Stress and its Holistic Management

What is Stress?

Stress is normal physiological and psychological response system of the human body to the perceived stimuli from the external environment.

What kind of changes takes place in the human body following a stressful condition?

When a human is exposed to a stimuli or a dangerous situation, the Hypothalamus in the brain secretes a hormone called ARH (Adrenocorticotrophic Releasing Hormone) which in turn stimulated the Pituitary (an endocrine gland) situated int he brain to secrete ACTH (Adrenocorticotrophic Hormone). This ACTH further activates the Adrenal gland situated above the Kidneys to secrete Adrenaline and Cortisol hormones into the blood. Along with the hormonal system, the sympathetic nervous system is also activated to handle the situation.

The effects fo Stress hormones are –

  • Releases the extra energy required to counteract the situation by conversion of stored glycogen in the liver and muscles to glucose.
  • Increases the heart rate in order to pump extra amount of blood to the muscles and other parts for a swift action to the situation.
  • As there is increase heart rate, the respiratory rate also increases to supply the extra oxygen saturation required in the blood to meet the increased demand of blood in the tissues.
  • Increased pupil (aperture of the eye) dilation for better visual of the situation.

These changes mentioned above gears up our system to tackle the stress situation effectively. When percieved stressor is gone, our system returns back to normal functioning by reducing the effect of the stress hormone and the sympathetic nervous system.

Are there different kinds of stress?

Yes, there are two kinds of stress. One is good stress called as Eustress and the other on is bad stress called as Distress.

Eustress is one of the helpful types os stress which is required for creative and inspirational jobs.

Distress is negative type of stress following an unhappy situation like Divorce, Loss of Job etc.

Is stress good or bad?

Stress is an alarm reaction system which is part and parcel of our human body. It is meant to counteract the acute situations we come across in our day-to-day living. If this alarm reaction is elicited in a limited manner whenever required is a handy tool to overcome the hurdles of our lives. If this alarm system is elicited repeatedly through the day, the same handy tool can become a vicious one to create complicated pathological and psychological conditions in our system.

Today in this extremely competitive world of ours, we have created a rush within ourselves. This rush has become a habit and elicits the stress response repeatedly throughout the day which tires out our system, creating disturbance between our body and mind. The mind perceives the stress or threat but the body cannot handle the same due to exhaustion.

So the stress can be utilized in an effective manner to increase our efficiency in all the walks of our lives when elicited in a limited and required manner. Otherwise it can decrease our efficiency both physiologically and/or psychologically when elicited repeatedly.

What are the types of Stress?

There are two types of stress – Acute & Chronic.

What are the causes of Stress (Distress) ?

The causes can be classified as

  • Acute – Hunger, attending a job interview, anger short term illness, missing an accident by a whisker, anxiety, competitive exams and tests, traffic jams, etc.
  • Chronic – Financial insecrity, job insecurity, natural calamities, rape, fatal illnesses, war, workplace stress, strained relationships, stress at home, unrelenting perfectionism, unrealisitic ambitions, ongoing divorce, death of a loved one, business targets etc.

What are the signs and symptoms of Stress?

The signs and symptoms of stress are –

On the body –

  • High blood pressure
  • Headache
  • Stomach upset
  • Decrease immunity
  • Chest pain
  • Back ache Disturbance in sleep
  • Palpitations (increased hearth beat)
  • Gastritis
  • Gastric & Peptic ulcers
  • Migraine headache
  • Repetitive stress injury

On the emotions & mental health –

  • Irritibality
  • Anger
  • Restlessness
  • Worrying Depression
  • Sadness
  • Lack of focus or concentration
  • Burnout
  • Forgetfulness

On your behaviour –

  • Overeating
  • Addictions of Smoking, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, etc.,
  • Relationship conflicts
  • Anger outbursts
  • Under – eating
  • Dissatisfaction

Now that we have understood what stress is all about in detail, let us understand a little more of how to manage the stress in a holistic way.

How do we manage stress in a Holistic way?

Stress as we know is identified by our mind and tackled through our body. So, stress is intimately linked with our body-mind complex. In order to tackle stress, we should address not only the body, but also the mind in parallel so that the management becomes holistic.

Which are the tools to manage stress in a holistic way?

The tools to manage stress in a holistic way at Anandamaya Wellness Center are –

  • Aromatherapy
  • Acupuncture & Acupressure
  • Massage therapy
  • Yoga
  • Holistic Diet and
  • Mud & Herbal therapy

How do we manage stress through Aromatherapy?

Aromatherapy is a holistic therapy which makes use of volatile liquid extracts from plant materials known as essential oils. This is helpful for both preventive & curative health care.

