You Can Give the Boot to Stress and Free Radicals with Maharishi Ayurveda

Matt, a 42-year-old manager of an electronics sales firm, called himself a typical "Type A" personality. He spent a tremendous amount of energy trying to get everything done yesterday. Unable to wait in line at the bank or movie theater without getting impatient, he also carried extra weight, had high cholesterol, and smoked to relieve the tension.

Marlene, a 37-year-old mother of two, reported a range of physical symptoms related to stress, including aches and pains in her lower back, neck, wrists, and knees. Chronic insomnia made her rely on eight cups of coffee a day just to keep awake, and she seemed to catch every kind of cold and flu that came to town. She frequently suffered from "blue" periods.

Matt and Marlene are not alone. Ninety percent of the complaints people show up with in doctors' offices today are related to stress, and include insomnia, fatigue, anxiety and depression.

Writing prescriptions for sleeping pills or tranquilizers is a reflex for doctors, but unfortunately it doesn't solve the problem. Rather, it produces rebound anxiety, rebound insomnia, and debilitating side effects. Worse, thousands, if not millions of Americans are addicted to these drugs.

Fortunately for Matt, Marlene and other Americans, it is now possible to find natural, non-addictive ways to restore balance to the body, mind and emotions through Maharishi Ayurveda.

Stress and How It Affects Us

In the past, Americans faced more physical stressors, such as infectious disease and lack of food or shelter.

Today's stressors include physical ones such as pollution and rushed schedules, and emotional pressures such as financial worries, work-related frustrations, and marital strife. Equally important are spiritual difficulties, such as inner emptiness and lack of fulfillment.

In today's stressed-out world, your optimum health and peak performance depend on remaining calm under pressure. Stress is defined as excessive wear and tear on the nervous system, and points to its origin in the French word estrece, which means "narrowness," a constriction or limiting of your power.

Most debilitating types of stress, called negative stress or distress, generally occur when you view change and pressure as burdens and rising demands as threats. You feel a sense of alienation, frustration, or helplessness. This results in dis-ease, dis-order, and dis-satisfaction.

Repeated or prolonged negative stress can trigger complex physiological reactions involving multiple chemical changes in the body. These lead to an exhaustion of mental, physical and emotional energies, thus increasing your susceptibility to disease. Research shows that stress raises blood cholesterol and blood pressure, and lowers immunity. It kills brain cells, lowers IQ, and impairs memory and thinking. Cancer, heart disease, immuno-deficiency diseases and even the common cold are linked to stress.

In a landmark study at Harvard, it was found that people who coped poorly with stress became ill four times more often than those with good coping skills. Another study of 30,000 people conducted by the Center for Disease Control found that people who experienced severe stress in childhood and adolescence were far more likely to suffer from heart disease, cancer, chronic lung disease, depression and other forms of stress as adults.

Free Radicals and Stress

Doctors have recommended Amrit to patients to lower stress. Extensive research shows that Amrit has profound effects in combating free radicals, the reactive oxidizing molecules that can destroy the cell internally, causing mutations in the nucleus and destruction of mitochondria.

We see free radical cell damage when the body attempts to defend against stress.

Free radical damage results in less energy, and also causes deterioration of the organs and systems of the body. Free radicals are implicated in more than eighty percent of degenerative disease and hasten the aging process.

The Ayurvedic Solution

To be effective in treating stress, it's important to be specific. With the Maharishi Ayurveda approach, we always try to target the etiological (causal) factors and then bring that area into balance. But we are careful not to create imbalance in other areas that may produce negative side effects.

There are three different manifestations of stress from the perspective of Maharishi Ayurveda — mental, emotional, and physical. Each requires different solutions and therapies.

Mental Stress

Mental stress, according to ayurveda, is caused by an overuse or misuse of the mind. For instance, if you perform intense mental work many hours a day, or if you work long hours on the computer, it can cause an imbalance in Prana Vata, the mind-body operator concerned with brain activity, energy and the mind. The first symptom of Prana Vata imbalance is losing the ability to handle stress. As the person becomes more stressed, it impacts mental functions such as dhi, dhriti, and smriti, or acquisition, retention, and recall. The person's mind becomes hyperactive, yet the person loses the ability to make clear decisions, to think positively, to feel enthusiastic, and even to fall asleep at night.

To treat mental stress, The Council of Maharishi Ayurveda Physicians suggests that you begin by managing mental activity. Secondly, you can take measures to pacify Prana Vata.

