Stress is now widely recognised as a direct cause of many illnesses today, such as hypertension, asthma, anxiety, and irritable bowel syndrome. Just how deeply the mind and body are interconnected is also being explored by the new field of psychoneuroimmunology. Scientists in this field study how our nervous system and immunity are interrelated. Studies show when there is a surge of stress we release hormones which in turn suppresses our immune system. This helps explains why people who suffer from chronic anxiety, depression and tension are found to have double the risk of certain diseases such as arthritis, severe headaches and heart disease. Stress has also been shown to compromise the immune function to the extent that it can both cause and accelerate cancer.
With 12.5 million working days lost due to work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2016-17 we need to take stress seriously. What triggers a stress response in each person varies widely and today’s busy lifestyle is all too conducive to stress. Sensory overload is also growing problem and a common cause of stress due to the steady assault of emails, use of smart phones, watching TV, noise and air pollution. It’s also clear some people are more sensitive than others.
Ayurveda offers deep insights into the nature of stress and what we can do about it. Vata, pitta and kapha are the mind-body types that help us to understand why our body functions in certain ways, but also how we can best help ourselves. Ayurveda views stress as a disturbance of the nervous system, which is mainly regulated by vata dosha. This dosha has natural qualities such as being cold, light, subtle, and erratic and is easily disturbed by too much sensory stimulation, too much food, too much time pressure and too much to do.
An understanding of your dosha mind body type can clarify what your stress triggers are, and how to bring yourself back to a more balanced state through diet and lifestyle suggestions. You’ll probably be able to recognise which mind body type you might be as you read the following, or take our dosha quiz if you’re still left wondering.
There are many ways in which you can support the body through these times of change- through diet, lifestyle and through the use of healing adaptogenic herbs. Adaptogenic herbs help the body to adapt to both physical and mental stress within the body. They work by nourishing the power houses of the body, the adrenal glands, which in turn helps balance the production of stress hormones. This ensures we respond to stress triggers in a more balanced way. Some good examples of herbs to help us deal with stress are Ashwagandha, Tulsi and Brahmi.
The key to managing stress is self-knowledge and awareness. We may not be able to change the pressures we face but if we know our dosha or mind body type we can use it to identify weak spots.
- Vata types need to stay grounded and take time for self-care.
- Pitta types can aim for moderation and to try and be more understanding of others.
- Kapha types do well to keep active and to practice the art of letting go.
Whatever your dosha, we all need to take time out to consciously relax. We can use this time to quietly observe our feelings and access a deeper awareness of the source of stress. From here, we can then choose between reacting to a stress trigger and instead responding, guided by Ayurveda and the dosha.