Why Do We Feel so Anxious in the Fall?

September 28, 2019

Fall has officially arrived here in the Northern Hemisphere. Do you ever wonder why some of us tend to feel more anxious at this time of year? I’ll get to that in a bit, but first I want to mention the flip-flopping weather that happens around the juncture of the seasons.

Where I live in the Northeastern US, daily temperatures can fluctuate anywhere from 60 to 90 degrees. It’s a day-to-day inquiry about how to dress. One day we’ll have to bundle up, only to find ourselves peeling off layers later in the day.

But soon the cold will cause the leaves to change color, dry up and blow off the trees with a little help from the wind.

Then it’ll be sweater and scarf weather, and Vata Season will have officially arrived.

Windy, cold and dry is the hallmark of this Ayurvedic season.

Ayurveda is very cautionary about the change of seasons. Our bodies need extra-special TLC as the climate shifts and different elements take charge.

“The Ayurvedic texts say that a disease can take root in the body only during the junctions between the seasons, when all nature is in flux. Because of the upheaval dominating these junctions, the body’s natural immunity becomes virtually defenseless against impending disease.” -Maya Tiwari

And along with this seasonal shift, many of us (especially those with significant Vata dosha in our constitution) will feel familiar fear and anxiety creeping in.

For most of my life, I felt this strange phenomenon and could never make sense of it until I studied Ayurveda. September would roll around and although I loved this time of year – brilliant trees, crisp apples, and back-to-school supplies – I couldn’t deal with the anxiety.

Case in point, this year I made the mistake of scheduling a dentist appointment last week and while there is never a good time in my mind to go to the dentist (dental PTSD!) September is probably the worst month I could have chosen.

I was a hot mess and even the hygienist commented on how anxious she’d been feeling.

In Vata Season, the elements of air and ether predominate. This is shifting from Pitta Season, where fire and water were abundant.

Note: If you’re still experiencing any heat-related symptoms in the body (rashes, acidity, etc.) you might want to read this.

It’s always important to cleanse the body of excesses from the previous season and Mother Nature has just the right foods to help.

The air element in Vata seems easier to comprehend than ether (or space). We recognize the wind blowing and also that the air element inside the body is what moves everything.

But what role does ether play in the body? Think of all the empty spaces in the body – intestines, bladder, blood vessels, etc. Vata dosha rules this mysterious element.

Vata dosha is dry, mobile, cold, light, rough, clear and subtle.

Whether or not Vata is predominant in your constitution (take this quiz to determine yours), all of these characteristics can bring about an imbalance.

Because Vata by nature is movement, it rules the other two doshas, Pitta and Kapha. Nothing happens without Vata. There would be no breath, no blood coursing through our veins, no elimination, no thought processes.

Vata is the queen (or king) of the doshas.

And it can wreak havoc during fall and early winter. This I know for sure. The more awareness I place on this changeable dosha, the more I am able to keep my anxiety and fear at bay.

Vata dosha, more than anything else, needs to be deeply nurtured and nourished.

In addition to Vata Season, there are also Vata times of the day – 2:00-6:00 am and 2:00-6:00 pm. These are hours when you might find increased Vata. Bear this in mind during your day.

Here are a few signs that your Vata dosha might be increased and needs balancing:

  • Feelings of heightened anxiety, nervousness, and fear
  • Bothered by cold and wind
  • Sleep is interrupted and light
  • Excess worrying
  • Excess stimulation is bothersome – i.e. crowds and loud noises
  • Intestinal gas, constipation – the colon is the seat of Vata dosha
  • Dryness – skin, hair, stools, eyes, etc.
  • Feeling disorganized and overwhelmed
  • Can’t sit still
  • Fatigue following bursts of energy. Crash and burn (this is typical of Vata energy)
  • Depletion

Like increases like in Ayurveda, so think opposite to bring your Vata back into balance.

