Your car breaks down on the highway. You have a fight with your spouse. The stock market plummets and your company announces layoffs. Your neighbor mows the lawn at 7 am. Something happens that violates your sense of how things should be, and you perceive danger―whether real or imagined. Such unwelcome events trigger the most ancient human impulse: the stress response.
The result is stress, now one of the most common words in the English vocabulary, describing everything from a missed appointment to a life-threatening diagnosis. In fact, the word stress has crossed over as a popular term in many languages, including Japanese, Spanish, Arabic, and Russian.
You are no doubt familiar with the myriad symptoms of stress―the tight jaw, shoulders, or neck muscles; irritability; anxiety; poor concentration; and insomnia―to name just a few. When your body is in stress mode:
As numerous scientific studies have found, chronic stress accelerates aging and makes you more vulnerable to serious illness, including heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer, panic attacks, immune deficiency, depression, stomach ulcers, chronic fatigue, and migraine headaches.
Knowing your mind-body constitution will help you understand your own response to stress. Ayurveda offers specific recommendations for each body type, including the most effective ways to cope with stress. You can take our dosha quiz to identify your mind-body type and learn more healing techniques.
Vata: Those whose predominant dosha is Vata have the greatest tendency towards anxiety and worry. Normally creative and lively, in the face of stress, Vatas tend to blame themselves for their problems and become extremely nervous and scattered.
Pitta: Pitta types are usually warm and loving, but if they’re out of balance, typically react to stress by finding fault with other people and becoming angry.
Kapha: The most even-tempered dosha is Kapha. Kapha types are usually easygoing and gentle, but when faced with overwhelming conflict or stress, they may withdraw and refuse to deal with the situation.
When you’re feeling overwhelmed or anxious, it is easy to forget that you have choices, and that there are many tools and techniques that can help you feel better. One of the most effective stress-relieving practices is meditation. A regular practice helps you go beyond turbulence, releasing stress, fatigue, and emotional turmoil. Even as your body is resting deeply in meditation, your mind is awake, though quiet.
Meditation gives you the experience of pure, restful awareness. As you meditate, the bodily reactions are exactly the opposite of the stress response: your breathing slows, blood pressure decreases, and stress hormone levels fall.
Learn more about how meditation can help you ease stress levels: Why You Should Start Meditating