How to reduce stress and anxiety? What foods you should eat to increase your body’s ability to handle stress? And how can Ayurveda help you to manage and relieve stress?
Perhaps these are some of the questions that brought you in here today. Now, whether you are overwhelmed with stress symptoms or looking to get a better handle on your life with Ayurvedic natural ways, you will find answers here.
Research indicates that stress, anxiety and mental wellness health issues affect the functioning of more than 70% of the world’s population today.
Everyday we are bombarded with stuff coming in our professional and personal lives. Sometimes, it is the old stuff that we are learning to cope up with and other times it is an entirely new problem that challenges our daily course or the ways of life.
While these may not be life threatening, they still stimulate our body’s nervous system in the same way as dangerous stressors did. Yet, these ever cropping up stressors are something that we can’t completely eliminate.
That’s why it is so important that we learn and practice ways to reduce stress in your life and increase our body’s capability to handle these seemingly stressful situations.
In this post you will learn about highly effective Ayurvedic natural ways to manage stress. We will go into the details of how you can reduce stress by supporting your mental wellness. Also, we will check out best foods, Ayurvedic herbs and yoga that can help you. Let’s get started!
Why and How to Reduce Stress?
Stress is a tool of nature to help us cope with difficult situations. When ever we are stressed, it activates a series of actions in multiple body functions that allow us to prevent the stressful situation or face it head on.
But then, we have taken undue advantage of this. We have abused the privilege. We expose ourselves to stressful situations that have not been programmed by nature, and yet expect that we will be perfectly fine.
Our body does not know the difference between stress from a pursuing dog, or stress from the excessive workload in the office. As far as it is concerned, stress is stress. So, for as long as we expose yourself to stressful situations, we remain in a state of stress. Stress response remains activated.
However, when we develop detrimental stress symptoms as a result, we go and purchase medications, drink coffee, skip more sleep, squeeze out more time to attend stress management lectures (more stress sometimes)…And still nothing helps. In fact, it just makes the whole thing worse!
That’s why it is so important that we learn how to reduce stress in our life in the first place. And at the same time increase our mental and physical threshold to daily stressors.
We need to get over putting duct tape on our mental wellness issues and manage stress strategically to reduce it permanently.
How to Reduce Stress with Ayurveda?
Ayurveda can help to relieve and manage stress by improving our body’s stress response to daily stressors.
Ayurvedic natural ways focus on strengthening and rejuvenating the endocrine system (related to stress hormones) and nervous system (related to how we react to stress). Here’s how:
- Aahara (Food)
- Vihara (Lifestyle)
- Aushadhi (Adaptogens)
- Yoga and Pranayama
Let’s discuss these through and understand how Ayurvedic can help to reduce stress.
1. Adaptogens to Relieve Stress
Adaptogenic herbs and foods are one of the most unique naturally occurring medicinal compounds in the world. Adaptogens are termed so (from the word ‘adapt’) as they activate our energy systems and enable us to adapt and sustain high levels of physical and mental distress.
The herbal ingredients in this group of herbs reduces stress by improving the functioning of the multiple endocrine system glands. Here’s a detailed post on 11 adaptogenic herbs that you can use to lower cortisol and reduce stress.
How do Adaptogens reduce Stress?
The adrenal gland is in charge of managing the hormonal stress response. The adaptogens exert a calming effect on the adrenals. Therefore, it makes sense to say that these compounds strengthen this response and help the body cope with anxiety and fatigue.
Here is another way adaptogens help with stress.
Stress brings about a three-stage response called General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS). The three stages are alarm, resistance, and exhaustion.
Adaptogens help you stay longer in the resistance stage before crashing into exhaustion. They act like an invisible shield that protects you from getting stressed out.
Health Benefits of Adaptogens
To name a few, here are some of the benefits you can derive from adaptogens.
- Possesses anti-aging properties
- Increases metabolism
- Helps to build vital organ strength
- Improve energy levels and emotional stability
- Known to increase the life span
- Nourishes the nerves and support mental acumen
- Improve endocrine function
- Have no negative long term side effects
- Increased metabolism
- Enhanced immunity
- Better sleep
Adaptogens that can help reduce stress naturally
- Licorice root
- Amla – Indian Gooseberry
- Tulsi – Holy Basil
- Asian Ginseng Root
Some of the adaptogens that have been mentioned above make excellent meals also. They can be the actual meal, additives as spices, etc. You can be creative with the way you incorporate them into your diet.
