Most of us are in some way affected by levels of stress that often contribute to reduced health and vitality. Stress can be described as the body’s reaction to any change that requires an adjustment or response. This reaction can be mental, emotional, or physical.
From a clinical perspective, stress is described as a situation that causes discomfort and distress that can lead to mental or physical problems. These stressors may originate from environmental factors, existing illnesses, or medical procedures.
The causes of stress are virtually endless ranging from dysfunctional thought patterns, debt, and relationship dynamics; to the painfully slow driver, you always find yourself behind when you’re running late for work. All too commonly we are finding ourselves stressed as a result of having too much to do with too little time.
Since primitive times our stress response has allowed us to act quickly in dangerous or threatening situations by enhancing our physical and mental ability. It’s our body’s natural way of rising to a challenge or difficult situation that requires focus, stamina, strength or heightened awareness.
This response occurs when our nervous system initiates the production of the hormones adrenalin, norepinephrine and cortisol. These hormones increase breathing, heart rate, blood pressure and metabolism. Blood vessels open wider to increase blood flow to large muscle groups, and the liver releases stored glucose to increase the body’s energy resulting in heightened performance.
Try these simple and effective tools to bring the mind and body back to balance
- AVOID UNNECESSARY STRESS
We can only do what we can do. Consider all of the factors causing you stress.
Divide them into two categories –
- Things you can change to reduce the effects of stress and
- The things you are unable to control.
This will allow you to take action where possible and begin to consciously accept the things that are beyond your control.
- OBSERVE YOUR NEGATIVE THOUGHTS
One negative thought usually attracts another, so make sure you are aware of your thought patterns. Long-term stress can be the result of a downward spiral of perpetual negative thought patterns that define our reality, and before you know it, the world has become overwhelming and non-cooperative.
You can begin by fixing your attention on the things you are grateful for, look for the beauty in life. This simple exercise can help produce the relaxation response by releasing “feel good’ hormones such dopamine and endorphin to help you climb back out of negativity reclaiming you natural state of being.
- UNDERSTAND YOUR AYURVEDIC BODY-TYPE
Knowing your Ayurvedic body type allows you to establish your strengths and weaknesses. This can also provide insight into what environment and living situation is most beneficial for balancing your mind and body.
Some of us thrive on dynamic busy social careers, while others are better suited to activities that are quiet, calm and reclusive. What maintains our balance is usually the same as what makes us happy and content in our lives.
- EAT WELL
Make sure you maintain consistently regular meal times with plenty of fresh vegetable, leafy greens rich in anti-oxidants and phyto-nutrients to help protect the body from free-radical damage. Use oils such as flax, hemp seed and fish oils rich in DHA. Turmeric cinnamon, saffron and ginger are great for reducing inflammation and calming the nerves. Make sure you are getting plenty of protein rich foods while keeping sugars to a minimum. Good clean water is always essential!
- REMEMBER TO BREATHE
The simple act of breath awareness can work wonders in reducing the effects of stress. Find a quiet place to sit and focus your attention on the breath.
Create a comfortable rhythm and breathe into the belly and let yourself relax a little more with each exhalation. Controlled breathing can help to calm the mind, reduce heart rate, blood pressure while encouraging presence of mind.
- EXERCISE AND PLAY
The health benefits of regular exercise are endless. Find a balance of cardiovascular, weight bearing, mobility and yoga postures. Engaging in fun and creative ways to get fit not only generates the production of endorphins which make you feel good, it also stimulates and strengthens nerve pathways which help improve brain function and decision making.
- TAKE TIME TO BE IN NATURE
Make sure you give yourself time to be in nature. It’s free and it’s beautiful; it reminds us how perfect life is and how much our problems are the result of us getting in the way of ourselves.
You will not find chronic stress in nature; there is no rush, and all the time in the world. There is a great deal it has to teach us about stress and about ourselves. Take in the colours, the floral scents, the sounds and the silence in the gaps.
- AYURVEDIC RESTORATIVE HERBS AND TONICS FOR STRESS MANAGEMENT
The following herbs are traditionally used in minimizing and preventing the harmful effects of stress.
BRAHMI /BACOPA MONNIERA Restorative, nervine and tonic. Traditionally used for improving memory, intellect and mental function.
MANDUKAPARNI/ CENTELLIA ASIATICA Rejuvenative for the nervous and circulatory system. Aids in promoting intellect, longevity and memory.
SHANKAPUSHPI/ CONVOLVULIS PLURICALIS Enhances mental faculties responsible for learning, memory and recall. Helps improve sleep and mind-body coordination.
ASHWAGANDHA/ WITHANIA SOMNIFERA Aids in alleviating mental stress, acts as sedative, promotes sexual vigor, vitality and sound sleep. Promotes Ojas (Vital fluids) responsible for immunity), anabolic to tissues, improves tone and power, generally strengthening.
YASTI MADHU/ GLYCYRRHIZA GLABRA Beneficial for adrenal glands and glandular conditions, regulates CNS functions, remedial for colds, cough and respiratory problems. Improves voice quality, eyesight and complexion.
GINGER ROOT/ZINGIBAR OFFICINALE Digestive stimulant. Relieves nervousness and is calming.