Soldier Returning Home After Years of War. Happy Daughter Welcoming Her Dad at Home. Troop Returning Concept.

Not all injuries can be quantified; the damage caused by traumatic memories and stress on psychology is difficult to appraise with precision. Mental health is an integral and essential component of health, and the ability to cope with stress is the cornerstone of emotional well-being.

We all have to cope with stress and unprecedented events in our lives, but some professions face challenges regularly, which can deeply impact their psyche, and quality of life.

“Servicemen and military personnel are often confronted with a range of unique challenges and situations, which may not only hamper their physical health but also their mental wellbeing”

Among the various mental challenges faced by them, post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD is a major one. During deployment, it is extremely common for military personnel to witness traumatic events, life-threatening situations, acts of violence and, atrocities that can challenge their fundamental beliefs about the world and humanity.

Ayurvedic approach to Mind and Body

“Ayurveda with a very holistic approach has long described the intricate balance of Manas (mind), Shareera (body), Atma (soul), and Indriyas (senses),as being the Epitome of Health”

This goes well beyond the paradigm of the mere absence of disease, as Ayurveda focusses on optimal physical, psychological and spiritual wellbeing. The insightful perspective of dealing both mind, and body together as a unit and placing equal importance in fine-tuning the functions in a healthy person as well as to balance the disturbances of mind and body in the diseased, forms the unique basis of Ayurveda to achieve positive health.

Ayurveda has described three manogunas (qualities of mind) similar to the tridosha concept: sattva (clarity), rajas (arrogance) and tamas (inertia). Of the manogunas, rajas and tamas are regarded as manodoshas (mind-vitiators), the imbalance of which affects the mind and lead to manovikaras (afflictions of mind) along with improper diet, faulty lifestyle, and stress. Manas (mind) perceives knowledge through indriya or the five senses while shareera doshas; vata, pitta and kapha and manogunas are interrelated and complement each other.

“Just like every person is born with a unique ratio of vata, pitta and kapha which determine his prakriti (inherent psychosomatic constitution), the relationship of three manogunas determines the mental constitution of a person which is subjected to change over time according to our diet, stress levels and lifestyle choices”

Manas has subtle and minute srotas or channels that carry thoughts and sensory energy and are critical in maintaining a balanced state of mind. An interplay of doshas, psychological state and gunas (qualities) result in manovikaras or disorders of mind which ultimately lead to manovaha srotodushti or blocking of energy flowing channels of mind. What is extremely interesting though is that hridaya or heart along with sensory pathways is considered to be the moolasthana or origin of the all-pervading manovahasrotas (energy channels of mind), which stresses on the fact that the unfortunate experiences that we have in our life can ultimately lead to negative emotions resulting in derangement of manovahasrotas and cause psychological imbalances.

A Brief History on PTSD:

The diagnosis of PTSD did not exist until after the Vietnam war; its effects were downplayed because of the stigma surrounding mental health conditions. It was described as merely being battle fatigue or shell shock. It was famously dismissed by Gen. George Patton as “cowardice”. Nearly 700,000 soldiers sent to Vietnam later required help with PTSD symptoms. It was a previous misunderstanding that only the ‘weak-willed’ soldiers suffered from PTSD. Diagnostic developments and studies of Post-Vietnam syndrome later led to a broader understanding of the connection between traumatic events and their long-term psychological effects.

PTSD can happen to anyone who has experienced or witnessed a traumatic event. Although it can happen to anyone, it is more common among war veterans; nearly 15 times more than civilians, due to the various hardships they face during deployment.

“Up to 15% of US soldiers returning from deployment are diagnosed with PTSD and in 2017 alone 6,139 former US veterans committed suicide”

The number of veterans who suffer from varying degrees of PTSD but don’t seek help due to stigma attached to psychiatric disorders is unaccounted and may be much larger than we know.

