The concept of stress has become commonplace over the past few years. It certainly is a major topic of discussion, however, it remains an enigma. Nowadays, we are seeing stress increasing exponentially. The consequences of this can be seen in behavioural, cognitive, emotional and physical symptoms. Let’s take a look at Ayurveda and stress.
Ayurvedic medicine is a 5000 year old system of healing and the first true holistic medicine system on earth. It is a profound science that deals with the nature, scope and purpose of life. Ayurveda offers a deep understanding of each person’s unique body, mind and spiritual makeup, which is the foundation of health. It enables us to understand the complex pathogenesis of every diseased state, including stress.
In medical terms, stress is a response to demand, physical or emotional, real or imagined. The response is the secretion of the hormones cortisol, adrenaline and non-adrenaline from the adrenal glands. Stress is a natural process, and indeed it is important for survival. Furthermore, it prepares us to deal with vital situations and puts us in ‘fight or flight’ mode. A practical explanation of stress might be:
When the situations we are presented with in our lives exceed our resources for coping with them.
Ayurveda recognises stress as a sign of imbalances in our body, which prevent us from being able to cope with situations that arise. Therefore, the approach is prevention, and taking control of our own health. Ayurvedic consultations provide the tools for us to manage our health through understanding our unique constitution. This means we learn to understand how foods, lifestyle, the weather, the seasons, even the time of day and our time of life affect us.
In western medicine, we tend to treat the disease, rather than the individual. However, Ayurveda is precise to the point that it identifies disease as an imbalance of one or more of the three Doshas. When they are vitiated within their natural ‘seats’ in the body for a length of time, they are eventually pushed out and settle elsewhere, where they come into conflict with the other 2 Doshas. Thus they eventually start lodging in the tissues, causing them to be impaired. It is important to emphasise that every single disease, be it a simple cold or stress, is unique to each person in terms of how it manifests.
Stress can be usually be attributed to an imbalance of Vata Dosha, and is often exacerbated during Vata (autumn and early winter) season. It often presents with irritability, and irregular lifestyle choices. We may skip meals, eat at unusual times, suffer with weight-loss, insomnia, and fear. However, with Kapha dominant people, the stress symptoms may be lethargy, or overeating and therefore weight-gain, and over-attachment. Pitta types may present with angry outbursts, hostility, and judgement. However, no two people will present in the same way with the same disease.
Psychologically, we are influenced to a degree by our natural constitution. However, we can teach ourselves many skills to deal with stress and to recognise the things that trigger us. Poor communication, poor time management, unhealthy relationships and lack of self–fulfilment can all contribute to chronic stress. Working on these areas goes a long way towards alleviating it.
Ayurvedic medicine offers a deep insight into the intricate workings of the human body. The beauty of it is that no matter what the disease, the mechanism for removing the causative factors is the same, and this is why it can be highly effective in dealing with modern day stress.