Six Ways to Keep Your Spirits Up When the Economy is Down
Foreclosures, unemployment rates and diving stock prices can make anyone feel blue. A March 2009 Gallup poll showed that levels of depression, stress and anxiety in America, measured by the Emotional Health Index, have risen in the past year as economic markers have plummeted.
Yet every crisis brings with it an opportunity to change our fortunes. Here are six healthy ways to stay balanced and stress-free even when you're under economic pressure.
Get Adequate Sleep
New research shows that failing to get enough sleep or sleeping at odd hours heightens the risk for a variety of major illnesses, including cancer, heart disease, diabetes and obesity. Sleep loss is strongly correlated with anxiety, depression and other mental and emotional disorders as well. This is exactly what the classical ayurvedic texts have told us for thousands of years.
Unfortunately, 65% of Americans report losing sleep due to stress, and worry about money is a rising cause of sleep deprivation. Fortunately, getting a good night's sleep could be easier than you think. According to Maharishi Ayurveda, simply switching out the lights and closing the eyes well before 10 p.m. will help you fall asleep quicker, create deeper sleep and allow your body to cleanse and repair itself. Making a habit of "early to bed and early to rise" is considered by ayurvedic experts to be one of the most important things you can do for your health. And it's absolutely cost-free!
If you have trouble falling asleep, try replacing the TV with a good book for an hour before bed. Eat a lighter dinner, and right before bed drink a cup of Slumber Time Tea, an ayurvedic herbal remedy for preventing night wakefulness. Create a soothing, snooze-inducing atmosphere in your bedroom with Slumber Time Aroma Oil or Vata Aroma Oil.
Fatigue Free lifts the deep-rooted fatigue that may have accumulated due to sleep loss in the past. With this traditional ayurvedic herbal combination, you can start your day feeling alert and energetic.
Stress is not only mental, it's physical — it settles in our body at the structural or chemical level. Structural stress can be experienced as a knot in your neck, a kink in your back or a headache. Exercise goes a long way to reducing structural stress. Regular yoga practice helps stretch the body and remove energy blocks.
And because the mind and body are connected, the mind becomes more clear when stress is released from the body. Stretching for twenty minutes a day can help you sleep better too — it's a perfect antidote for restless leg syndrome, a symptom of blocked stress in the body that keeps many people awake at night.
Taking a daily walk or incorporating mild aerobic exercise into your daily routine has been shown to release endorphins — the chemical equivalents of happy thoughts. Many people feel their mood lifts considerably just by taking a walk in nature or dancing to their favorite music.
Maharishi Ayurveda recommends gentle exercise for 30 minutes every day, rather than blowing out your body with over-exertion once or twice a week and ignoring it the rest of the time. If you have a Kapha body type, and tend to gravitate to the couch or the refrigerator in times of stress, it's even more important for you to hit the pavement. And you can even crank it up a bit, whereas the light and thin Vata types will do better keeping their exercise slow and relaxing. Pittas should beware of too much heat — stay away from the noon sun and seek out cooler sports such as swimming, walking in forests, or golf.
Eat stress-busting foods
Research shows that certain foods create relaxation chemicals and neurohormones to help relieve a stressed mind. Bananas, for instance, contain tryptophan, a type of amino acid that converts to serotonin, the feel-good hormone that we depend on to lift mood and make us feel more relaxed.
Maharishi Ayurveda takes the idea of mood-enhancing foods a step further — to identify the specific foods that work for your unique body type. What may make one person feel grounded could make another feel dull and depressed. For the light, airy Vata types, for instance, it's important to include healthy oils in your diet, such as ghee (ayurvedic clarified butter), olive oil or grape seed oil. While trans fats are damaging to everyone, healthy oils help keep Vata dosha from getting dried out and out of balance. Vata dosha is also related to mental functions and can cause stress and worry. Raw salads should not be the main meal for quick-moving, anxiety-prone Vata types, who should eat mostly cooked grains, vegetables and light dairy foods.
For someone who is more lethargic and feels dull or sluggish from too much Kapha dosha, it can help lift depression to cut back on oily, heavy foods and eat more light, astringent foods such as cooked broccoli, dry grains such as millet, and leafy greens.
