In one week, I had to put down my favorite cat, adjust to one of my adult children moving back home after graduating from college, send off another one to college, and help a family member get into a rehab program. I was in such a task mode that when the weekend came, I felt too exhausted to do anything.
You know the feeling. Maybe you’ve had to put out so many fires or had so many emotional experiences that you almost feel numb. It can be hard to focus. You don’t know what to do next. And it’s at that moment that you can always turn to your Ayurvedic practices.
Vata is the king of all doshas. When you experience extreme stress, most often, Vata will go out of balance, whichever your dominant dosha. The reason is because Vata is comprised of space (akasha) and air (vayu). Think of all the things you do when you’re stressed; you run around like a crazy person, your mind races, and you text or check your email non-stop. There is constant movement. The idea to rebalance is to stop the erratic movement and to channel it more effectively.
Try the following to rebalance your Vata:
- Stop what you’re doing, take a few deep breaths, and regroup.
- Sit down with a hot cup of Vata tea and make a list of the things you need to do and put them in order of importance. Make sure you include in this list a scheduled time to eat, meditate, and sleep. The Vata dosha thrives on routine even though a Vata person resists it.
- Honor your body’s need for rest.
- Reduce or eliminate caffeine, which can make you jittery, anxious, and dehydrated.
- Keep your body warm.
- Eat warm, thick oily foods such as hot cream soups, stews, or warm milk with nutmeg and cardamom.
- If you have nervous energy you need to burn off, do some yoga, go dancing, or take a leisurely walk with a friend.
- Use your creative talents to unplug from your troubles and write, paint, play music or knit.
Stress responses in a Pitta typically arise as anger, criticism, and obsessive behavior. A Pitta person wants everything to be just right and according to his or her will. However, reality is, you can’t control everything and everyone, so it’s important to relax. The drive of the fire element is what will get a Pitta type into trouble when situations overwhelm him or her. The idea of a Pitta stress-release practice is to reduce the fire to a gentle flicker.
In other words, cool off. There are many ways to do this, including:
- Go for a swim.
- Take a brisk walk outdoors in nature.
- Do a breathing practice, such as alternate nostril breathing (nadi shodhana).
- Simply walk away from the situation.
- Eat cooling foods such as cucumbers, fresh mint, raw fennel, and mango.
- Drink coconut water or aloe vera juice.
- Avoid hot and spicy food, which will aggravate Pitta.
- Use aromatherapy oils such as lavender, jasmine, and sandalwood. My favorite incense for Pitta pacifying is the Chopra Center Satwa incense. I find it’s an immediate stress-release.
- Learn to laugh. Laughter is something all stressed-out Pitta types need. As trivial as it sounds, the fire element can make you take everything too seriously. Learn to laugh at yourself, even when you make mistakes. Watch funny movies or videos. Join a laughter yoga class.
As a Kapha person, you process stress very differently from a Vata or Pitta type. You take on your stress internally. And while it takes you a long time to actually feel the accumulation of stress, when it hits you withdraw. Your water and earth elements combined make you inert, keep your feelings inside, and make you sad and even depressed. You won’t want to get up and do anything.
Your prescription is going to look quite different than your Vata and Pitta counterparts. You will need to get going and do something. For example, you can try the following:
- Hit the gym.
- Go outside and garden fiercely for an hour.
- Go to the mountains for a day-long hike or, even better, take a picnic with you so you’ll have the reward of relaxing with a good meal afterward.
- Let a good friend take you out of your routine to jump-start your energy levels.
- While you are usually the one doing the listening, ask that friend if she can listen to you this time while you vent your frustrations.
- Stay away from sweets and overeating. During this time of high-stress, it can be easy for you to turn to food, especially sweets, but it’s best to opt to de-stress in other ways.
- Get a massage.
- Get your nails done.
- Watch a theatre production.
- Walk through a museum.
- Avoid dairy products and meat, especially during high-stress times. They will cause inflammation and bring on the heaviness of Kapha.
The Holistic Nature of Ayurveda
Dealing with stress the Ayurvedic way for all dosha types includes a well-rounded and complete approach to healing, which is also spiritual in nature. Ayurvedic philosophy embraces the concept that coming back to balance must be addressed at many levels: physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual.
The greatest and best way you can do this is to broaden your perspective when stressed. Realize there is a bigger picture out there. Anything and everything you’re dealing with is a part of something bigger. Nothing exists in isolation. When you allow yourself to take a step back and see the situation for what it really is versus what it feels like at the moment, your perception of stress will be diminished. Remind yourself that you are not alone. You are a part of a bigger whole. The part that you play in the dynamic of the whole universe is important and worthy. And the obstacles you face are challenges you must overcome in order to fulfill your destiny.
Therefore, when you become stressed beyond what you think you can handle, ask yourself, “How does this experience enter into the grander scheme of things?” And then through service and being a part of something bigger than yourself, you will find the stress drifting away.
Discover how to tune into the wisdom fo your body and recognize when something is amiss -- before disease or illness strikes at our 4-day mind-body wellness workshop, Journey into Healing. At Journey into Healing, Chopra Center master educators will reveal the easy-to-master, proven-effective Ayurvedic ways of tuning into and treating imbalances (the root cause of disease) without creating imbalances elsewhere in the body. Click here to learn more.