Ayurveda And Mental Health: Managing Stress And Anxiety Naturally
Stressed out? Anxious? Feeling like you’re on the edge of a mental breakdown? Take a deep breath, my friend. And then another one. And maybe one more. Okay, now that we’ve all calmed down a bit, let’s talk about Ayurveda and how it can help us manage stress and anxiety naturally.
First things first, let’s get one thing straight: stress is not inherently bad. In fact, a little bit of stress can be good for us. It can motivate us, help us stay focused, and keep us on our toes. The problem comes when we experience too much stress, for too long, without any relief. That’s when stress turns into chronic stress, which can lead to anxiety, depression, and a whole host of other health problems.
Finding Your Dosha Balance
So, what can Ayurveda do to help? Well, Ayurveda is all about balance. When our doshas (our unique constitution) are in balance, we feel healthy, happy, and whole. When they’re out of balance, we feel… well, you know how it feels.
According to Ayurveda, our unique constitution is made up of three doshas: Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. Each of these doshas is made up of different elements and qualities, and together they determine our physical, mental, and emotional characteristics.
Vata comprises the elements of air and space, and it’s associated with qualities like creativity, movement, and lightness. Pitta comprises the elements of fire and water, and it’s associated with qualities like ambition, intensity, and intelligence. Kapha comprises the elements of earth and water, and it’s associated with qualities like stability, strength, and endurance.
Our doshas are constantly shifting and changing based on various factors, including our environment, diet, lifestyle, and even the time of day or season. When our doshas are balanced, we feel healthy, happy, and whole. But when they’re out of balance, we can experience a range of physical and emotional symptoms.
For example, if your Vata dosha is out of balance, you might experience symptoms like anxiety, insomnia, dry skin, and digestive issues. If your Pitta dosha is out of balance, you might experience symptoms like anger, inflammation, heartburn, and acne. And if your Kapha dosha is out of balance, you might experience symptoms like lethargy, weight gain, depression, and congestion.
So, why is it important to balance our doshas? Well, when our doshas are in balance, we’re better equipped to handle the stresses and strains of life. We have more energy, better digestion, and a stronger immune system. We’re more resilient, both physically and emotionally. And we’re better able to tap into our natural strengths and abilities.
On the other hand, when our doshas are out of balance, we’re more vulnerable to physical and emotional illness. We’re more likely to experience stress, anxiety, and depression. We might have trouble sleeping, digesting food, or maintaining a healthy weight. And we might feel like we’re not living up to our full potential.
And lucky for us, Ayurveda offers a variety of tools to help us bring our doshas back into balance and manage stress and anxiety naturally.
When Stressed, Practice Self Care!
One of the most important tools in the Ayurvedic toolbox is self-care. When we’re stressed and anxious, it’s easy to neglect ourselves. We stop eating well, we stop exercising, we stop doing the things we love. But this is exactly when we need self-care the most. So, Ayurveda encourages us to prioritize self-care, whether that means taking a long bath, spending some time in nature, or simply taking a few minutes to breathe deeply.
Ease Away Stress With Breath Work
One Ayurvedic breathing exercise that can help calm anxiety is Nadi Shodhana or alternate nostril breathing. Here’s how to do it:
- Find a comfortable position on the floor or in a chair, with your back straight and your feet flat on the ground.
- Rest your left hand on your left knee, palm facing up, and bring your right hand up to your nose. Use your right thumb to close your right nostril gently.
- Inhale slowly and deeply through your left nostril, counting to four.
- At the top of your inhale, gently close your left nostril with your right ring finger.
- Pause for a moment, holding your breath.
- Release your right thumb and exhale slowly and steadily through your right nostril, counting to eight.
- Inhale through your right nostril, counting to four.
- At the top of your inhale, close your right nostril with your right thumb.
- Pause for a moment, holding your breath.
- Release your ring finger and exhale slowly and steadily through your left nostril, counting to eight.
- This completes one round of Nadi Shodhana. Repeat for a total of 5-10 rounds.
The idea is to do this breathing exercise so you can focus on your breath and the sensation of the air moving in and out of your nostrils. By slowing down your breath and focusing your attention, you can calm your mind and reduce feelings of anxiety.
It’s important to note that if you feel lightheaded or dizzy at any point during this exercise, you should stop and return to your normal breathing pattern. And as always, if you have any concerns about your health or your ability to do this exercise safely, it’s best to consult a qualified healthcare practitioner.
Another key tool in the Ayurvedic approach to stress and anxiety is mindfulness. Mindfulness is all about being present in the moment, without judgment. It’s about noticing what’s happening in your body and your mind, without getting swept away by it. Mindfulness can help us break the cycle of stress and anxiety, by giving us a way to observe our thoughts and emotions, without getting caught up in them.
Herbs For Stress and Anxiety
Ayurveda also offers a variety of herbs and supplements that can help us manage stress and anxiety naturally. Ashwagandha, for example, is an adaptogenic herb that can help our bodies adapt to stress. Brahmi (also known as Bacopa) is a powerful herb for the mind, and can help improve memory, focus, and cognitive function. And of course, there’s always chamomile tea, which has been used for centuries to calm the nerves and promote relaxation.
So, if you’re feeling stressed out and anxious, don’t despair. Ayurveda offers a whole range of tools to help you manage stress and anxiety naturally, from self-care to mindfulness to herbs and supplements. Just remember, the key is balance. When we take care of ourselves and our doshas, we can manage stress and anxiety in a healthy, sustainable way. So take a deep breath, and let Ayurveda be your guide.