Stress is the basic cause of various diseases and mental illness in human beings. It is the ‘wear and tear’ our mind and body experience as we attempt to cope with our continually changing environment.
Stress is a person’s response to an environmental condition or a stimulus, with an impact on his mental and physical well-being.
For many people stress is part of everyday life and can be beneficial, but when you are constantly bogged down by stress, your mind and body pay the price.
When you sense danger, real or imaginary, the body’s defense gets into high gear in a rapid automatic process known as ‘fight – or – flight – or – freeze’ reaction, or the stress response.
The stress response is the body’s way of protecting you. When working properly, it helps you stay focused, energetic and alert, and in emergency situations, this can save your life, giving you extra strength to defend yourself. Stress response helps you meet challenges, but beyond a certain point it stops being helpful and starts causing major damage to your health, mood, productivity, relationships and quality of life.
Modern medical science sees body as a machine that can work when given an order. It never considers a person as an environment with consciousness and self-respect.
When people work together in a congenial atmosphere, an interaction develops between them, leading to a positive response to their psyches. This progresses into a tension-free working atmosphere, interspersed with small periods of rest and work. This enables a person to continue for a long time without tiredness.
The body needs resting phases to get the tissues repaired. Even when we think that a muscle is continuously on work, certain fibers of the muscle go to rest while others take up the action. This is the reason why we yawn and take deep breaths during long-term assignments.
With machines as job partners, such relaxations never happen. We will be in a stressful mood, competing or imitating the machine.
External factors like major life changes, financial problems, high workloads with unrealistic deadlines, negative atmosphere, family problems etc can trigger or cause stress.
Stress and illness
A keen study on pathology of any illness will reveal a psychological cause. Psychosocial factors such as stress, depression etc seem associated with physical health. Life style diseases like diabetes/insulin resistance, hypertension, back pain, shoulder pain etc to serious health problems related with cardiac, nervous system etc cause/trigger by stress. So stress control is major part in treating any diseases.
Heart diseases: The links between brain and heart are so obvious. Stress will affect factors that increase heart disease risk: high heart rate, blood pressure and cholesterol levels, smoking, physical inactivity and overeating.
Psoriasis/Seborrheic dermatitis – Stress is a common trigger for a psoriasis flare. At the same time, a psoriasis flare can cause stress. According to the National Psoriasis Foundation’s Mental Health Issue Brief, psoriasis is independently associated with stress-related disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder. Women, in particular, seem particularly vulnerable to stress due to psoriasis.
Body pain/Fibromyalgia – When in stress, muscles in the neck and back go stiff. Perfusion of blood through a stiff muscle will be less, due to which repairing of muscles gets delayed.
By working continuously with sore muscles, we injure them, and the repeated strain causes inflammation and pain. Eventually the functions of the muscle are affected, losing its texture, elastic nature and holding capacity.
Fibromyalgia, a widespread pain syndrome caused by increased pain sensation, also gets triggered by stress. And it can also magnify all the other pain syndromes.
Computer eye syndrome – The same thing can happen to the eyes as well, if you are working with a visual-aid, giving unnatural load.
Migraine – If the same happens to the blood vessels of the brain, it goes spastic, resulting in migraine.
Insomnia – Stress causes hyperarousal (unusual alertness) of the nervous system, leading to sleeplessness.
Digestive Problems/ Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) – Digestion is controlled by the enteric nervous system, a system composed of hundreds of millions of nerves that communicate with the central nervous system. When stress activates the ‘flight or fight or freeze’ response in your central nervous system, digestion can shut down because your central nervous system shuts down blood flow, affects the contractions of your digestive muscles, and decreases secretions needed for digestion. Stress can cause inflammation of the gastrointestinal system, and make you more susceptible to infection.
IBS is a collection of symptoms such as cramps or pain in the stomach area, constipation — infrequent stools that may be hard and dry, diarrhoea — frequent loose stools alternating between diarrhoea and constipation, feeling like you have not finished a bowel movement, mucus in the stool, swollen or bloated stomach area, gas, discomfort in the upper stomach area or feeling uncomfortably full or nauseous after eating a normal-size meal. Women with IBS may have more symptoms during their menstrual periods.
A stressed personality faces a higher risk of high blood pressure and heart problems. Stress leads to abnormal food habits and cause obesity, which can worsen asthma and diabetic conditions. Stress accelerates aging and is connected with higher rates of depression and anxiety.
How we manage
According to Ayurveda, our inability to deal with stress is an imbalance or lack of coordination of the three main mental functions: dhi (learning), dhriti (retention) and smriti (long-term memory), and by lack of ojas (energy) in the body. In Ayurveda, the stress management is aimed at relieving the stress by achieving a calm and concentrated mind to better cope with stress in the future.
Stress is like traffic congestion, where mind is assigned to handle it like a traffic police. Effective and consistent management of stress, which can be achieved by meditation, yoga, sirodhara and massage, make the mind clear, focused and calm.
Medicines like brahmi, which is medhya (brain tonic), will give good mental strength and ability to handle stressful situations comfortably.
Meditation provides you with a sense of peace and balance that benefits both your emotional well-being and overall health. And these benefits do not end with your meditation sessions. Meditation can help carry you more calmly through your day and even improve certain medical conditions. Meditation have direct effect on heart rate.
Yoga is a series of postures and controlled breathing exercises to promote a more flexible body and a calm mind. For example, savasana helps improve memory and concentration, reduces nervous and muscular tensions, lowers blood pressure and heart rate, and gives relief from fatigue and insomnia. As you move through postures that require balance and concentration, you are encouraged to focus less on your busy day and more on the moment.
Shirodhara deeply relaxes the nervous system, lowers metabolism, and integrates brain function. When the brain is under stress, cerebral circulation is compromised. As oil is poured on the forehead, the nervous system is deeply stilled. The brain waves slow down and become coherent. Once the brain is quieted, more life, energy, oxygen and other nutrients flow freely into it. The result is better brain function, mood stability and improved stress handling ability.
During massage, the perfusion of blood to the muscle is increased and repetitive fine movements relax the smooth muscles. The relaxed muscles eventually get repaired to relieve the symptom.
Stress is like a double-edged sword. If you have good control of your mind, it is beneficial. The combination of Ayurveda, yoga and meditation gives a good mental strength which helps to manage stress.