Understanding PTSD

PTSD is a long term and lasting consequence of a traumatic event in which serious physical harm occurred or was threatened. For most people who experience such an event, the after-effects usually fade out with time, but for a person with PTSD, the feelings don’t go away and might even increase, leading to difficulty in day to day activities. Each person has his/her unique ability to cope with stress and trauma while not everyone develops PTSD. It is marked by clear physical and psychological symptoms.

The type of help and support a person receives following trauma and repeated exposure will influence the development and severity of PTSD.

PTSD symptoms can be grouped into four categories:

  • Reliving the ordeal through intrusive recollections of the events, hallucinations, flashbacks, and nightmares. They feel extremely distressed when such reminders of the trauma occur. Words, objects, or situations that remind of the event can trigger re-experiencing symptoms.
  • Emotional numbness, avoiding places, people, situations, and activities that remind of the trauma. This can lead to detachment and social isolation.
  • Negative thoughts and feelings including distorted beliefs about oneself, trouble to recall an important aspect of the event and persistent feeling of guilt or shame.
  • Increased arousal and reactive symptoms such as excessive emotional outbursts, behaving recklessly, difficulty concentrating, being jumpy or easily startled, difficulty in sleeping and being easily irritated. There might also be some physical symptoms including increased blood pressure, rapid breathing, nausea, and muscle tension.

It is common for veterans with PTSD to experience functional impairment, depressive episodes, anxiety, alcohol abuse, and feeling suicidal at times.

Taming the Trauma: How Ayurveda can help combat PTSD

“Asatmya indriya artha samyoga (incompatible relation of senses with their objects), kala (time) and pragyaparadha (intellectual error) are described as the three causes of all diseases in Ayurveda”

In PTSD, witnessing events that are fearsome and disliked and loud noises cause perverted unison of vision and auditory senses while wrongful actions relating to mind, body and speech like bodily assault, torture, fear, anxiety, harsh talks constitute intellectual blasphemy. This initiates a complex chain of dosha dushti or vitiation of doshas on both shareera (physical) dosha and manodosha (psychological front) which manifests as PTSD.

Ayurveda suggests that a person suffering from stress should carefully consider what is beneficial for him and strive in discarding unwholesome regimen to achieve dharma (virtue), artha (wealth), and kama (desire), as no happiness in this world can transpire without these three elements. Acquiring the knowledge about self, family, time, season, strength, and then conducting oneself accordingly is to be done to eradicate diseases before it becomes full-blown malady.

Ayurveda embraces a more holistic approach in the treatment of PTSD, focussing on various aspects ensuring a customised plan according to individual needs. The genesis of manovikara (afflictions of mind) and its manifestation in each individual is unique and to restore the lost [ clarity of mental channels, Ayurveda embraces a wide array of therapeutic measures which include medicines, Panchakarma, nutrition,Yoga, exercise, and daily routine which improve overall health along with catering the spiritual well-being of the individual.

Ayurvedic Way of Living: Diet, Yoga, and Lifestyle Adaptations

Nutrition plays an important role not only in physical conditions but also in psychological wellness and plays a key role in the proper functioning of our senses. PTSD and other mental health disorders have been linked to unhealthy dietary habits and stress-related eating disorders, which can ultimately impact physical health.

“Manovikaras arising due to fear, grief result in vata pradhana tridosha dushti, the vitiation of tridoshas and Vata especially”

Vata in its balanced state leads to happiness, creativity and positive mental capacities while its imbalance leads to grief, fear, feeling anxious, and inhibits agni or digestive fire. Ayurveda believes that like increases like, and thus diet and lifestyle which calms vata along with proper use of therapies and medicine will result in an improved state of mind. Following a proper dietary, and daily regimen is a pragmatic, cost-effective, and easy way to improve stress levels associated with
PTSD. Developing a proper regimen with adequate time to practice exercise, spiritual practices, rest, will help us in prioritizing ourselves and naturally help in calming our mind, regardless of what happened in the past and what is going on in our lives currently.

