stop and reflect on them and focus on the very moment you’re in.

  • Ellie Camp

    Put one hand at the top of your chest and the other under it covering your heart. Breathe deeply so that the top hand moves and the one over your heart stays in place. Best trick for regulating breathing and snapping out of an anxiety attack.
    The 5 senses trick works well if you feel anxious – stop and think of things that you can: see, smell, touch/feel, hear, taste. Stop and reflect on them and focus on the very moment you’re in.

  • Marty Nuku

    I love and practice nearly all of these..and have done for many years. I’ve learnt that is unrealtic to think that my whole life can be stress free.or at least distress free..so.. I have learnt through a 12 Step program how to manage it better!…this puts me in the control seat howver , like any good pilot who knows that its normal to be up to 10% off course most of the time…we do need something to pull us back. Having said that I have learned that by handing the whole anxiety burden over to a higher source it has freed me up to be open to new and more positive and happy mind fillers..till every cell is buzzing with life not fear…its a daily earthly practice that is doable on a moment by moment..day by day basis..can i had to your list Sarah..good smells…love your blogs!

  • Ross H

    Anxiety can become a crippling condition as I discovered the hard way. Surprisingly I found one of the best combatants, for me at least, was comedy through doing stand up. Admittedly I had to find a pre-performance routine that put the screaming anxiety back into its place in order to be able to perform but that growing habit of seeking to find the funny in the distressing became a great form of therapy.

  • Carla

    This feeling has been sitting with me since Sunday night. Exactly as you
    said, no particular reason, I’m just anxious! This morning I googled
    “anxiety Sarah Wilson” because I knew I’d find exactly what I needed to
    read. I’m a fellow vata and about to move house – so the change is no
    doubt contributing to my jittery unease, even though all my ducks are in
    line. I already practice many of those suggestions on a daily basis
    (oops…currently drinking my morning bulletproof coffee!) however will
    take on board a few of those others. Feeling better already just
    thinking about it. I can feel my breath already becoming less shallow.
    Thanks for always being you SW xx