Stress - The problem everyone is facing these days!
With people working more than ever before to afford the lifestyle of their dreams, stress has become a part of life. Though short-term stress is a good thing as it motivates and pushes you to keep going and be more productive. But if not managed timely, long-term stress can pose a great threat to mental and physical health and can even become life-threatening.
Ayurveda views stress management in a holistic way. It believes in working on both external as well as internal self. It talks about building a strong mind-body connection by including oils, meditation, yoga and herbs to prevent and build the ability to manage stress.
A few tips Ayurveda recommends for managing stress:
When you are going through a stressful time, a lack of structure can further add to the stress. According to Ayurveda, having a dincharya or routine is one of the most powerful tools in dealing with stress. A routine can bring a sense of clarity to your life, which is something you lose when stressed. It helps you navigate through your stress.
Though Ayurveda doesn’t have a set template for a routine, it does provide some activities that you can include in your life to manage stress.
- Waking up during the “ambrosial hours” (brahmamuhurtha). It is the time that begins 90 minutes before sunrise and ends 48 minutes before dawn. In the yoga sutra, this time is considered the best time for practising meditation or yoga.
The term brahmamuhurtha means “the hour of the Lord Brahma”, who is the Creator of the universe. This is the best time to boost the creative fuel as the Lord Brahma sends the creative energy into the air.
- Oil Pulling is an ayurvedic practice in which you swish organic coconut oil or sesame oil in your mouth for up to 20 minutes. This practice helps to remove toxins from teeth and gums and also helps in relieving tension in the jaw.
- Spending time in nature is therapy in itself. Whether you walk or sit, just being around nature can lift up your mood. Take out some time every day to go to your nearest park or forest and take in the surroundings—colours, textures, smell and energy.
Yoga helps in building a mind-body connection. When you are practising asanas, you open the areas in your body where you might be holding some tension which further helps prana or energy to flow again in your body.
Yoga has a myriad of benefits for your mind and soul. It helps in relieving anxiety from the body. It is one of the tools recommended to people with depression. To reap the benefits of yoga, you don't need to perform complicated asanas; even practising breathing exercises (pranayama) will improve your quality of sleep and thoughts.
Including yoga in your daily routine is a great way to not just treat but prevent short-term stress from becoming chronic stress. You can start by practising it for a few minutes every morning and then slowly increase the time and intensity of your practice. It is also a gentle psychical exercise and we all know by now that exercise helps in releasing feel-good hormones in your body, which can help in improving your mood.
This should not come across as a surprise. Whether you Google, ask a specialist or a random person about how to manage stress, they all will have one common answer: Meditation.
Meditation can help you in looking at your stressors as an outsider and bring more clarity to your mind. When you are struggling with stress, sitting idle is the last thing you want, but it is during these times that you need to slow down instead of rushing. While meditating, you let your thoughts come, you observe them and switch back your focus to your breath, and you keep on doing it. Meditation is not about avoiding stress; it is about acknowledging it because you can only fix it if you know what is causing it.
Like anything else, if you have never meditated, don’t expect miracles from the first week. Initially, you won’t be able to sit down for even 10 minutes, so start slow. Start with 2 minutes, then 5 and slowly increase the time.
Ayurveda recommends practising meditation early morning during the ambrosial hours. As this is called the creator’s hour, meditating during this period can help you go deeper in your practice and help you connect with the divine power and energy even more.
(Photo by Marcus Aurelius, Source)
Ayurveda also recommends a few herbs which you can include in your diet. One of the most popular ones, which you might know about, is Ashwagandha. Being a plant that survives in barren conditions, where most plants would suffer or die, ashwagandha blooms.
It is an adaptogenic herb, which means it can help your body resist or fight against stress. Along with helping your body resist stress, its calming properties help in promoting good quality sleep. Sleep is the first thing that gets affected during a stressful period, so including an ashwagandha in your nighttime routine is a perfect step—you can simply make a warm tea or have it with milk.
Brahmi and bhringraj are also excellent herbs for stress management.
Just make sure not to consume them in large quantities.
When stress becomes chronic, it can affect your physical health. Massage is something that can target both physical and mental health. Neck, shoulder and feet are the most common places you might store tension. A good massage can relieve the tension trapped in muscles and also increase blood circulation. It is a treat for a stressed mind; just receiving a massage can relax your mind and uplift your mood.
Ayurveda recommends a few different massages. The most common one is using oil like sesame oil, which is regarded as the best one. The oil is used on the entire body, and pressure is applied to pressure points to relieve stress.
Another type is a potli massage, where herbs that are boiled in oils are tied up in a muslin cloth and used as a tool to massage the body. Udvartana (powder massage) is where herbal powders are used instead of oils.
Ayurveda also emphasises the importance of self-love and hence promotes the concept of Abhyanga (self-massage). It not only can be a great relaxer but also be a part of your self-care routine either in the morning or at night. Taking out time for yourself helps you take a pause, keep the problems aside and just focus on yourself.
If all this information feels too much right now, don’t worry, you don’t have to include every single thing in your life together. Start with one thing, whichever one you like and then slowly incorporate other tips.
Remember that every person is different and how much time they take to show effects is also different. So, be kind and gentle with yourself. Be intentional in your words and actions. Observe what is causing you stress, and instead of running away from it, honour your emotions and accept them.
Stress is an inevitable part of life. The more you ignore it, the more you attract it. Having some of these tools in your pocket will help you manage it better.