Today, the role of stress as the basic cause of several diseases is well recognized in Ayurvedic as well as modern medicine. Stress in medical terms is understood as an abnormal response produced in a person’s mind which disturbs his or her mental balance. Thus, stress is considered a normal part of life that brings emotional, physical as well as mental changes. It is something that anyone can feel with his or her body, from his or her thoughts, and his or her surroundings.
Stress in Ayurveda
In Ayurveda, Stress is defined as a disturbance in the nervous system that is mainly regulated by Vata dosha. A proper understanding of Dosha can clarify the major reason behind the Stress. Stress might result from an imbalance in any of the sub doshas or a disturbance in the Emotional or Physical environment.
Types of Stress
Stress is of three different types based on duration of occurrence:
1. Acute Stress:
The most common type of stress is Acute Stress. In this, the body responds instantly to a change in stimuli – a new challenge, new demand, or change in demand with a fight-or-flight response. This immediate response is an instant reaction in a situation involving a fight or an argument with a friend or any loved one. However, as per the research studies, this stress has a positive effect – it prepares the individual to handle such situations with a calm and resolute attitude in the future, instead of being anxious or restless.
2. Episodic acute stress:
When acute stress happens repeatedly within a short duration of time then it becomes Episodic Acute Stress. People who are suffering from personality disorders or depression are at higher risk to develop this type of stress. Such individuals often become Irritable, Anxious with anger-management issues. Sometimes certain chronic medical problems also result in episodic acute stress.
3. Chronic stress:
Prolonged Stress- either acute or episodic becomes chronic. The main causes for this are a constant bad job, poverty, poor relations with family or physical problems like diseases of the heart, lungs or liver. Although this is non-communicable, however a family history of the same might aggravate the stress levels.
Stress and symptoms:
Today, medical researches and studies have proven that stress is responsible for more than 95% of all diseases and infections – directly and indirectly. Hence, stress needs to be managed and treated with alternative holistic healing. This healing process begins with recognizing or identifying four specific types of stress affecting the body and the lifestyle which needs to be altered to de-stress.
Cause of Stress:
Physical stress is caused due to
- Related to trauma due to – injury, infection, surgery.
- Intense physical labor/over-exertion.
- Environmental pollution (pesticides, herbicides, toxins, heavy metals, inadequate light, radiation, noise, electromagnetic fields).
- Any kind of illness (viral, bacterial, or fungal agents).
- Inadequate oxygen supply.
- Hypoglycemia I(low blood sugar).
- Hormonal and/or biochemical imbalances.
Dietary stress is caused due to
- Nutritional deficiencies.
- Food allergies and sensitivities.
- Unhealthy eating habits.
- Substance abuse.
- Dental challenges.
- Musculoskeletal misalignments/imbalances.
Psychological or emotional stress is caused due to an imbalance in emotions like
Cognitive stress is caused due to
Accelerated sense of time, worry, guilt, shame, jealousy, resistance, beliefs, roles, stories, attitudes, world view, attachments, self-criticism, self-loathing, anxiety, panic attacks, a sense of not being in control), and perceptual stress.
Psychosocial stress is caused due to
Strained relationship with partner, siblings, children, family, employer, co-workers, employer or difficulty in marriage, lack of social support, inadequate finances, loss of employment.
Symptoms of stress:
Cognitive: Panic attacks, nervousness, poor concentration, difficulty with retention.
Emotional: Feelings of tension, claustrophobia, restlessness, constant worries, depression.
Behavioral: Avoiding tasks; insomnia, fidgeting; tremors; clenching fists; crying; changes in drinking, eating, or smoking patterns.
Physiological: Stiff or tense muscles, grinding teeth, sweating, tension headaches, faint feelings, choking feeling, difficulty in swallowing, pain in stomach; tendencies like – nausea, vomiting; Improper bowel movements and digestive problems like constipation, imbalance in urination, loss of libido, fatigue, tremors, exceptional weight loss or gain.
Social: Withdrawal syndrome, changes in equation with the closed ones or at the workplace.
Outcomes Of stress:
Needless to say, the outcomes of stress are not pleasant. When stress-related feelings, moods, emotions are pushed into the body which is termed as the psychosomatic or psychogenic illness it results in headaches, heart palpitations, physical/cognitive/emotional pain and suffering, constricted breathing, clammy palms, fatigue, nausea, anxiety, allergies, asthma, suppressed immune function which increases the vulnerability of the body towards diseases, hormonal imbalances (adrenal, pituitary, thyroid, etc.) and gastrointestinal disturbances such as diarrhea, upset stomach, duodenal ulcers, and esophageal reflux syndrome.
The fact that stress plays an important role as the basic cause of several diseases is well recognized in Ayurveda, where stress is known as sahasa. Charaka has always advised avoiding sahasa as it causes ojahksaya (loss of immunity) which makes the body more vulnerable to various diseases and infections.
Stress and its Diagnosis:
The level of stress that the body can cope up with is called “eustress” while the inability of the body to cope up with it becomes – distress! Thus, one should focus on making the eustress better to make the body better. Distress leads to several ailments like hypertension, coronary artery disease, peptic ulcer, asthma, migraine, ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, diabetes mellitus, behavioral disorders like anxiety and depression, and a whole lot of diseases.
When the symptoms of stress are observed in a person for a prolonged duration then the individual must consult a doctor. From the answers of the individuals, the doctor will rule out some possible causes such as adverse effects of medications, health problems, drug abuse, and other psychiatric diseases or find out the most possible causes like family history, emotional problems, financial issues, etc.
Doctors often suggest steroid-based medicines for destressing. However, the major disadvantage is once stopped consuming then they have lasting ill effects on mental and physical health. Sometimes these side effects also cause some life-threatening disorders such as depression etc. But, stress can be treated easily with Ayurveda- naturally without the side effects of steroids.
Following a nutritious diet with a healthy lifestyle naturally helps to keep stress away. Eating leafy vegetables, enough cereals, and healthy proteins helps to keep the organ systems of the body healthy and properly functioning. Giving up on bad habits like alcohol, smoking, drug abuse, etc., keeps the body efficient. Regular workouts or exercises boost the supply of oxygen to the body.
Healthy communication with friends and family, developing a good hobby, or all these little personal choice can work wonders n keeping stress away, easily!
Stress management with Ayurveda
In Ayurveda, regular intake of Rasayana to increase the coping capacity of the body is advised.
A lot of these Rasayana have demonstrated significant stress attenuating effects
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