Diet, lifestyle and herbal recommendations for mental balance:

Emotional Stress

Emotional stress can be caused by a problem in a relationship, the loss of a relative, or any situation that might hurt the heart. Emotional stress shows up as irritability, depression, and emotional instability. It affects sleep in a different way than mental stress — it can cause you to wake up in the night and not be able to go back to sleep.

With emotional stress, the management is quite different. Emotional stress disturbs Sadhaka Pitta, the mind-body operator concerned with the emotions and functioning of the heart. To balance emotional stress, you need to favor Pitta-pacifying foods and routine.

Diet, lifestyle and herbal recommendations for emotional balance:

Physical Stress

Physical stress is caused by misuse or overuse of the body, such as exercising too much or working for extended periods at a job that is physically taxing. The person experiences physical fatigue along with mental fogginess, difficulty in concentrating, and dullness of the mind.

Excessive physical strain causes three sub-doshas to go out of balance: Shleshaka Kapha, the subdosha concerned with lubrication of the joints and moisture balance in the skin; Vyana Vata, which governs the circulation, nerve impulses and the sense of touch; and Tarpaka Kapha, which governs the neuro humors.

Another cause of physical stress is too little exercise, which results in a sluggish digestion and the formation of ama, the digestive impurities that clog the channels. In either type of physical fatigue, the process of regenerating cells slows down, and thus the cells themselves become physically tired.

The solution is to balance Vata and to support Kapha to make the body more stable and nurturing.

Diet, lifestyle and supplement recommendations for physical balance:

Certain foods are also natural stress busters. These include walnuts; almonds; coconut; any sweet juicy, seasonal fruit such as pears, apples (cooked if possible); milk; lassi; ghee; and fresh cheeses such as panir or ricotta.

Natural Relief for Matt and Marlene

Matt and Marlene were able to combat stress with an arsenal of natural solutions from Maharishi Ayurveda. For Matt I prescribed Worry Free Tea, the most effective natural tranquilizer available. Matt's wife says he's now able to listen receptively to her and the kids, and doesn't have the hyper-aggressiveness that he had before.

The herbs in Worry Free Tea include Brahmi, Ashwagandha, and Arjuna. In widespread research, Brahmi has been found to enhance dhi, dhriti, and smriti. Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic, which means that it combats physical fatigue that converts to mental dullness. Research shows that Arjuna supports cardiac health.

Matt was able to stop smoking after starting the Transcendental Meditation® technique, and Marlene also experienced its holistic stress-reducing benefits.

Worry Free and Slumber Time Tea and the related herbal tablets were tremendous aids for establishing a normal sleep cycle, and Marlene no longer needs six to eight cups of coffee a day to stay alert. Marlene also reported that the Blissful Heart Aroma Oil and Blissful Joy tablets helped her wipe out her "blue" periods.

Stress unfortunately is a part of life for many of us. If you don't find ways to manage stress, it is likely that twenty or thirty years down the line dis-ease, dis-order and dis-satisfaction could lead to frank disease such as heart disease or cancer.

On the other hand, if you build your resilience to stress through natural methods, you can begin to experience stressors more as a challenge or a positive opportunity for growth.

If you learn to evoke the 'stay and play' rather than the 'fight or flight' response, you can truly live a stress-free life of self-actualization, and become a 'spiritual being' in human form.

Rate Yourself on the Stress Thermometer

Rate yourself on the following stress factors, using a point scale of 1 to 3. Give yourself a 1 for never, 2 for sometimes, and 3 for always. Add up your score at the end, and see how you fare on the stress thermometer.

  1. I have trouble relaxing.
  2. I feel tense and rushed. There's never a break.
  3. I have difficulty sleeping (either falling asleep or waking up intermittently in the night, or early morning awakening).
  4. I worry too much, either about work, my intimate relationships, finances or any other problems. (Please note: Worry is different from concern. It's important to be concerned about issues that deserve your attention and problem-solving abilities. Worry is excessive and adds to our stress with no added adaptive value.)
  5. I feel grief or loss over losing a loved one, a cherished ideal, or a co-worker who has been laid off.
  6. I feel stuck in a rat-race of needing more and more of what advertisers tell us we need to lead happy lives.
  7. I'm feeling under strain at work or in my home life.
  8. I feel lonely and unloved.
  9. I feel apprehensive about the future.
  10. I feel like running away.

Add up your score for each stressor and see where you fall on the stress thermometer.

23 points or more: High Stress (life feels like one crisis after another)

18-22: Moderate Stress (you often feel trapped and out of control)

13-17: Mild Stress (you have some apprehension but are basically resilient and feel in charge of your life)

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.