Not only does each one of us react differently to stress, but different types of stressors may also elicit completely different reactions from the same person.
Stress can make one person feel anxious to the point of devouring a stash of candy, while someone else may experience a loss of appetite and lash out at their significant other. Yet another may feel hopelessly powerless and resigned to inaction and lethargy!
Similarly, different types of stress may evoke different reactions from the same person. A looming deadline may make you feel one type of stress while a traffic jam could trigger a completely different kind.
Ayurveda believes our reaction to stress is determined by our dominant mind-body or ‘dosha’, but for simplicity’s sake, we’re going to boil stress down to 3 distinct types and give you the Ayurveda recommended remedies for each of them.
Now, you may experience one, two or all three of these types of stress at different times, depending on the stressor and your mind-body state. So, the key to effective stress management is recognizing what kind of stress you’re experiencing so you can deal with it in the quickest way possible.Let's take a look at the three stress types:
1. Hyper Stress
In the case of a Vata imbalance, that means plenty of warmth and grounding. Here’s what your hyper stress needs:
Food: Warm, thick oily foods such as hot stews, creamy soups, or warm milk with nutmeg and cardamom
Activity: Anything that keeps your body warm- if you need to burn off your nervous energy, take a yoga class or a leisurely walk or then just dance it out in your living room.
Herbs and Oils: Warming ones such as Ginger, Cinnamon, and Cardamom that balance Vata
Pranayam (Breathing Exercises): Ujjayi breathing to ground the mind. That’s when you keep your mouth closed and begin by imagining you are breathing in from the base of your throat to create a sort of whispering sound that lengthens your natural breath.
Yoga: Slow, meditative practice, including Tadasana (Mountain Pose), Vrkasana (Tree Pose), Balasana (Child's Pose), Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend), and Halasana (Plow Pose)
2. Anger Stress
This is the kind of stress that makes you angry, critical and borderline obsessive- you just can’t let it go!
According to Ayurveda, this kind of stress is caused by a ‘Pitta’ (fire element) imbalance and needs to be balanced by finding ways to cool down as below:
Food: Cooling foods such as cucumbers, melon, fresh mint and raw fennel and drinks like coconut water or aloe vera juice
Activity: Swimming or taking a walk if it’s cool outside.
Herbs and Oils: Lavender, Jasmine, Sandalwood and Rose
Pranayam (Breathing Exercises): Alternate nostril breathing to cool down. Close the right nostril with the thumb, and exhale your natural breath out the left nostril. You will keep the hand where it is, and simply inhale deeply through the left nostril. Then closing the left nostril with the ring finger, exhale out the right. Continue on like this, alternating the inhale and exhale from side to side for 5 minutes.
Yoga: Mild Hatha, gentle Vinyasa, Restorative, or Iyengar Yoga; include twists and seated forward folds like Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose), Janu Sirasana (Head-to-Knee Pose), and Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend)
3. Paralysis Stress
Finally, this is the kind of stress that paralyses you into inaction and can even make you feel borderline sad or depressed. You don’t feel like getting up and doing anything – except eating.
According to Ayurveda, this kind of stress is caused by a ‘Kapha’ (water and earth element) imbalance and needs to be balanced by finding ways rev up your system as below:
Food: Light foods such as artichokes, broccoli and cranberries; avoid sweets, nuts and full fat dairy
Activity: Hit the gym! Anything strenuous and stimulating is good for you.
Herbs and Oils: Rosemary and Frankincense
Pranayam (Breathing Exercises): Kapalabhati (Shining Skull Breath). Breathe in but not all the way to the top of the lungs, just a normal inhale, and then exhale forcefully such that your belly is pushed in. Repeat, focusing on the exhale and letting the inhale happen as a matter of course.
Yoga: Heat producing, vigorous movement including Sun Salutations, backbends, and inversions; practice chest-opening poses, such as Dhanurasana (Bow Pose) and Ustrasana (Camel Pose), and heart-opening poses, such as Matsyasana (Fish Pose) to lift up your spirits.
And finally, for the Universal Stress Buster (this works on ALL types of stress): Acceptance.
On a happier note, this daily affirmation helps us accept and even embrace our stress: