STRESS AND DIGESTION
Stress is a fairly common part of the modern human experience and too much becomes harmful on the body in more ways than you may think. When we suffer from extreme stress, many systems in our body start feeling the effects - especially our digestive system. The brain and gut are connected and in constant communication, which means any amount of stress you’re feeling will show in your digestion. It can decrease blood and oxygen flow to the stomach causing cramping, bloating, nausea. It can also lead to unpleasant bowel movements like diarrhea and constipation, and result in inflammation and an imbalance in gut bacteria. Stress will also exacerbate GI disorders such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Peptic Ulcers and GERD.
The “Fight-or-Flight” response is evolutionary and in times of crisis and high stress our body, in an effort to protect us, goes into this mode. When this response begins, we release large amounts of cortisol, which reallocates the body’s resources, making the hormone bio-available to the brain and muscle group, so you can get yourself out of danger quickly. However, with this release, you also decrease urine production, increased inflammation, slow the digestive capacity and halt the immune response. If this was back in the stone age we’d spot the predator, initiate the response, avert crisis and recover. However, in this day and age, the circumstances have changed. Stressors have transformed and multiplied. Many of us stay in a mode of constant stress, and since the stress hormone cannot be turned off, residual hormones linger in our system, putting us into a state of chronic stress.
So what can we do to help ourselves while we adapt to the changes in our environment? One of Ayurveda’s foundational principles is that “like increases like” and that “opposites balance”. It relies on twenty qualities, or gunas, organized into 10 pairs of opposites, to describe various phenomena in the natural world. None of these qualities are good or bad, each of them supports equilibrium. However, too much or too little of one quality will throw all the rest off.
REDUCING, LIGHTNING, CATABOLIC GUNAS
LIGHT, SHARP, HOT, DRY, ROUGH, LIQUID, HARD, MOBILE, SUBTLE , CLEAR,
BUILDING, NOURISHING, ANABOLIC GUNAS
HEAVY, SLOW, COOL, OILY, SMOOTH, DENSE, SOFT, STABLE, GROSS, CLOUDY
When we break down the stress response to its most essential qualities, we can begin to understand which ones activate it and we gain knowledge of how to use opposing forces to regain balance.
Taking it easy
One of the most fundamental steps in helping stress is slowing down. Living in a fast paced world this seems like an almost impossible task. Find the courage to invite a slower, more balanced way of living into your daily lives, even if it begins gently with a single step. Start by allowing yourself 15 minutes of meditation once a day. Indulge in self-love and self-care, creating a deep connection with your self and your commitment to healing. Take a bath with calming essential oils, such as lavender. Practice Nasya, a method which soothes your breathing with medicated oils and relieves stress in the process. Massage your feet before bed to promote sound sleep and quiet the mind. When recovering from stress our bodies needs more rest- at least eight hours each night.
Commit to a daily routine
Routine helps us balance our stress and prepares us for what is ahead. A few adjustments to your daily routine can make more impact than some may think. Start slow by having your meals at the same time every day and sticking to a sleep schedule. Try to keep your sleep schedule consistent, falling asleep and waking up around the same time every day.
Try to incorporate some sort of exercise in your daily routine. Activity kindles agni, a metabolic fire, which is essential in digestion and detox. Proper exercise will promote sound sleep, release of tension and allow you to channel your mental and emotional energy. A daily 30 minute walk alone can help your mind, body and spirit.
Quiet the mind.
Prana, the vital breath, is the essence of life. Practicing Prana helps restore vitality and opens up energy channels while eliminating stagnation. tension, stress and toxins. Pranayama, yoga breathing exercises, is one of the best ways to allow this cleansing. Yoga moves Prana in the body and helps encourage fluidity. While practicing this, try meditation. Meditating helps us create passive awareness, and that can inform us on what is causing the stress and become fully in-tune with it. A daily meditation routine can help rewire the way we respond to stress and challenge.
The earth offers so many resources to allow our body’s to flourish. Incorporate herbs into your daily diet. Ashwaganda has been an herb long celebrated for its calming effects, promoting peace, calm mind and sound sleep. Valerian root helps with insomnia and nervous tension caused by anxiety. Brew up an herbal up of chamomile tea before bed to promote sound calm and sound sleep.