Stress is a common occurrence these days and can be extremely harmful for your health. What makes matters worse is that with no time to relax and unwind its ill effects simply build up and make matters worse. So, to help you be stress free, here are 5 everyday practices that can help beat stress and keep you healthy. Stress is a natural response to situations we have to face, but the fact remains that a similar situation may leave one individual a mess but another, untouched.
What this implies is that how stressed you feel largely depends on the way you choose to respond to a stressful situation. With the right diet, breathing techniques and the use of adaptogenic herbs, it is possible to alter this response and cultivate a positive attitude that will help us face life’s challenges with courage and strength, without losing our cool.
According to Ayurveda, food possesses three qualities or gunas – sattva, rajas and tamas. Sattvik food is light, fresh and nutritious, rajasik food is spicy and fans emotions, and tamasik foods are stale and promote the sense of inertia. Obviously, the consumption of a diet rich in rajasik and tamasik foods is bound to keep you in a state of mind that is most conducive to stress whereas a satvik diet helps keep the mind calm. Certain herbs such as cardamom (elaichi), lettuce, celery, peppermint, chamomile and fennel (saunf) contain phytoconstituents that have wonderful relaxing properties. Make these a part of your diet in the form of herbal tea or by working them into the dishes you cook for some stress relief.
Ayurveda recommends the use of adaptogenic herbs (that help the body and mind adapt better to stressful conditions) over time can also help you cultivate a calm mind that does not easily get swayed by extreme emotions. Herbs such as aswagandha, jatamansi, guduchi, brahmi, tulsi and shankhpushpi help restore the imbalance in your doshas that make up the body and mind. However, it is important you avoid self-medication with these herbs – have them only under the prescription of a registered Ayurvedic practitioner who is well-versed with their use.
Have an oil massage
An oil massage has a number of health benefits and one of them is stress relief. According to Ayurveda, abhyanga – the application of oil to the entire body – at regular intervals is an easy way of relaxing not just the body, but also the mind. Use any oil – castor, sesame or coconut – heat it and rub it into your scalp and all over the body; allow the oil to remain for an hour or two and then bathe with hot water. You will actually feel the stress and strain wash out of your system. For even better relaxation, mix in a little powder of shankhpushpi or brahmi into the oil you use for the massage.
Cut down on unhealthy beverages
Most of us are addicted to some form of liquid stimulant that we believe makes us more alert and able to deal with the myriad things life brings our way. Caffeine and alcohol tends to increase feelings of anxiety and stress. Cut down on your intake of such beverages and you are sure to observe your stress levels becoming much more manageable. Apart from increasing your stress levels soft drinks also have a lot of unhealthy side effects, so giving up that one habit can do you a world of good.
In our constant rush to meet deadlines and do things on time, our breathing takes a backseat. A lack of proper deep breaths greatly reduces the amount of oxygen circulating through your body. This is a major reason for stress related damage to the body. To combat this, make it a point to breathe in slowly and deeply a few times every morning and night – feel your stomach and chest expand as you inhale, and fall as you exhale. Breathe in as you slowly count from 1 to 5, hold for five counts and then exhale while counting from 1 to 5. If possible, learn the techniques of pranayama from a qualified instructor and practice it every day.