And the fiery Pitta type will reduce irritation and stressed-out feelings of too much pressure by cutting back on hot, spicy foods and eating more cooling and sweet tastes such as rice, wheat, squashes and sweet, juicy fruits such as pears.
Ayurvedic spice mixes (Vata, Pitta and Kapha) are an easy way to add flavor to your cooking while balancing your dosha type. They contain all six tastes, an important ayurvedic cooking principle, and can be sprinkled on cooked or raw foods for an instant boost.
If you are suffering from an upset stomach due to stress, herbal Aci-Balance is a natural way to reduce heartburn and acid reflux. According to Maharishi Ayurveda, the underlying cause of these conditions is actually a deficiency of digestive enzymes, which causes the body to overreact by flooding the stomach with too much acid. Rather than just treating the symptoms by reducing acid like conventional over-the-counter medications do, Aci-Balance treats the root cause of heartburn by improving digestion, and reduces stomach acid at the same time. After taking this herbal formula for three months, many people find that their digestion is back on track.
Relieve Mental Stress
The jury is in — no one doubts the efficacy of meditation in relieving mental, physical and emotional stress. A meta-analysis of self-health techniques performed at Stanford University and published in The Journal of Clinical Psychology has shown that the Transcendental Meditation® technique is the most effective practice for relieving stress and anxiety available today. Adding it to your routine for 20 minutes twice a day can pay huge dividends in improved mental and physical health.
Herbal formulas can also help you to relax your mind and think more clearly when under pressure. Worry Free is a popular ayurvedic formula that relieves mental stress. Unlike pharmaceutical tranquilizers, however, it doesn't make you feel drowsy. In fact, its unique combination of herbs is designed to sharpen focus while it relaxes, giving you the mental strength you need to stay on top of your job and perform your best without stress.
Follow the Seasons
Once you know your body type and the foods that make you feel more balanced, you'll want to check out the seasonal changes that affect your mind and body in a major way. According to Maharishi Ayurveda, each of the seasons corresponds with a different dosha — and right now we're in the cool, wet Kapha season, which is associated with spring. Cold and damp spring weather can lead to an excess of Kapha dosha, making you feel lethargic or even depressed.
Yet according to Maharishi Ayurveda, the spring season is the best time to cleanse the body of toxins that have built up over the winter. Eating warm, light, nourishing foods such as vegetable soups and cooked spring greens can help counteract Kapha dosha and cleanse the body's waste removal channels. Drink more hot water, and use cleansing formulas such as Elim-Tox and Herbal Cleanse to gently detoxify the digestive tract, where toxic waste usually accumulates first. And when you've done your "spring cleaning" you may find that toxic emotions such as depression have been swept away as well.
Laugh Every Day
Emotional stress is no fun. Make a conscious effort to watch a humorous movie, read a laugh-out-loud book, or associate with friends who bring out your lighter side. Keeping your sense of humor lively and a smile on your face often can relieve tension in social situations. Research shows that laughter can actually reduce physiological measures of stress and perception of pain — and may even improve immunity.
Blissful Joy and Stress Free Emotions are two herbal formulas that help lift your mood and combat the blues. And like all Maharishi Ayurveda herbal formulas, they are formulated from pure, chemical-free whole herbs so they nourish the entire mind-body system, in contrast to commercial antidepressants, which are known to create harmful side effects.
Carolyn, a sales rep for a national bookseller, discovered that these remedies can keep your emotions on track when you're under stress.
"My company was going under, but I felt secure and happy nonetheless. I really feel that my upbeat attitude was responsible for landing the job of my dreams a few weeks after I was laid off. Stress Free Emotions and Blissful Joy help me feel confident and relaxed when the pressure is on — and they're completely natural, so I don't have to worry about negative side effects."
To find detailed instructions for diet, exercise, cleansing and lifestyle tips for your particular body type, see www.mapi.com.
The sole purpose of these articles is to provide information about the tradition of ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure or prevention of any disease. If you have any serious acute or chronic health concern, please consult a trained health professional who can fully assess your needs and address them effectively. If you are seeking the medical advice of a trained ayurvedic expert, call or e-mail us for the number of a physician in your area. Check with your doctor before taking herbs or using essential oils when pregnant or nursing.