Stress has become an inseparable part of our existence. The body, mind and soul are all subjected to the ravages of day-to-day stress from emotional, economic and lifestyle factors such as straining human relationships, growing incidences of crime, unstoppable price rise, peer pressure, increasing dependence on technology, and insufficient natural light and air, among others.
According to Dr. Chauhan- Ayurvedacharya and Director, Jiva Ayurveda- Ayurveda, stress primarily affects us when our mind is in an imbalanced state. The mind is considered to be balanced when it is firm and stable and is capable of differentiating between right and wrong. An imbalanced mind, however, will only give rise to indecision and stress.
The mind is governed by Prana Vata (a sub-dosha of Vata governs the brain and sensory perception) and Sadhaka Pitta (the sub-dosha of Pitta that governs emotions and their effect on the heart).
Additionally, the mind has three Gunas (qualities) - Sattva (knowledge, purity), Rajas (action, passion) and Tamas (inertia, ignorance). Mental disorders or imbalances are caused when Sattva decreases and Rajas and/or Tamas increases. When the mind is dominated by Rajas or Tamas, the sub-doshas governing it go out of balance - Sadhaka Pitta begins to create a burning effect and Prana Vata creates a drying effect. When such a state is prolonged, the mind becomes stressed, leading to mental disorders such as anxiety, depression, fear and nervous debility.
Dealing with Everyday Stress
An individual’s capacity to deal with stress depends on the level of Sattva in his mind. As Sattva decreases, mental strength, determination and the power to discriminate (distinguish right from wrong) also decrease. It is therefore advisable that you energize your mind by to increasing Sattva and minimizing Rajas and Tamas. When Sattva is in abundance, the functions of Rajas and Tamas are positive and constructive. In such as state, they help in attaining a state of balance or health.
Diet regulation, regular exercise, active lifestyle, and positive thinking are some of the factors that help in energizing the mind and keeping it healthy. Here are some simple yet effective tips that will help you deal with everyday stress in a better manner:
In order to reduce stress, choose foods that increase Sattva, such as fresh fruits, fruit juices, vegetables (raw or cooked or boiled), vegetable juices, sprouts, nuts, dry fruits, honey, milk, ghee, fresh butter, buttermilk, etc. Try to cut down the use of tea, coffee, white-flour products, chocolates, white-sugar products, deep-fried foods and hot spices as these items increase Rajas. The foods that increase Tamas include meat, fish, eggs and foods that are packaged or preserved using chemicals; stay away from them as much as possible.
When you meditate, your thoughts are focused on one object for a long time. This practice helps in slowing down the breathing process, normalizing blood pressure levels, relaxing muscles and nerves and consequently reducing stress.
Watch your Breath
Our breathing patterns are closely connected to our mind. When we are stressed, we tend to take short and shallow breaths, which is not good for our respiratory system. So, the next time you feel stressed, make a deliberate attempt to watch your breathing. Sitting in a relaxed position and taking a few deep breaths is sure to make you feel better. When we breathe properly, we help revitalize prana (life air) within the body. It allows oxygen to circulate freely in the body and reach the vital organs comfortably.
In today’s competitive world, most people – especially professionals – are finding it exceedingly difficult to get adequate, sound sleep on a regular basis. Insufficient sleep hinders the body’s digestion process, which can in turn lead to imbalance of doshas. In such a situation, the body is unable to handle stress effectively.
Panchakarma therapies such as Abhyanga (full body massage) and Shirodhara (pouring oil on the forehead) are effective in relaxing the tension in nerves and head.
Most of the times, we are unable to get rid of stress because we refuse to talk about it--even to ourselves. Do not forget, each time you suppress stress, it keeps piling up and slowly seeps into your life. If you have not been willing to admit to your problems, it is time you confide in someone. You could also start writing down your thoughts. Once this happens, you’ll also be able to think in the direction of a solution and hence feel more positive.
If you are a working professional, there are huge chances that time management is the biggest stress inducer in your life. It is advisable that you become more organized, prepare proper schedules of work, make checklists and do one thing at a time. By doing so, you’ll be able to control several factors that are unnecessarily creating tension in your life.
Dr. Pratap Chauhan -Ayurvedacharya and Director, Jiva Ayurveda