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Stress, said a wise man, is the common cold of the psyche. How true!
Only, while the common cold strikes twice—or at the most, thrice—a year, stress has become a constant presence in our minds and bodies.
How deeply stress has penetrated our psyches is evident when you consider this image. Imagine yourself standing eyeball to red eyeball with a giant Rottweiller dog.
Psychology tells us that in life-and death moments like these, the body prepares for a “fight or flight” response. In just about thirty seconds of panic, look what happens to your body. Your palms tingle. Your hair stands on end. Your temples start to sweat. You break out in gooseflesh. Your spine shivers. Your eyes dilate. Your heartbeat quickens. Your blood pressure rises. Your stomach turns an angry red, and digestion switches off. Your bladder loosens. A prominent nerve stands out on your forehead. The blood drains from your face. Your body releases dozens of emergency chemicals to deal with the situation.
Now imagine something even more frightening. Imagine your mind trapped in this situation for a whole waking day. Hour after hour, day after day, year after year throughout your lifetime. The fight-or-flight reaction developed as a sudden response to a life-threatening situation, not a constant state of mind—and body. But unfortunately, that is just what is happening in the modern world.
How Ayurveda Looks at Stress
Ayurveda, the 5000-year-old system of healing that originated in India, advocates some very common-sense ways of dealing with stress. To treat stress, an Ayurvedic physician, known as a vaidya (literal translation: one who knows), will first try to get to the root cause of your stress. This he will do by asking you questions about your diet, sleep habits, and general lifestyle. Vaidyas are trained in pulse diagnosis—just one minute of silently holding your wrist and they can glean a wealth of information about the inside story of your body, and mind.
Ayurveda believes that every individual is a unique combination of three doshas or body types: Vata, Pitta and Kapha. Though vaidyas recommend stress-busting measures based on your individual body-type, there are some general guidelines that will benefit just anyone, irrespective of body type.
Start Your Day Right
Even if you are terribly rushed, don’t miss breakfast. Make it a habit to eat a stewed apple every morning. Here’s how to stew it: Skin and quarter an apple. Then stab a clove into each section, and lightly cook the apple in cinnamon-flavored water. Discard the cloves and eat the apple. Cooked this way, an apple a day can keep Mr. Stress away, say vaidyas.