Modern life stress
There is so much stress in the world, seen both at a global and individual level. We live in a world that has become overpopulated, over-filled with desire to have more, eat more, travel more and create/achieve more deadlines. We are overusing the world’s resources. Temperatures on the planet are rising, causing melting of the polar ice caps.
On an individual level, many things can affect our stress levels, but most of them are the pressures of living in a world that puts greater demands on us. Stress also now affects more children than ever before, with social media pressures adding to already high demands put on them through school pressure, with constant testing and exams, allowing little ‘down’ time. Children, it seems, are not allowed to be children for very long, anymore. Their parents are no better off; there are huge pressures on them to earn enough to pay mortgages or rents, to enjoy holidays and other luxuries, and cope with the increasing prices of food and fuel due to higher population demands. Aside from this, if two parents work, juggling childcare can be a daily stress. They have to find a fine balance between recognising the importance of work commitments, but also being involved in their children’s school lives.
Ayurveda and stress
Ayurveda sees stress as an imbalance of one or more of the three Doshas, Vata, Pitta and Kapha. Vata dominant people tend to be more susceptible to stress. Increased Vata stress shows as panic, fearfulness, loneliness, and erratic behaviour, both in the body and the mind. Vata is dry in quality; it is cold, light, hard and mobile, erratic and rough. So an increase in these qualities might cause stress that results in constipation, palpitations, lack of appetite, panic attacks, feeling cold, and rushing around like a headless chicken, in order to try to fit everything in. A common symptom is insomnia, with the nervous system being on overdrive.
Pitta’s qualities are hot, light, slightly oily, mobile, subtle, sharp, and penetrating. Stress might cause symptoms such as anger, hostility, aggression, burnout, diarrhea, acid reflux and heartburn, It may also cause high blood pressure.
Kapha’s qualities are cold, soft, moist, heavy, dull, static, dense, oily and sticky. Kapha dominant people tend to be calm by nature, and cool in a crisis. However, as we all can get stressed at times, Kapha types are not immune to occasionally feeling stress. It may present with symptoms such as resistance to change, comfort eating, especially sweet foods, weight gain, lack of motivation, sleeping a lot, possessiveness, holding onto emotions, fatigue, attachment, greed.
Insomnia is classed as being unable to get to sleep, or being unable to stay asleep, or waking extremely early, before you have had a sound sleep. It affects everyone on occasions, but when we are particularly stressed, it becomes a nightly occurrence for many. To avoid stress, it’s important to keep a calm and realistic pace to your everyday life. Don’t say yes to everything, pick and choose the things your really want to do. Life is not about having a busy diary, it’s also about having time to reflect and recharge the nervous system as well as the rest of the body, and make decisions at the pace that is right for you.
Vata seems to have become imbalanced in society due to modern lifestyle practices. Everyone can therefore benefit from slowing down in modern life.
How do we help prevent stress levels from becoming chronic?
Keeping stress at bay
Stick to a routine. Wake up as early as possible, and go to bed roughly the same time every day, ideally around 10pm. Routine is vital in order for the body to follow the circadian rhythm.
Eat three regular meals a day, consisting of a balance of all macro (proteins, carbohydrates and fats) and micro (vitamins and minerals) nutrients, obtained from fresh and wholesome vegetables, minimal amounts of ethically sourced lean meat and fresh fish if you are non-vegetarian, legumes, pulses, grains, and essential fats.
Make meat and fish only occasional meal choices.
Don’t snack in between meals.
Breakfast should be no later than 8am.
Lunch should be around 12.30pm, and the biggest meal of the day. This is when digestion is strongest.
Supper should be no later than 7pm, and the smallest meal of the day.
Unplug all devices and technology two hours before bed.
Take a relaxing bath or shower, using a few drops of pure essential oils such as lavender, jasmine or frankincense in your bath, or pure body oils to massage your skin afterwards.
Have a hot, comforting milk drink to help you to sleep soundly.
*To ensure your digestion and immunity are strong, and thus keep all diseases, including stress at bay, it’s important to seek advice from a qualified Ayurvedic Medicine practitioner to find out your Prakruti, or natural state, and what needs rebalancing. This will help you to make positive changes to your life that will improve your holistic health.
Half an hour before bed, drink this gorgeous, grounding, calming milk drink. It contains fantastic spices that collectively offer digestive, anti inflammatory, sedative, antioxidant, grounding, and nourishing qualities. It also contains ghee, which is clarified butter. Ghee is so much part of Ayurveda, both as part of therapeutic measures for healing, and also as a culinary staple. There have been more than enough positive research findings on ghee’s benefits now, to confirm what Ayurveda has always known. It is a truly healing food. Ghee is a short chain fatty acid that is processed by the body fast. It contains butyric acid, which is required by the gut to maintain integrity of the intestinal mucosa. Without this, toxins are able to find their way into the system. It pacifies all three Doshas, and helps to build immunity. Ghee lubricates all the joints and muscles, provides essential lipids to the cells, and also keeps the skin, eyes and hair in optimum condition. Eating small amounts of ghee in your diet is the best way to benefit from its properties. Aim for a maximum of 3 tsp a day.
Milk seems to be frowned upon a lot nowadays, but when Ayurveda was first practised, cows lived as organic and natural a life as you could imagine. They weren’t injected with hormones or separated from their calves in order to provide milk for large populations of humans. They are considered sacred in India, and are treated accordingly. If you like milk, make sure you buy the milk of grass fed cows or goats, living on small farms, where they roam free and eat pesticide -free grass. If you prefer not to drink milk, use an alternative type of nut or grain milk to make your spiced bedtime drink.
Spiced bedtime milk
1 mug milk of choice
A big pinch each of ground nutmeg, cinnamon, cardamon, turmeric.
1/2 tsp poppy seeds (don’t add them if you you feel you are someone who sleeps well and for lengthy periods- you are probably a Kapha dominant person)
1/4 tsp organic ghee
Heat the milk in a small saucepan with all the spices until hot. Make sure you whisk it from time to time with a small whisk to distribute all the spices.
Pour into your mug and add the ghee. Stir well and drink slowly, and mindfully, half an hour before bed.