10 Ways to Manage Stress Effectively
Stress is inevitable in today’s world. Even with a successful career and a supportive family, you might have varying sources of stress.
There might be someone throwing you off balance or making you pull your hair. For instance, a heated conversation at the grocery store or in the parking lot can linger in your head for a long time, making you feel stressed for no reason. A recurrent car breakdown, a nagging friend or abnormal weight gain are some of the causes of stress that may seem trivial but can have long-term implications. While going through situations such as these, one may start looking for ways to manage stress.
However, stress can be tricky and can take various shapes. At times you may find everything around you annoying or upsetting. You find yourself yelling at people that are close to you, or seething at a minor error made by a coworker. We often think that it’s an expression of anger, but it’s the accumulated stress that often comes out bursting in the form of anger.
If it’s inevitable, why even bother about it?
Chronic stress lowers your productivity as well as your ability to be creative. It also interferes with your emotions and affects your personal life. Recent studies have revealed that stress can trigger various illnesses like asthma, irritable bowel syndrome, hypertension, and acute anxiety. Stress also leads to a surge in hormones affecting our immunity and putting us at a risk of heart diseases, migraines, and other severe health concerns.
How to reduce stress?
Although stress is inevitable and deeply entrenched in our lives, we can learn to keep it from spiraling out of control.
Ayurveda and stress go back a long way. According to Ayurveda, every individual is a microcosm of the universe or the larger world around us. And the stress that we feel is a manifestation of the external chaos.
While we can’t do much about what’s going on around us, we can learn to adapt ourselves to the situation and keep stress at bay.
Understanding Stress in Terms of Doshas
How you respond to stress can reveal a lot about your doshas.
Individuals with Vata as their birth constitution or prakriti respond to stress with anxiety, fear, and worry.
Individuals with Pitta as their birth constitution or prakriti respond to stress with frustration, anger, and impatience.
Individuals with Kapha as their birth constitution or prakriti respond to stress with depression and withdrawal from the situation, often accompanied by lack of energy.
How to relieve stress and anxiety?
Knowing your stress response can help you get to its root cause. By pacifying the elevated or deficit doshas in your body, you can lower your stress levels and restore balance in your life.
In this article, we are sharing the top 10 ways to reduce stress. Anyone can benefit from these tips, regardless of their birth constitution (prakriti).
1. Abhyanga – Ayurvedic Massage Using Oil
Massaging herbal oil into your skin every morning can release muscle tension and have a soothing effect on your mind and senses. In addition to that, this age-old practice can help calm your nerves, ensure proper lubrication for tissues, and promote blood circulation throughout the body.
Abhyanga is done with warm oil, and it’s important to choose the right herbal oil in order to derive maximum benefits from this practice. Kerala Ayurveda provides a wide range of herbal massage oils, and you can choose based on the results you want to achieve. It is recommended to use Chandanadi Thailam to calm your tense nerves and combat insomnia. Massaging with Chandanadi thailam benefits adults of all ages with various stress-related conditions.
Abhyanga is known to reduce stress levels and normalize heart rate to promote relaxation. It also keeps blood pressure in check, reduces muscle stiffness, and improves skin health.
How to perform Abhyanga?
Abhyanga can be performed by yourself at home. Here’s a step-by-step guide to performing self-massage.
- Pour herbal oil in a bowl and immerse it in a pot of hot water to warm it up. You must not heat the oil directly as it may lose its healing properties upon boiling.
- Apply the oil over your body. Then gently massage in circular motion working your way down to shoulders, arms, chest, legs and feet.
- Let your skin absorb the oil for 10 minutes. During this time, sit back and let the oil do its magic.
Once you are done with the massage, get into a warm shower and remove excess oil from your skin using a gentle cleanser.
Dinacharya refers to the daily routine prescribed by Ayurveda in order to align your body, mind, and spirit with the master cycle of nature. While it’s not possible to list out and follow all the activities, here are a few of them that you can easily introduce in your lifestyle.
