Stress: it’s been on our lips and minds a lot lately, and for a good reason. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused significant disruption to our lives and livelihoods, the realities of a dangerous virus confront us every day in the news, and widespread economic instability has – unsurprisingly – got more people than ever feeling stressed and anxious.
While this unprecedented spike can be tied to the pandemic, stress has been on the rise for decades. Our modern lifestyles are characterised by incredibly demanding jobs and constant pressure to be productive in every area of life. We have so little time to care for ourselves that we rarely stop to realise just how stressed – how run-down, how riddled with aches and pains – we really are. Stress has become so pervasive that the World Health Organisation called it ‘the epidemic of the 21st century’.
Indeed, stress has become the new normal for many. But in accepting stress as part and parcel of modern life, we ignore one crucial fact: that prolonged stress can have devastating effects on our mental and physical health.
Characteristics of stress & anxiety
Anxiety and stress are two of the most common features of everyday life. With life becoming more demanding, faster-paced and further from our natural state of balance, more and more people are experiencing symptoms of prolonged stress. This uncomfortable state of being is characterised by:
● Lack of energy
● A constant feeling of being rundown
● Poor sleep quality (such as insomnia or waking up tired)
● Inability to relax
● Lack of motivation or difficulty focusing and a general feeling of apathy
All the above symptoms can ultimately lead to longer-term illnesses, such as:
● Mild to moderate depression
● Poor memory function/ brain fog
● Uncontrollable anger/ frustration.
This invisible modern disease underpins an array of chronic conditions, which can rarely be treated with the primary solutions of western medical treatment: drugs or surgery. Because the fact is that chronic conditions develop gradually, usually as a result of lifestyle factors. Research in this area suggests that 90% of health problems arise from chronic illness. How much sleep we get, the food we eat, how much we exercise, and – quietly affecting all other factors – how much stress we experience, and how we manage it, all have a profound effect on our mental and physical health.
Stress can creep up on us, and eventually, our symptoms develop from minor discomforts into serious conditions, including physical ailments such as:
● Teeth grinding
● Digestive problems
● Headache or migraine
● Weight gain/ loss
● High blood pressure
● Heart diseases
● Exhaustion & many more
Industry data suggests that 80% of the money we spend on pharmaceuticals is to treat chronic illnesses. But where western medicine focuses on treating the symptoms of stress – insomnia, depression, high blood pressure, fatigue – Ayurveda focuses instead on finding the root cause, treating it naturally, and curing it holistically. Because it’s simply not possible to treat an epidemic of lifestyle-related illness treating the symptoms.
Ayurvedic view on stress and anxiety
According to Ayurveda, stress and anxiety can create an imbalance in your life by unbalancing your dosha. Once you start experiencing the symptoms of stress and anxiety, both your physical and mental health deteriorate quickly.
This can be explained with a simple example relating to digestive function. When someone is under a lot of stress, their appetite is often affected. Their appetite may diminish, causing malnutrition that inhibits the body’s natural healing abilities or increases, causing them to engage in emotional eating when they aren’t hungry or late at night when their digestive system needs rest. In both cases, we accumulate a buildup of toxins in our body due to improper digestion. These toxins further weaken our immune system and lead to an array of chronic illnesses.
Treating stress with Ayurveda
It is very important to treat anxiety and stress holistically with an approach that takes into account both your physical and psychological well-being. Holistic healing is at the core of Ayurvedic medicine because only by looking at the bigger picture – body, mind and lifestyle – can we identify the root cause of illness and treat it.
One way that Ayurveda treats stress is with herbal remedies used to treat illness for thousands of years, such as Brahmi, Shankpushpi and Jatamamsi. Along with herbs and diet, Ayurveda also advocates self-directed exercises such as pranayama (breathing technique), yoga, and meditation, all of which are proven to contribute to the reduction of stress hormones in the body and overall physical and mental health.
Ultimately, Ayurveda is not just about treating the symptoms of illness. Instead, Ayurveda focuses on prevention and treatment of chronic illness by protecting and nurturing the body’s natural immunity and healing ability. Ayurveda – also known as the science of life – teaches us how to live happily and healthily, trading invasive surgery and pharmaceuticals with undesirable side effects for natural remedies and lifestyle choices.
Read more about what the WHO says about work-related stress and how to manage it, or book a consultation with one of our Ayurvedic physicians to discover how ancient healing practices can change your body and your life for the better.