Different healing models define stress and anxiety differently. While there is no specific definition to expound these terms, it can be broadly described as a physiological reaction inside the body in response to some kind of stimulus, be it physical, emotional, or environmental.
Ayurveda's Perspective On Stress and Anxiety
Ayurveda views stress and anxiety as a doshic imbalance caused due to excess Vata accumulation in the nervous system. Vata constitutes space and air, the mobile element known for its dry, light, rough, and windy characteristics and an excess of Vata can lead to 'a windy mind.' Ayurveda defines anxiety as an expression of excess Vata in 'Mano vaha srota', commonly known as the channel of the mind. Therefore, to manage stress, Ayurveda aims to quiet the fluctuations of the windy mind.
The goal is to pacify the aggravated Vata dosha by incorporating opposite qualities to bring the mind back to a balanced state. We can do that by making recommended dietary and lifestyle changes, getting enough sleep, and increasing the intake of Vata pacifying botanicals.
So, here are some suggestions to quiet your mind, and manage stress and anxiety the Ayurvedic way.
Maintaining an impressions journal
We often attribute the term digestion with our physical body. However, the process of digestion is not just limited to our body. The mind and soul too must digest everything we take in, be it conversations, tv shows, music, podcasts, etc. Anything we take in through our five senses must be either assimilated or removed as waste from the mind, body, and soul.
To help digest life's endless experiences, it is imperative to maintain an "impressions" journal. This journal will help you keep a daily record of what you are taking in consciously through the senses. Following this exercise will help you keep a track of your symptoms and will give you insight into possible triggers. While you may not be able to control the experiences, maintaining a journal can help you elevate your awareness around the possible elements or situations that trigger your stress and anxiety.
Sticking to a fixed eating schedule
Since the brain and the gut are physiologically connected, therefore, taking the time to eat at regular intervals throughout the day is a simple, yet effective tool for managing anxiety. Bonus advantage, sticking to a ritualized eating regime using good food and good timing strengthens the digestive system, helps pacify the Vata dosha (bye bye anxiety), and keeps the digestive fire burning throughout the day.
Ensure that you take your first meal of the day between 7 am to 9 am. Since breakfast is termed as a spiritual meal, eat food that is warm and easily digestible. As lunch is the largest meal of the day, it should be eaten between 11 am and 1 pm, to keep the digestive fire goin. FYI, the digestive fire is the strongest during this time. For dinner, the gentle meal of the day, Ayurveda suggests eating a light, small portioned meal between 4 am to 6 pm to optimize metabolic functions. These practices will help keep the Vata in check and bring your mind back to a balanced state.
Try earthing to ease anxiety
Ayurveda observes nature as the ultimate healing tool. The ancient science of healing is deeply connected with five main elements: space, air, fire, water, and earth. Therefore, when one element in the body is present in excess, you must balance it out with other elements. In this case, to balance the excess air element, reconnecting with the earth element can do wonders for your windy mind.
Earthing is a very simple, non pharmaceutical, non medicinal approach to stress management. All it requires is taking off your shoes and walking barefoot on grass. Walking on the soft grass, experiencing nature in all its glory can be extremely relaxing and therapeutic, especially if you’re someone who has lost connection with the earth element.
Eat a warming diet
The sacred ancient texts strongly believe in the adage "food is medicine". In fact, according to Ayurveda, the foods we eat can either balance or imbalance your doshas. Since stress and anxiety are caused by the excess of Vata dosha, Ayurveda suggests eating warm,nourishing, fresh, moist foods which help pacify Vata dosha. Some examples of vata pacifying foods are ghee, butter, vegetable soups, and more. Use of spices such as cinnamon, cumin, ginger; consumption of whole wheat rotis with ghee, freshly prepared dal with tadka, cooked sabzi would be nourishing for a person with a vata dominant prakriti. Asafoetida is a wonder spice for the Vata’s. Ensure to eat in small intervals instead of eating a big meal at once. To keep your aggravated dosha in check, limit or avoid excessive intake of overstimulating foods like sugar, chocolate, caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine.
Ashwagandha to alleviate anxiety
Lauded in Ayurveda as a rasayana (rejuvenating) herb, Ashwagandha has recently gained popularity in Western herbalism for it's adaptogenic qualities. No wonder Ashwagandha is now touted as the gem of every wellness enthusiasts' morning smoothie across the globe. Contrary to what people say, Ashwagandha is not a magical herb, it’s a science-backed, time-tested tool used for easing your body’s stress response over time.
According to ancient Ayurvedic texts, regular intake of Ashwagandha helps obtain longevity, regain youthfulness, maintain a sharp memory, eliminate diseases, improve strength, alleviate stress and anxiety, and provide a lustrous complexion. This wonder herb is typically available in powder form or capsule form. You can include it to your daily diet by adding a scoop of Ashwagandha powder to your smoothie or add it to a glass of warm milk. Psst! You can also try our Ratri Chai, a herbal infusion made with adaptogenic herbs like ashwagandha, brahmi, shankhpushpi, and more to promote relaxation and detoxification.
Shirodhara to beat stress
The term shirodhara is derived from two Sanskrit words - shiro (head) and dhara (flow). Shirodhara is an Ayurvedic body therapy in which a steady, gentle stream of warm oil is continuously poured over your forehead to help soothe and heal a frayed nervous system. This gentle, but continuous stream of oil helps stimulate blood circulation to the brain and pituitary gland, while Ayurvedic herbs and essences provide relief from symptoms of anxiety, migraines, stress, and insomnia.
Shirodhara works primarily on the “manomaya kosha”, the mental sheath. This therapy is designed to cultivate a sense of deep mind, body relaxation, giving your nervous system the opportunity to repair and rejuvenate itself organically.
These practices help shift you from a sympathetic fight or flight response into a more beneficial parasympathetic, calm response. Once you feel comfortable incorporating these practices in your regime, you can try other mindfulness and meditation practices that promote that parasympathetic response in the body like yoga, meditation, listening to calming music, etc. that can help recalibrate your mind, body, and soul.