Yoga and breathing techniques like Pranayama are getting global recognition in the field of Psychotherapy, and can help in dealing with the unresolved trauma which can manifest as PTSD.

Some lifestyle and dietary modifications which can be followed by people suffering from PTSD:

  • Prefer warm, nourishing, moderately heavy, unctuous food. Include more of sweet, sour, and salty tastes, and avoid bitter, pungent and astringent food.
  • Avoid eating when you are stressed and consume food in a peaceful, calm atmosphere with all your attention only towards food.
  • Avoid raw, uncooked food like salads as it vitiates vata and use spices like garlic, cloves, cumin, black pepper, and oils like ghee, sesame oil to prepare your food.
  • Light exercise and gentle, calming, and slow-paced Yoga postures which don’t aggravate vata like Paschimottasana (seated forward bend pose), Ardha matsyendrasana (half spinal twist pose) help in calming and relaxing the senses.
  • Practice Pranayama (breath control), and deep relaxation methods like Shavasana (corpse pose) and meditation, which help to clear the channels of mind, and restore the energy channels of the mind.
  • Maintain a proper daily routine or dinacharya which helps in balancing vita.
  • Wake up and sleep at the same time, and focus on the needs of your body.

Ayurvedic Way of Living: Supplements and Therapies

Using Supplements: Kerala Ayurveda’s Brahmi pearls and Ojas capsule

With the goodness of herbs like Bacopa, Butterfly pea, in a medium of ghee, Kerala Ayurveda’s Brahmi pearls capsule is a well-balanced composition which rejuvenates and enhances mental functions. It is excellent for individuals under stress, as Bramhi is a traditional brain nourishing herb and creates a peaceful sense of calm which can be immensely beneficial in stress associated with PTSD.

Ayurveda believes maintaining a good agni or digestive power and immunity is essential for a calm and peaceful mind. Ojas literally means vigour in Sanskrit.

Kerala Ayurveda’s Ojas capsule is a blend of digestive and anti- oxidant ingredients like ginger, black pepper, long pepper which supports good digestion and gently cleanses the body and impart optimum health.

Time-tested ayurvedic therapies that can help manage PTSD

Ayurveda has a plethora of procedures that help in soothing and calming your senses and provide complete relaxation of the mind and body which can be of immense use in PTSD.

Shirodhara-

      • Dripping of medicated oil or buttermilk over the forehead in a slow, steady stream also called Shirodhara calms the senses and supports normal functioning of mind and body and gives you a sense of tranquillity. This process balances vata dosha, clears srotas energy channels) and the continuous pouring of oil brings a sense of deep relaxation by working on marma (vital
        energy points) and removing sensory overload

Abhyanga-

        • Abhyanga, or daily massage, is highly useful in imbalances of vata and is included in dinacharya (daily regimen) in Ayurveda as it ensures optimal strength to senses and rejuvenation. Regular body massage with Kerala Ayurveda’s Pavan oil, which is a unique combination of naturally occurring vata pacifying herbs such as Licorice, Indian ginseng in a base of sesame oil and is refreshingly light and nourishing. Another time-tested massage oil is Kerala Ayurveda’s Dhanwantharam Thailam, which is named after Lord Dhanwanthari- the god of Ayurveda medicine. It is a combination of carefully chosen ingredients as mentioned in the vedic text and the ingredients are well-known alleviators of vata-dosha. Kerala Ayurveda’s Dhanwantharam Thailam is also an excellent recipe that helps provide relief from fatigue, stress and thus makes one feel energized.

It is a continuous challenge for those suffering from PTSD, to recover from the past trauma and nullify the effects it had on them.

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Ayurveda can help them build this window of resilience

through various simple yet effective measures that soothe the whole system and help them rebuild their lives with the hope of a new foundation and possibilities.

Adopt the Ayurvedic way of Living

Namaste ~