It is said that about 89% of the population of India suffer from stress which is higher than the global average of 86%. Stress has become a common mental health issue in India due to the work demands and the financial pressures of modern life. As far as the body is able to cope with stress, it acts as a normal stimulus required for our physical and social well-being and is known as eustress. On the other hand, stress becomes distressed when the individual is unable to cope with it and without any relief. Thus, eustress helps in improving the performance, whereas, distress is known to induce a number of clinical conditions. Distress can disturb the body’s internal balance or equilibrium, leading to physical symptoms such as headaches, an upset stomach, elevated blood pressure, chest pain, sexual dysfunction, and problems while sleeping. Conditions like depression, panic attacks, or other forms of anxiety and worry can result from emotional problems. Research suggests that stress also can cause or worsen certain symptoms or diseases. Heart disease, cancer, lung ailments, accidents, cirrhosis of the liver, and suicide are the leading causes of death due to stress.
Stress and Ayurveda
As per Ayurveda, the mind is only one (ekatva) but due to its association with many sense organs, it appears to be many. The fact is that the mind can be associated with only one sense organ at a time and not many. But the quick shift of mind from its association with one sense organ to another sense organ is due to minuteness (anutva) of the mind. Such harmonized functioning of the mind is hindered by its insufficient use such as not thinking, unable to gain knowledge and others, by overuse like excessive thinking, or by improper use like thinking about unnecessary things which cause an imbalance in the doshas. Vata which is one of the tridoshas (the three bio-energies namely; Vata, Pitta and Kapha) is said to be the controller and prompter of manas (mind). It is also said that the aggravated Vata depresses the mind, gives rise to fear, grief, confusion, the feeling of helplessness, and delirium. In Ayurveda, stressors can be classified as those causing physical exercise, fasting, injury, exhaustion, uneven body postures, or psychological factors like anger, fear, grief, anxiety, and environmental factors like high altitudes and prolonged exposures to the intense heat of sun and fire. Other stressors like unhealthy food, irregular, and improper routine and mental anxiety can cause all types of illnesses. These all cause degenerative changes in dhatus (tissues) and ojas (the essence of all tissues) which leads to stress.
Ways to relieve stress
In these simple ways, you will slowly toss out stress and bring more bliss into your life.
A great deal of stress piles up when we refuse to talk about it and even to ourselves. Each time we suppress stress, it piles up like a toxin inside our minds and slowly seeps into our minds. The deeper it penetrates into our consciousness, the more difficult it seems to get rid of it. Speaking up about being stressed is very important, as is asking for help when you are compromised. It is also very important to be available to listen and support someone who reaches out for help when they are stressed. Calming the person with assurance and words of moral importance helps reduce stress.
Food articles such as milk, ghee, grapes, jackfruit, and others are recommended as beneficial for mental stress. Eat meals that are fresh and natural and your personal choice of food can help you cope with stress. A morning cup of coffee may be a habit you cannot seem to give up, but caffeine stimulates the adrenal glands to release the stress neurotransmitters, which, over time, tires them and the sugar in your coffee affect your blood-sugar levels, which can cause your emotions to swing like a pendulum. Therefore, do not start your day with coffee. Do not buy pre-sliced or canned fruit and veggies. Buy them from a local farmer’s market, process them fresh, and cook them the same day.
While you do deep breathing, use a picture in your mind and a word or phrase to help you feel more relaxed.
- Close your eyes if they’re open.
- Take a few big, deep breaths.
- Breathe in. As you do that, imagine that the air is filled with a sense of peace and calm. Try to feel it throughout your body.
- Breathe out. While you’re doing it, imagine that the air leaves with your stress and tension.
- Now use a word or phrase with your breath. As you breathe in, say in your mind, “I breathe in peace and calm.”
- As you breathe out, say in your mind, “I breathe out stress and tension.”
- Continue for 10 to 20 minutes.
The main aim of this therapy is to restrain the mind from the desire for unpleasant objects. As per Ayurveda, mental stress caused due to grief, anger, sorrow, jealousy or greed should be responded to by inducing opposite practices to neutralize the cause. Psychotherapy includes assurance, replacement of emotions, regulation of thought process, re-framing of ideas, correction of objectives and ideals, proper guidance and advice for taking right decisions, and proper control of patience.
Daily regimen (dinacharya)
When you begin your day with a routine, it sets you up for a stress-free day which helps you keep Vata in balance. A healthy daily routine includes waking up early in the morning every day, giving special attention to your eyes, meditating, practising yoga, breathing exercise for 5-10 minutes, having a warm and fresh breakfast which include apple, orange, and other fresh fruits. Practising daily routine brings discipline to your life which is effective in relieving stress. Shirodhara
Medicated water, herbal oils and medicated milk are poured on the forehead through a special method for 30 to 45 minutes. It reduces anxiety, depression and mental stress and rejuvenates the central nervous system.
Medicine and tonics
When stress leads to derangement of Vata, pitta, and Kapha, medicines and tonics (rasayan) are usually prescribed by doctors to bring back the deranged manas to normalcy. Medicines like Brahmi Ghrita, Sarasvatarishta, Ashwagandharishta, or Kshirbala Taila, and on the other hand, tonics (rasayan) like Chywanaprasha, Brahmi Rasayana, or Shatavari Leha are described in Ayurveda as a tonic for the brain. Also herbs like Brahmi, Shatavari, Vacha, jatamansi, and tagar help in stimulating brain activity.
Management of stress is mostly dependent on the willingness of a person to make necessary changes for a healthy lifestyle. Summing up, Acharya Vagbhata states that one who introspects daily once and reacts to fellow beings and surroundings dawn to dark would modify his behaviour, remain free from grief, and enjoy perennial happiness.