- Wake up an hour before sunrise
- Drink at least 300ml warm water every morning
- Along with brushing, scrape your tongue and do oil pulling.
- Use sesame oil or herbal massage oils to massage your body as mentioned above and then get into the shower.
- Practice breathing techniques(pranayam) while taking a bath
- Devote 15-20 minutes to meditation or gentle Yoga
- Make sure your breakfast meal is warm and wholesome
- Have your lunch before 1 PM and take a short walk after that.
- Ayurveda advises against taking a nap during the day, especially if you are Kapha prakriti.
- Have your dinner 2-3 hours before bedtime. Use the time before bedtime to walk and massage your feet. Doing this will aid digestion and help you sleep better.
Dinacharya is quite easy to follow, and you will get used to it in a couple of weeks. Here are some of the benefits that you will experience after following this routine.
- Helps you connect with the rhythm of nature and become aware of your surroundings
- Healthy, disease-free lifestyle
- Reduces the level of stress
- Brings discipline, peace, and happiness to your life
- Boosts digestion and helps your system absorb nutrients from the food
Following Dinacharya is a great way to reduce stress and promote a healthy lifestyle, especially when combined with a balanced diet and gentle exercise.
3. Take a bath
When you are feeling stressed and can’t take it anymore, your first response might be to fall asleep. While it does calm you down, sleeping on your problems is not the best way to deal with them. Taking a therapeutic bath instead is one of the proven ways to cope with stress
Taking a bath, in general, helps you unwind after a long, stressful day at work. However, adding baking soda and ginger powder to the water can promote relaxation and healing. Use hot water for a more soothing experience. Individuals with pitta as a predominant dosha should use lukewarm water.
Due to elevated stress levels, your body ceases to function at its best. Adding these ingredients to your bath water can improve circulation and facilitate sweating and detoxification, which helps release stress.
This therapeutic bath is recommended in the evening or before bedtime to soothe your nerves and help you fall asleep quickly. While bathing, indulging in an aromatherapy session can help ease your stress.
4. Rasayana therapy
This is an ancient Ayurvedic therapy to rejuvenate the body and mind using a combination of herbal medicines, dietary regimens, and the overall code of conduct. Rasayana therapy can be had at a certified Ayurveda wellness center, and there are several ways to administer Rasayana therapy depending on your objectives. Before we get into that, let’s have a look at various benefits of Rasayana therapy apart from relieving stress.
This therapy can benefit your mental and physical health in more ways than one. It promotes digestion and helps strengthen your tissues to elevate your energy levels. It also improves the brain’s capacity to think, be creative, and make better decisions in professional and personal life.
As much as this therapy helps in building immunity and resistance against stress, it also helps you age gracefully.
How to release stress with Rasayana therapy?
Rasayana therapy is classified into two types, which are complementary to each other: Dravya and Adravya Rasayana. Dravya Rasayana consists of herbal formulations like shankhpushpi, brahmi, and Vacha, to facilitate improvements in certain areas of health. For example, aging, eyesight, immunity, and brain capacity.
On the other hand, Adravya Rasayana involves following a regimen like meditation, life conduct that puts you in sync with the master cycle of nature and promotes overall wellbeing. Ayurveda recommends Adravya Rasayana in order to derive the maximum benefits of Dravya Rasayana.
5. Meditation & Yoga
When you are stressed out, your body releases the stress hormone – cortisol – which enhances your ability to deal with the fight or flight situation. While this is your body’s natural mechanism to cope with stress, too much cortisol can be detrimental to health.
Meditation is a proven way to keep cortisol at its optimum levels. Also, Yoga is a combination of controlled breathing and physical poses that anyone can do. However, yoga has various forms and difficulty levels, and you can get better at it with time and practice.
The physical poses in Yoga include a series of movements to stretch your body along with controlled breathing. Yoga can be learned online at home or in a more conducive environment, such as a certified Yoga center.
On the other hand, meditation is more about mindfulness and focusing on the present moment. It’s not going to be easy initially. Your mind will wander in the realm of random thoughts. But you can try to bring it back by simply observing your breath.
