Stress is all around us. From environmental reasons – traffic, pollution, noise etc to multiple social demands; relationships, marriage, to financial causes, security, ill health of others we care about, death and so on. The causes for stress are innumerable.
Ayurveda, the ancient Indian science of living, teaches us that unlike western belief which says that stress is caused by external factors, stress is actually a state of the mind, originating within us. Stress is simply a state, when the mind is not calm and unstable. Modern science testifies to this too. The mind perceives a threat and responds with a release of hormones including adrenaline and cortisol. This triggers all kinds of changes like increase of heart rate, tensing of muscles, blood pressure increase, elevates sugar release etc. This stress-response system by the body is its way of protecting itself, for eg pumping the body with increased blood and energy to cope with the threat; to fight or flight.
The body can deal with only intermittent periods of stress. It needs periods of calm and balance to restore its normal levels. Prolonged stress leads to various health issues like depression, weight fluctuations, heart disease, insomnia, anxiety, back pain, headaches, panic attacks, nervous breakdowns etc. While the bad news is that stress is here to stay because it has become an indispensable part of our lives, the good news is that there are just as many solutions! In our pursuit of peace we have found some easy and effective, natural of course, ways that you can incorporate into your hectic schedule to relax, distress and restore balance.
1. Stay Fit. Feel Fit.
Exercise is probably one of the best ways to not only control stress levels but also ensure that our body is fit and healthy. Practising an exercise routine keeps boredom, burnout and anxiety at bay. It releases ‘happy’ endorphins distracts the mind from relentless worries and relaxes tense muscles. Circulation of blood is enhanced which greatly helps to fight stress. Sports, running, swimming or walking are good forms of exercise.
2. Yoga your way to calm
Do yoga – Yoga helps to slow down your system. Practising yoga not only eases stress but also helps to ease symptoms of anxiety and depression. Since you transfer your focus and attention to your body in yoga, it can also help to release the physical tension that one has and it promotes relaxation. Shavasana or ‘corpse pose’ is the easiest of all yoga asanas and one of the most effective. Lie down on a mat in a quiet space. Relax each and every muscle, close your eyes, open your palms and stretch parallel to your body. Keep your legs hip distance apart. Focus your attention on your breathing. Do this posture for a minimum of 5 minutes twice a day.
3. Breathe in stress. Breathe out peace.
Science has proven – there can be no disease where there is plenty of oxygen. Pranayama the ancient science of breathing has been advocating deep breathing for millennia. Next time you are stressed take a few moments, sit in a relaxed pose, close your eyes, breathe deep using the muscles of the abdomen. Expand the diaphragm while breathing in and contract it while breathing out.
4. Eat right. Nurture balance.
A balancing diet is crucial to restoring health and calm.Food is medicine for the body and mind according to Ayurveda. Have foods that increase energy or ‘sattva’ in your body – fresh fruits, vegetables, juices, dry fruits, nuts, milk, honey, ghee, buttermilk etc. Limit caffeine drinks, chocolate, spicy, white sugar, deep fried foods that increase ‘rajas’ energy in your body and eliminate no energy toxic food like –meat, eggs, fish, microwaved, frozen, processed food that increas ‘tamas’ in the body.
Additionally understand your dosha – mind-body constitution and follow the diet for the dosha – here is a quick list;
Vata dosha should include more warming food like wheat, rice, milk products, and avoid dry cold airy food like salads, popcorn etc. Pitta dosha would benefit from cooling foods like cucumbers, melons etc and avoid spicy hot astringent food like chillies, turnips and radishes, peppers etc. Kapha dosha should have a diet focused on energising food like cherries, pears, eggplants etc and avoid heavy sweet food like sweets and nuts.
5. Smell sense
Our sense of smell bypasses the rational brain and directly affects our moods and hormones. This makes Aromatherapy an invaluable tool to instantly ease anxiety, insomnia and stress. Ensure you purchase
only pure therapeutic grade essential oils and can use them in a wide range of ways – from diffusing them, in candles, as air fresheners etc. Choose calming relaxing aromas like lavender, rose, rosemary, basil, lemon, jasmine, etc
6. Massage your stress away
An abhyanga or body massage or champi a head massage with warm Ayurvedic oils has been an effective Vedic traditional cure for centuries. Ensure you use pure classical formulas made from traditional Ayurvedic herbs. Massage boosts blood circulation, helps in eliminating toxins and relaxes the tensed nerves and muscles in the mind and body. A regular massage also keeps the pains and aches away.
7. Water away the stress
Drink at least 8 glasses of water regularly to keep yourself hydrated and flush out the toxins from your body. Ayurveda says it is best to drink warm water and herbal water is even better.
8. Sip to detox
Ancient Ayurveda believed in brewing a special tea that was rich is its medicinal value and it also acted as a great detox to flush out the toxins in your body.
- Boil 1 1/2 cups of water
- Add half a teaspoon each of whole cumin, coriander, and fennel seeds.
- Cover the pan with a lid and let the water with the seeds boil for at least 5 minutes.
- Strain out the liquid and throw away the seeds.
You can store this liquid in a flask and drink about half a cup of this tea at regular intervals in a day. This tea aids in relaxation and helps to flush out the toxins from your body. This drink should be warm when consumed.
9. Mudra – hand gestures
Practice the surya mudra – Sit down in a padmasana and breathe in. Relax. Press your ring finger with the thumb and stay in that position for at least 5 minutes. This mudra asan is known to induce relaxation and reduce anxiety levels.
10. Think happy. Be happy
Surround yourself with positive thoughts and people. Do one thing that you love! Read a book, dance, listen to music or indulge in a craft. When you do things that you love, your stress levels reduce automatically. Keep a log book about things that stress you so you are aware of it and can resort to the above mentioned remedies to relax your body and mind.
Remember it’s all in your mind. Accept stress as a body response but know that to distress is a willed intention of the mind. Stay happy and calm always.
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