  • Dress warmly and keep a scarf around your neck, especially when windy. The back of the neck is especially vulnerable to wind.
  • Eat more warm, gently cooked seasonal foods. Root vegetables are especially grounding for Vatas.
  • Avoid cold drinks. Opt instead for warm beverages like spiced herbal teas, warm spiced milk, or warm lemon water with honey.
  • Eat enough healthy fats and oils (especially ghee)
  • Avoid over-exercising, which can aggravate already high-energy Vata. Gentle yoga, tai chi, and qigong are excellent choices.
  • Take quiet walks in Nature – it’s very grounding for airy Vatas.
  • Meditation and pranayama (breathing practice) can help soothe Vata anxiety and fear.
  • Daily self-massage with warm grounding oils like sesame or almond oil is extremely calming to the nervous system. Or, try an herbalized Vata oil.
  • Try to stay away from loud, noisy environments and when you can’t avoid them, take a moment to breathe deeply and find your inner calm.
  • Keeping a regular routine with regards to sleeping, eating, working, etc. is imperative for Vatas, who love variety and can easily lose focus. An ideal bedtime is between 9:00–10:00 pm.
  • Nurture yourself as much as possible on a daily basis!
  • Follow the food guidelines for your constitution and you’ll be on the right track.

When balanced, Vata-type people are creative, optimistic, joyful, forgiving, flexible, and full of enthusiasm. They thrive on change and love to discover and experience new things.

While fall has always ushered in feelings of high anxiety for me, so too has it been a time of super-charged creativity.

Each year I learn a little bit more about keeping the energy balanced, deeply nurturing myself and allowing myself to receive help from others. Especially those gifted with organizational skills. 🙂

Vata Season is also a special time for going within and connecting to our Source. Vata people generally have a very spiritual nature.

So, take the time to get quiet, meditate, be in Nature, and you might find yourself receiving amazing messages to guide you in your life.

May the winds of Vata be gentle this season for us all.

Much love,
Barbara

Editor’s note: This article was originally published on October 6, 2015, and has been updated.

7 Comments
  1. Thank you for your wisdom, my friend. Every time you write about Vata Season I learn more about myself. I’m still in recovery from an 18-hour trip back from tropical Hawaii to windy chilly NY state, and would have a lot more difficulty adjusting if it weren’t for your teachings. Love to you!

  2. […] of us living in colder climates are making the shift from Vata Season (fall/early winter) to Kapha Season (late winter/spring). You can feel the cold, dry, lightness of […]

  3. Hello Barbaara, It is so nice to learn the you have such amazing study about ancient indian way of medicines, Ayurveda. I need your help. I am an indian came to this country when I was almost 40. I live in Chicago. My body is Vata type, that is what i learned from various sites on internet. i never had any health issues in India. I was born and raised in south india which is considered to be warm place. But I find lot of difference in the heat hear and in India. I feel my skin always feels burning sensation here in US if I walk in the sun. In summer i have to finish my outside walk before 6 am. If it is humid i feel breathless and I have to put on AC immediately. In india there was no AC at home. Used to sprinkle some water on the curtains and house used to get cooler with the breeze. Moment fall starts here, I feel very nervous. Because I know winter and wind will be soon here and my anxiety starts thinking that no more outside walk for few months. I become very restless. I do pranayam and surya namaskaras. But still, if something little wrong food goes in while eating, like raw food and gassy food, immediately i feel heavy in stomach, and I feel that air is moving all over my body. Then I sometimes I get headache, sometime pain in upper abdomen, some times i feel pain in chest region and sometimes lot ofburping. Because of lack of exercise digestion becomes big issue. I become so disorganised that house becomes messy. I find mess in every corner of my house including stair case. Because skin feels so dry and tight, i am so restless all the time. and then keep nagging my husband for going back to India. I need your help in keeping my vata balanced. I feel very helpless and depressed

  4. Thank you Barbara! Another beautiful article and since I am Vata Pita or Pita Vata? really helpful article ?❤️❤️

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