Most people think that stress is a mental condition. This is not entirely true. While it may originate in your mind, its effect trickles down to the physical level where it starts affecting your body as well. If you are wondering how to cope with stress, hit the gym or exercise at home.
Exercising is a great way to combat stress and its physical implications. Studies have shown that exercise triggers the production of endorphins. Endorphins neutralize negative emotions such as stress and anxiety and fill your body with positive, feel-good vibes. Exercising is also a great way to channel your anger, promote relaxation and get rid of toxins through sweating.
Exercising doesn’t necessarily mean hitting the gym and lifting weight. You can pick any activity that you like. For example, trekking, swimming, cycling, dancing, brisk walking.
While sometimes it’s good to enjoy your own company, isolation can be detrimental to your mental health in the long run. And we all have learned this the hard way during the pandemic. It’s the basic human need to socialize and feel a sense of security and belonging. Depriving yourself of this experience can gradually eat away at your mental peace, creativity, and overall wellness.
Socializing is often linked to the production of a hormone called oxytocin. Oxytocin reduces the symptoms of anxiety, boosts confidence, and makes you more likely to seek out social contact. As you can see, the result stimulates the cause and thus perpetuates the cycle unless you break it deliberately.
Also, spending time with people you care about distracts you from your stress triggers temporarily and makes you feel included.
Everyone is busy trying to get more work done in less time. However, sneaking out of this efficiency trap once in a while can allow you the time to reflect and unwind, which is one of the best ways to reduce stress at work and beat mental fatigue.
If you are an introvert and don’t feel like actively reaching out to people, there are some other ways to build your social muscle. For example, find a workout buddy for your exercise regimen or join a hobby club.
8. Practice Nasya
Nasya is an Ayurvedic practice of putting medicated oil in your nostrils to eliminate the excessive bodily fluids in the nasal cavity, throat, and sinus. Now you might ask how to overcome stress with Nasya?
Practising Nasya regularly not only clears up the nasal passage but also alleviates stress and improves mental clarity.
Using a different herbal formulation for Nasya has a different purpose and outcome. And there are several herbal oils that you can use according to your personal preference and feel better instantly.
Nasya can be performed at home following a few simple steps.
Lie down on your back and crane your neck to get your nostrils facing up. If you are lying on the bed, throw your head off the edge or place a cushion beneath your upper back or neck to lie comfortably in this position.
Put a couple of drops of herbal oil in your nostrils and let that coat the inside of your nose.
If you can’t do it alone, ask a family member for help.
9. Read an inspiring book
Reading is a great way to ground your energy and calm your mind. If you are feeling low due to a roadblock or temporary failure in your career or personal life, reading an inspiring book can lift your spirit and point you in the direction of progress.
When you sit down to read, make sure all your gadgets are stashed away. You need a distraction-free environment for your reading time to be highly nurturing and productive
According to a study at the University of Sussex in 2009, reading for six minutes can help reduce stress by up to 68%. Imagine what reading every day would do to you. Most people read books in their free time, and they see it as an enjoyable experience. If you are not one of them, try reading one paragraph every day. Once you are committed to reading one paragraph a day, it won’t be long before you become an avid reader for life.
10. Get Adequate Rest
In today’s fast-moving world, taking breaks is often looked down upon. More often than not, people tend to feel guilty for taking time off, thinking they could get more work done if they didn’t leave their desks. This notion can be counterproductive in the long run. While it’s okay to burn the midnight oil to meet a project deadline, making it an everyday practice will end up burning you out.
That is why it is important to get ‘adequate’ rest between and after work. While the term ‘adequate’ may have different meanings for different individuals, as a general rule of thumb, sleeping at least 7 hours a day and taking a 5-minute break after 30 minutes of focused work are some of the sustainable ways to manage stress.
‘How to handle stress’ is one of the most commonly asked questions these days. However, the right question to ask is ‘how to avoid stress’, and the tips mentioned above on how to manage stress can help you do that.