2. Yoga to Relieve Stress
Yoga activities can help to reduce and prevent the severity of many ailments that specifically affect women’s health and give strength, stability and suppleness.
In addition to that, you can also use Yoga for stress and anxiety. Yoga has been long known as an antidote to stress. It combines a lot of calming and relaxation techniques that are individually useful for reducing stress.
When you perform Yoga, you benefit from a clear mind and a relaxed body.
Yoga asanas for reducing stress and anxiety
Yoga techniques are referred to as Yoga asanas or Yoga poses.
Many Yoga asanas abound for various purposes. However, here are just a few Yoga asanas to manage stress:
1. Uttanasana (Standing forward bend)
Uttanasana helps to relieve mild depression and stress and calms the brain. This pose also stimulates your kidneys and liver. In addition, uttanasana strengthens the knees and stretches the hips, calves, and hamstring.
How to perform Uttanasana
- Stand straight and bend forward.
- Stretch your body to touch your palms to the ground.
- Straighten your legs for a better stretch.
- Remain in this position for three to four deep breaths.
- Return to the original position.
2. Vajrasana (Thunderbolt Pose) with Garudasana (Eagle) arms
Usually, when we are stressed, the shoulders are slumped, and we push and squeeze the back as we go. This pose successfully counters that effect by
creating a broad back,
How to perform Vajrsana
- Kneel and sit back on your heels.
- Bend your elbows and bring the right elbow into the left, with the backs of your hands facing each other.
- Pass your right hand in front of your left and bring the palms together, thumbs pointing toward the tips of your nose (grab your wrist if you can’t press your palms together).
- Hold for five breaths, then reverse your arms and hold for another five breaths.
3. Sukhasana (Easy Pose)
Sukhasana will lengthen your spine and open your hips. It will also help you calm down and eliminate anxiety while reducing mental and physical exhaustion.
How to perform Sukhasana
- Sit down with your spine straight and legs extended in front of you.
- Bend your knees, bringing your left foot under your right knee and your right foot under your left knee.
- Keep your palms on your knees.
- Align your head, neck, and spine.
- Gaze ahead and pay attention to your breathing.
- Hold the position for 60 seconds
- Switch the position of the legs
4. Savasana (Corpse Pose) with blocks on head
This is Savasana with a little variation. This one uses blocks on the head, one to steady and the other resting on the forehead to calm the mind.
How to perform Savasana:
- Lie down on your back with legs straight and heels slightly apart.
- Adjust position till you’re comfortable
- Take your arms alongside your torso with your palms facing up.
- Place one block on the ground about 3 inches above the crown of your head (the block should be at its highest height).
- Place the second block on the one that is above your head and angle it down to rest on your forehead.
- Stay in this pose for 5–10 minutes.
5. Paschimottanasana (Seated forward bend)
Paschimottanasana will stretch your spine, hamstrings, and lower back. Apart from relieving stress, this pose is capable of reducing the symptoms of PMS, improves digestion, stimulates the liver, reduces fatigue, and relieves the symptoms of menopause.
How to perform Paschimottanasana
- Sit down with your feet extended forward.
- Bend forward till your stomach touches your thighs.
- Hold your feet with your hands.
- Hold this position for 30 seconds, then return to the original position.
6. Prasarita Padottanasana (Wide-Legged Standing Forward Bend)
7. Balasana (Child’s pose)
8. Halasana (Plow Pose)
9. Ananda Balasana (Happy baby pose)
10. Sasangasana (Rabbit Pose)
3. Reduce stress with Pranayama
Did you know you can calm yourself simply by taking deep breaths? You’ve done it before, most likely. In that case, Pranayama is no longer new to you. You’ve practiced it before.
But there’s more to Pranayama than just taking deep breaths. Pranayama is a set of breathing techniques used in Ayurvedic medicine. Pranayama has a lot of tremendous benefits.
Here’s a detailed post on pranayama exercises that you can begin with to manage and lower stress.
What you can benefit from Pranayama?
Pranayama can be considered as one of the Yoga techniques. As such, it comes with the benefits of Yoga and more of its own:
- It ensures a higher amount of oxygen reaches the skin, thereby improving skin health.
- Improves digestion by helping to calm the gut-brain axis.
