Six Tips to Fight Stress with Ayurveda
"Brain cells create ideas. Stress kills brain cells. Stress is not a good idea," says a modern philosopher.
Whether our stress is caused from work, routine, or relationships, most of us, at some point in our lives, are faced with the uncomfortable symptoms of stress. These symptoms may manifest in a number of ways including worry, fatigue, increased anger, problems with relationships, inability to focus properly, stress headaches, trouble sleeping, and a variety of stress-related health issues.
But don’t stress out — ayurveda has many powerful time-tested tips to counteract stress! Here are a few of our favorites:
1. Restore inner balance
Do you feel that you are rushing from one activity to the next during the day? Have you ever experienced that feeling that there is never enough time in the day? The stress of a packed, tight schedule over the long term may negatively affect our health and our ability to handle all the diversity in our environment. Do you feel you are in a stressful relationship with “time?” This may decrease emotional resilience and leave us feeling hostile (Pitta under pressure), sad (Kapha under pressure), trapped (fear – Vata under pressure); or we may start to resent our “busy” lives, all the good we have, and those close to us. It can affect all aspects of our lives.
Take this quick quiz to observe your relationship with time:
Sit quietly for five minutes, with your eyes closed.
At the end of the five minutes, observe. Were you restless, worried or bored? Or calm, comfortable and relaxed? Did you open your eyes to check if the five minutes were over yet? Did your shoulders and neck feel tense? Were you, in that period, able to filter out the noise of life and tune in to yourself? If we are restless and agitated, this is a sign that perhaps we need some help.
Time-related stress happens because we lose connection with our innermost needs; we chase external goals and we lose connection with the silent, stable source within. The result: our body, mind and heart develop conflicting interests — the mind insists on going on while the body feels tired and the heart feels heavy. To reset our clock, therefore, we need to reestablish our inner connection. The practice of Transcendental Meditation® allows us to effortlessly experience our silent core at the source of thought, and this in turn increases our capacity for intuitive thought — a highly accurate inner compass, or inner ear. As our body, mind and heart become more integrated, our natural balance is restored and we tend to slow down internally; our resistance to stress, our resilience, goes up; and we seem to make better decisions.
2. Rest during down time
Even when you feel that you have no time, give yourself some quiet time. The logic is simple: all life evolves, grows and is sustained through cycles of rest and activity. Rest is the basis of dynamic activity. So our recreation, rest, or down time becomes medicinal.
Creatively carve out time during your workday by finding ways to efficiently achieve your workload while conserving your time — eliminate unnecessary steps, avoid procrastination, prioritize, delegate, and try to avoid distractions. Each of these will free up time and energy for more productive work. During your down time, which may simply be a few minutes, take a walk outside or around your office, gaze out your office window at the clouds or trees blowing in the breeze, or simply close your eyes and give your body a little rest.
3. Work your body to rest your mind
Exercising to increase relaxation is effective and ayurvedic. A simple ten-minute morning walk can put us in touch with ourselves and the environment around us. An early morning walk also helps reset our circadian rhythm and in turn helps our sleep patterns.
Dr. Nancy Lonsdorf, integrative physician and recognized ayurvedic expert, says, “I’ve been recommending a morning walk to my patients and doing it myself as regularly as I can, because it does indeed make you feel so fresh and enlivened. It uplifts your mood for the entire day and gets your circulation going!”
Take out the trash, shovel snow, play Frisbee in the park. Whether we engage in bite-sized chunks of exercise throughout the day or exercise at a dedicated time, we balance our physical and mental energies. Many people report that when they get their metabolism up, their temper goes down.
Ayurveda supports the self-care principle of not over-exercising. The concept of balaardh (bala means strength and ardh means half) encourages us to use up to half our total individual energy, and conserve the rest. If we are stressed out in our day-to-day lives and we stress our bodies out when we work out, we may be fueling the fire instead of cultivating balance. Favor low-impact, enjoyable forms of exercise, and remember to take rest days as well. Even while abiding by this principle, over time we can build up our endurance levels; it just may take longer and mean more attentiveness to our body’s energy output.
4. Eat to live stress-free
Food can truly be our medicine. Fruits and veggies nourish our bodies and can go a long way toward relieving stress. Rich in antioxidants, fresh fruits and veggies beat back free radical damage, cutting our susceptibility to stress, fatigue and disease. Eat according to your ayurvedic constitution. Not sure what your current constitution is? Take our Dosha Quiz to learn more.
Stress can generate free radicals, and a host of other hormonal changes which may wreak havoc on our mind, emotions, brain, nervous system, heart and overall immunity. Foods with high antioxidant content naturally combat free radical damage. Our high-antioxidant formula Amrit Kalash is a unique combination of rare herbs and fruits which, when taken daily, helps beat back the free radical damage caused by stress, improves immunity and restores balance between mind, body and spirit. Organic Premium Amla Berry and Ashwagandha are also quick and simple resilience tools. (Read more about Oxygen Free Radical (OFR) Scavenging Effects of Amrit Kalash here.)
5. Curb stress with ayurvedic herbs
Balance Pitta: Promote self-confidence, positive thinking and feelings of fulfillment by balancing the subdosha of Pitta that governs emotional health, Sadhaka Pitta. Our herbal formula Stress Free Emotions, with arjuna, ashwagandha, mica, pearl and holy basil, is a potent combination to support the coordination of our mind and emotions and build a natural resistance to emotional stress.
Balance Vata: Prana Vata is the subdosha of Vata that governs the brain, the head, and the mind. Our potent blend of whole herbal extracts, powders, and minerals in Stress Free Mind balances Prana Vata; supports natural resistance to daily mental stress; nourishes the immune system, which is often taxed by everyday mental stress; and promotes peace, stability, and calmness under pressure. Worry Free is another of our powerful formulas with ashwagandha and jatamansi; it helps to balance Vata and increase our resistance to stress. This formula is specifically blended to help relieve occasional anxiety and worry brought on by external or internal stress. It helps calm our mind for deeper sleep, calms and relaxes us and is a good antidote to everyday tension.
6. Sleep soundly
An uncomfortable night of bad sleep can set off a series of unhappy events — lowered appetite, imbalanced digestion, irritation and fatigue. Performance suffers along with relationships, creativity and general well-being. Ayurveda has much to offer for a sound night’s sleep: eat a light, well-cooked dinner at least three hours before bed; engage in relaxing activities such as taking an evening walk, listening to calming music and slowly preparing our body for sleep about an hour before we actually lie down; go to bed around the same time each night; and load a diffuser with a relaxing essential oil such as Slumber Time Aroma Oil, or one of our other dosha-balancing therapeutic aromas, to help aid sound sleep. How to choose? Simply sniff and let your nose decide. The one that smells the best at any given time is the one your body is looking for to help bring balance.
Herbs like Indian valerian and jatamansi are natural herbal sleep aids with a calming influence and have been used in ayurveda for centuries. Ashwagandha helps resistance to stress, and helps balance the mind and emotions. These and other rest-friendly herbs come together in our Blissful Sleep formula, prepared in the traditional ayurvedic way, using only the best-quality ingredients.
There is no magic bullet when it comes to managing stress. Each day we make choices, and every time we choose an activity that leads to less stress, or more resilience to stress, we move toward the upward cycle of emotional balance. So choose, starting today, and watch as your life begins to improve.
Here is to good health and happiness.
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.