Keeping Your Holidays Stress-Free

Your kids think the holiday season is the best time of the year. 'Tis the season to be jolly, after all. The very word "holiday" has a spiritual meaning, coming from the word "holy." Why is it, then, that holidays can make you feel so stressed and fatigued? "There are two kinds of stress that can develop in the holiday season," says an ayurvedic expert from The Council of Maharishi Ayurveda Physicians. "One is created by an imbalance in Vata dosha, caused by too many thoughts, too many expenses, and social pressure. For other people, who have lost a spouse or a loved one during the year, the holy days can be the worst time of the year. Frustration and loneliness can increase. This is caused by a Pitta-based, emotional imbalance." Indeed, statistics show that suicide and depression actually increase around the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's. Fortunately, Maharishi Ayurveda offers relief for both kinds of holiday stress -- mental and emotional.

Beating Mental Stress

Preparing for the holidays can be like having an extra job, and time pressure is one of the major reasons for stress in modern life, according to Dr. John Garrison at the Lahey Clinic in Burlington, MA. All that mental pressure of making too many decisions, staying up late, and rushing around aggravates Prana Vata, which is the aspect of Vata that governs mental functions. Once Prana Vata is out of balance, that imbalance spills over into other subdoshas of Vata, such as Samana Vata, (concerned with digestion) and Apana Vata (concerned with elimination). This can cause digestive and eliminative problems such as constipation. The digestive problems are compounded once holiday eating begins, because people tend to eat heavy sweets, eat at irregular times, and eat too much. They also tend to stay up too late. People start to accumulate ama, the sticky waste-product of incomplete digestion. Then they feel even more stress because the ojas level gets disturbed and the coordination between mind, body, senses and the Self is disrupted.

The result? Stress sky-rockets and immunity plummets.

For this situation, The Council of Maharishi Ayurveda Physicians recommends a Vata-pacifying diet, daily routine, and lifestyle. To pacify Vata, it helps to eat warm, cooked foods, to avoid overeating or skipping meals, and to eat regularly. Eating more of the sweet, sour and salty tastes -- and eating less of the astringent, bitter and pungent tastes also helps. And remember that "sweet" means rice, wheat, and milk, and not so much the concentrated, heavy sweets associated with holidays. Going to bed early can go a long way toward soothing Vata, as can rising by 6:00 a.m. and getting light but regular exercise (a brisk walk is ideal). Practicing the Transcendental Meditation® program regularly is a good way to combat stress in any season. Herbal products that help soothe Vata dosha include Worry Free tablets, tea and aroma, all of which directly target Prana Vata and bring balance to all mental functions. Vata Tea is a delicious and soothing drink for the winter holidays, and you can serve it to your whole family to help everyone stay calm and settled. Adding Organic Vata Churna as a seasoning to food is a big help, because it contains all six tastes but higher concentrations of the specific tastes that soothe Vata dosha. Finally, treating yourself to a self-massage using the Moisturizing Herbal Massage Oil is a great way to soothe your whole mind and body and balance Vata dosha.

Soothing Emotional Stress

Emotional trauma during the holidays, due to painful memories or family conflict, usually results in an imbalance in Sadhaka Pitta, the aspect of Pitta dosha concerned with the emotions and the heart. Once Sadhaka Pitta is disturbed, it reflects on Pachaka Pitta (which governs digestion) and Ranjaka Pitta (which governs heat in the blood). Emotional trauma can stimulate a person to eat more. That is why depressed people tend to overeat, which overloads their digestion, and results in weight gain and skin breakouts after the holidays. Even though people eat more sweets and junk food to relieve emotional stress, they actually create more digestive impurities (ama), intensifying depression. In this situation, the person creates more reactive ama, more Pitta-charged ama, which agitates their emotions even more. The heart and mind no longer communicate in a friendly way, and then the person becomes even more depressed.

For this situation, Maharishi Ayurveda recommends a Pitta-pacifying diet to relieve emotional stress. That means eating more astringent, bitter, and sweet foods (again, this doesn't mean the heavy, concentrated holiday sweets) to cool the body and improve digestion. Organic Pitta Churna can help spice the food with Pitta-pacifying spices, and Organic Pitta Tea can also soothe emotions when they are stirred up. Don't go to bed late and don't skip meals, as that will only aggravate Pitta dosha. Other Pitta-pacifying measures include using Organic Rose Petal Spread and Blissful Joy tablets and Blissful Heart Aroma.

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.