Is stress taking its toll on your life – your joy, health, career, finance, family or relationships?
Let’s learn to manage stress according to the ancient principles of Ayurveda – You will be guided to draw from your inner strength to avoid and lessen stress and experience contentment, enjoy health and happiness in your life.
Ayurveda and modern medicine well recognise the role of stress in the aetiology of several diseases. Primarily, it is important to define stress clearly. Stress is the body ’s effort to adapt to an ever-changing environment and the perception of and reaction to stimuli (stressors) that challenge you. Short term stress can often be adaptive and beneficial, this is known as ‘eustress’, which helps us stay motivated, work toward goals, and feel good about life. However, if the energy and self-confidence depleting stress; recognised as, ‘distress’, the unhealthy response to the pressures of life goes on unchecked for a long time, it will inevitably wear down the person who is suffering from stress and put him/her at risk of serious health disorders.
The body responds to these demands physically, mentally or emotionally. Hence, stress is a physical, chemical, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension. It tends to alter the physiological and/or psychological equilibrium of an individual and may be a critical causative factor in the manifestation of a disease. It can be caused by both good and bad experiences. When people feel stressed their bodies react by releasing chemicals (for example stress hormone, cortisol) into the blood, which is shown to have a deleterious effect on a person’s health and wellbeing.
Stress manifests as a function of the body and brain, both these organs are known to function on chemically driven systems; hence, numerous medications can be used for stress relief and prevention. Sedatives (also referred to as tranquillizers, hypnotics, and/or anxiolytics), antidepressants, and beta-blockers have all been used to help people cope with stress.
It would be prudent to exercise caution with regard to using allopathic medicines for stress relief, as many of these are also addictive and all of them have the potential for side effects and health risks.
The Ayurvedic approach to perfect health and wellbeing is not fundamentally drug-oriented; however, safe and efficacious Rasayana herbs are just one aspect of its multidimensional approach.
As mentioned above, stress known as sahasa in Ayurveda has been shown to increase the body’s susceptibility to various diseases by causing ojahksaya (loss of immunity). Hence, it is best to avoid stress, which according to Ayurveda is the best approach; but, if this is not possible it is advised to protect the body against stress by having a healthy lifestyle, good diet, adequate rest required by the body, regular exercise and use of Rasayana herbs to enhance the stress coping capability of the body. Furthermore, stress, as per Ayurvedic principles is intimately related to the balance of our three vital energies, or Doshas — Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. It is very important to maintain them in good balance; however, to a very great extent, our daily routine (Dinacharya) determines how balanced are our doshas, especially in the face of everyday stresses.
How to Manage Everyday Stress with Ayurvedic Principles
First of all, we should take into account as to where our stresses are originating; are the factors external, including work pressures, financial problems, unhealthy lifestyle etc. or internal such as lack of sleep, improper food habits resulting in bad digestion, low self-esteem and a pessimistic attitude toward life. All of these factors are completely modifiable.
Ayurveda recognizes 3 main types of stressors; (i) Physical Stress: injury, exhaustion due to overwork, excessive physical exercise, unhealthy food, irregular and improper routine (ii) Psychological Stress:ayasa (confusion), krodha (anger), bhaya (fear), loba (greed), moha (attachment) and soka (grief)and (iii)Environmental Stress: long durations in the intense heat of sun, high altitudes and atmospheric pollution and seasonal challenges.
Vata is the main dosha disarranged by excessive physical stress. Psychological stress, like soka (grief, anxiety) also leads to an imbalance of vata dosha, whereas, pitta dosha is mainly disturbed by krodha (anger). Normally pitta dosha gets disturbed along with vatadosha while kaphadosha remains balanced with minimum expression. In Ayurveda, vatavyadhi (adisease caused by disturbance of vata) is known as mahavyadi (most severe disease); hence, it is of critical importance that we should abstain from over-straining ourselves. It is best to slow the pace of our lives, taking time every day to be peaceful, quiet, and immersed in self-care. This approach according to Ayurveda is a crucial step in rebalancing our doshas; thus, our health and wellbeing.
An Ideal Dinacharya to Counter Stress
Ayurveda recommends an ideal Dinacharya (daily routine) for everyone, particularly those who are trying to balance excess stress.
Balanced Diet – most importantly a dosha balancing diet, is most important to deal with stress.
Numerous Ayurvedic herbs have the ability to promote clarity and health in the mind and body respectively and help to combat stress and our daily challenges.
Exercise supports the body’s natural mechanisms of rejuvenation—sound sleep, the ability to relax and restoring doshic balance; thus, helping to counter the effects of stress. Do the right kind and amount of exercise for your Prakruti.
Sleep has considerable restorative functions and plays a critical role in the repair and rejuvenation of tissues (both in the brain and throughout the body) to prevent and avoid stress.
Yoga &Pranayama (yogic breathing exercise) have been found to be effective at clearing accumulated tension and relieving stress.
Meditation enables us to cope with challenging circumstances and stress. It is an ideal life routine especially for people with predominant vatadosha; however, it will surely benefit other dosha types too.
Last but not the least – Monitor and modify your thinking and introspection, for a happier stress-free life.