- Keeps the lungs healthy and can keep away such conditions as asthma.
- It helps to improve the quality of sleep and overall quality of life
- These breathing techniques improve airflow, prevent blockages, and keep the sinuses healthy.
- When you take those deep breaths, the typical effect is that your heart slows. In that way, Pranayama helps to regulate heart rate.
- Pranayama can reduce psychological stress and make you feel more relaxed.
Pranayama | Deep Breathing Exercises to Relieve Stress Naturally
1. Slow exhalations
Yes, this is the one you’re much familiar with. Almost everyone does this, And truly, it is one of the best of them. Inhale and exhale slowly.
Physiologically, your heart rate picks up when you breathe in and slows down when you breathe out. Therefore, inhale, and then exhale slowly.
In that way, you can bring your heart rate down.
2. Bramhari (Bumble bee breath)
This asana is called the bumblebee breath because of the sound you have to make while performing it. It is like that of a bumblebee.
As before, you inhale and exhale slowly, but this time you keep your lips sealed and make an ‘M’ sound while exhaling.
Exhale for as long as you can. However, don’t stretch to the limits of your endurance. Else, it will have the opposite effect. Your heart rate will pick up and you will feel more stressed instead.
3. Ujjayi breath (ocean breath)
This is quite common also. You make a sound like the ocean.
It is also performed with the mouth closed and the throat constricted. This brings about a restriction in airflow, causing the ‘ocean sound’ to be made as you are breathing.
4. Sahita khumbaka Breath
Khumbaka means ‘retention of breath.’ This is not to be confused with ‘holding of breath.’
The essence of this breathing technique is to be aware of your breathing cycle, not to control it. You are to pay attention to the point where your breathing switches from inhalation to exhalation. Take note of it with each breath. You will find this a very relaxing exercise.
5. Nadi shodhana (Alternate nostril breathing)
The technique is quite obvious from the name. It’s like you breathe through one nostril and then through the other.
Here is how it goes.
- First, inhale with both nostrils and exhale as you normally would.
- Next, block your right nostril with your thumb and index finger(preferably of your right hand), and inhale through the left.
- Release the right, block the left nostril, and then exhale through the right nostril.
- Next, inhale through the right nostril.
- Then release the left, block the right, and inhale through the left nostril.
This is one round, and you can perform five rounds.
When done right, Pranayama is very stress-relieving.
4. Practice a Stress Free Lifestyle!
What causes you to be under stress in the first place? It’s lifestyle! Some factors are under your control, and you can choose. Some are not, unfortunately, but those that you can influence, then influence them.
If you practice all the other techniques, yet you live your life such that you’re always exposed to stress, you will not get the maximum benefit.
So, what do you do? How do you live? What should you do differently?
How to Reduce Stress and Anxiety with Lifestyle?
How do you live your life to cope with stress? Here goes?
1. Live a healthy lifestyle
How do you do that?
- Establish and maintain a healthy diet
- Reduce caffeine and sugar.
- Keep off cigarettes, drugs and reduce alcohol and caffeine.
- Take a break when needed.
- Have good sleep hygiene.
- You can’t always be self-sufficient. Ask for help when you need it.
- Be optimistic and always look ahead to the light at the end of the tunnel.
2. Be active and engage in regular exercise
- Exercise regularly. Target 30 minutes a day. That’s just 150 minutes or 2.5 hours in a week.
- Engage in brisk walking instead of taking a taxi.
- Take up gardening or other tasks that require being up and about but are not stressful.
- Do not over exercise. While regular physical activity is important, excess leads to physical and mental stress.
- If possible, exercise in the morning rather than evening.
3. It’s okay to relax and have fun
- Take up a hobby
- Go to the movies
- Have a good conversation with a friend or loved one.
- Listen to good music that you enjoy
- Appreciate yourself for every milestone reached.
4. Avoid stress
- Avoid people who stress you out.
- Stay away from topics of discussion that get you upset.
- Steer clear from potentially argumentative topics like politics, religion, etc.
- Manage your time such that you don’t have multiple deadlines pressing on you at the same time.
5. Be flexible and adaptable
- Understand that things cannot always work your way.
- Know when to shift your expectations. Adjust deadlines that are within your power to do so.
- Learn to forgive and let go.
- Cut your coat according to your size and live in moderation.
6. Regular Massage Abhyanga
Abhyanga is gentle massage of the whole body. It should be carried out daily to improve circulation, support nervous system and Vata dosha in a natural holistic way.
Take warm sesame oil to rub on the soles of your feet and scalp before you sleep in the night or after waking up. This is one of the revered Ayurvedic ways to calm the mind down and reduce stress.
5. How to Reduce Stress with Your Diet?
Ayurvedic diet to reduce stress focuses on Vata Pitta balancing diet.
This is because both Vata and Pitta dosha act in stress response mechanism of the body. When you balance Pitta dosha, you also greatly increase your chances of balancing hormones as cortisol. Vata dosha controls nervous function and mental stimulation response to the stressors.
Here’s how you can tailor your diet to offer the maximal benefit for stress management and stress relief.
1. Ayurvedic Dietary Habits to Follow
- Increase the intake of warm foods and drinks. All of these are balancing for Vata Dosha.
- Maintain regular meals and follow scheduled timings.
- Use spices as fennel and cumin.
- Avoid excess salt, chilies, spices, sour foods, and pickles.
- Reduce the use of caffeine, stimulants, refined sugar, and cold drinks.
- Stop consuming junk food, and carbonated drinks.
- Avoid untimely meals, multiple meals, late night foods, and snacks.
- Stop the consumption of processed foods and packaged foods.
2. Whole Grains, Beans and Lentils
Whole grains help to balance Pitta and Vata dosha. Foods such as brown rice, millets, wheat, oats, beans, lentils and barley support the stress response mechanism of the body.
- They provide our body with essential minerals, vitamins, antioxidants that increase our body’s resistance to bear physical and mental stress.
- Support our body’s metabolism and slowly release glucose to provide energy to brain and body.
- Promote healthy funcitoning of gut bacteria by acting as prebiotics. This helps to release more Serotonin and other brain relaxing chemicals in the body.
3. Healthy Fats
Get omega 3 fatty acids from plant based foods as nuts (cashew, walnut, and almond), seeds and fatty fish to support healthy brain cells.
Omega 3 fats are a good tonic for the brain and are good muscle relaxants too. Nuts and seeds also contain the minerals magnesium, phosphorus, and vitamin E. They pacify all three dosha, yet may aggravate Kapha when taken in excess.
Omega 3 foods act as antioxidants that help relieve oxidative stress of the brain cells. This prevents oxidative damage to the brain and muscles.
4. Sweet and Juicy Fruits
Sweet and sour fruits such as amla, banana, berries, cherries, pomegranate are helpful to balance Vata dosha and Pitta dosha.
Fruits are rich in vitamins and minerals, which helps to lower the levels of the stress hormone (cortisol) in the body.
5. Green tea
Green tea keeps cropping up in numerous places. That is because it has a load of benefits packed in it. It is an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, digestive, and spleen tonic.
Green pacifies Pitta and Kapha and aggravates the Vata dosha in excess.
Drinking one or two cups of green tea is proven to reduce the incidence of psychological distress by 20%. Green tea also has a calming effect.
6. Take in Magnesium rich foods for Mood and Brain
Magnesium rich foods help to prevent anxiety and period problems. They also promote brain health and heart health.
- whole grains
- dairy products
- leafy greens
Take care of your health!
Long-term, chronic stress has a lot of adverse effects, and you should not let it get so bad before you take measure to combat it.
These tips are an excellent place to start.
However, you are advised to get an expert opinion from your healthcare provider before trying anything.
Before you Go!
Ayurvedic stress management ways greatly improve your body’s ability to adapt to stress physically and mentally. These are the guiding principles to improve your health in the long term while excelling in our fast paced lifestyle.
Practice them regularly and feel the difference right away.
Now we want to hear from you. Are you actively managing stress in your life? If yes, then what are you currently doing to support your health and which natural ways do you find the most effective?
Do write to us for any queries and feedback. We will get back to you the soonest.
Wishing you vibrant health!
- STRESS – MANAGEMENT : LEADS FROM AYURVEDA
- Pranayama Meditation (Yoga Breathing) for Stress Relief: Is it Beneficial for Teachers?
- Slow and Deep Breathing Exercise (Pranayama) For a Stress Free Life amongst Medical Students, E-ISSN: 2349-9788; P-ISSN: 2454-2237
- Deekshitulu Balaji: Stress Management Through Ayurveda, ISSN:2320 5091