Aromatherapy has a direct calming effect on the mind through the sense of smell and limbic systems of the human body.

The essential oils are extracted from different parts of the herbal plant namely the leaves, the bark, the stem, the flowers or the roots.

At Anandamaya, the wellness client / patient has to undergo a Holistic Consultation wherein the Doctor understands the history and root cause of stress through a careful history taking and a detailed examination. Through the holistic consultation the Doctor also understands the constitution fo the client and his mental tendencies based on Vedic sciences of Ayurveda, Yoga, Naturopathy & Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Followed by the holistic consultation, the wellness client / patient is advised the right essential oils and their mode of usage for effective stress management. The various modes of aromatherapy application may be through inhalations, aromatherapy massages, aromatherapy baths which includes sitz bath, arm & foot bath, steam bath, jacuzze and others. Aromatherapy compresses in the form of herbal or mud therapy is also quite effective to manage stress.

How does Acupuncture & Acupressure help in managing stress?

Acupuncture & Acupressure works on the principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). According to TCM the human body is made up of several energy channels or meridians. Through these meridians there is a continuous flow fo energy called as ‘chi’ or ‘qi’. All these meridians contain several energy points called as Acupuncture points.

During and after a stressful event the flow of energy is disrupted for a brief period which recovers on rest & relaxation. But, when the stressful even happens repeatedly or for a longer duration there would be chronic distrubance in the flow of ‘chi’ leading to several signs and symptoms of stress.

The ‘chi’ which is disturbed due to stress is brought back to balance by the application of acupuncture needles which are fine and disposable at selected acupuncture points based on the signs & symptoms for a duration of 30 – 40 minutes per sitting. The number of sittings required can vary anywhere from 7 – 14 sitting depending on each individual and their respective histories of stress.

Instead of applying acupuncture needles at acupuncture points, if the finger pressure is applied that is known as acupressure therapy.

How does Massage therapy help in managing stress?

Due to a stressful event or on continuous exposure to stressful conditions the stress hormones and its metabolites cause stiffness and pain in the muscles expecially in neck, shoulder and back.

Massage therapy when done therapeutically and skillfully by a qualified therapist would help to release the stiffness and pain by relaxing the muscles, joints and other allied skeletal structures. At the same time massage therapy also helps to calm the mind of its disturbances.

So massage therapy also qualifies as one of the holistic means to manage stress.

How does Yoga help to manage stress?

According to Yoga every human being is made of five sheaths or layers which are –

  • Annamaya kosha – Annamaya kosha (sheath of food) is our physical body which is composed of blood, muscles, bones and organ system nourished by the food we eat.
  • Pranamaya kosha – Pranamaya kosha (sheath of vital airs) is a subtler sheath composed of prana or chi or energy or breath as you call it.
  • Manomaya kosha – Manomaya kosha (sheath of mind & emotions) represents the much subtler sheath composed of emotions, thoughts, feelings and memories.
  • Vijnanamaya kosha – Vijnanamaya kosha (sheath of intellect) composed of intelligence & wisdom of cognition, conditioning & de-conditioning our core opinions.
  • Anandamaya kosha – Anandamaya kosha (sheath of bliss) is a state of balance leading to contentment and bliss

Stress usually affects our Annamaya, Pranamaya, Manomaya koshas only. But when the exposure to stress is quite long and repeated it can also create imbalance in Vijnanamaya kosha also.

So yoga manage stress by its philosophy at vijnanamaya kosha, meditation, yoga nidra and relaxation techniques at Manomaya kosha, pranamayas at pranamaya kosha and through yoga asanas, kriyas at Annamaya kosha.

As the stress is managed at all the sheaths, the yogic management of stress becomes holistic. When annamaya, pranamaya, manomaya & vijnanamaya koshas are in balance that leads us to the experience of Anandamaya kosha which is complete happiness and bliss devoid of any kind of stress and its effects.

With regular practice of yogic techniques, calmness of mind becomes an integral part of all our activities, thereby effectively managing stress in all situations. In order to attain this state, it requires a right teacher to guide along with sincere, dedicated and regular practice.

How does Holistic diet help to manage stress?

Holistic diet is one which is completely nourishing, natural, fresh and organic (devoid of fertilizers, pesticides & insecticides)

The food we take shall have all the characters mentioned above will contain all the necessary nutrients (carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals, salts & fluids), all the six tastes mentioned according to Ayurvedic science (sweet, salt, spice, sour, bitter & astringent), fresh meaning the bio-availibility fo all the necessary nutrients are at its maximum, organic meaning the one which is loaded with minimum or nil fertilizers, pesticides & insecticides will tax our system less in eliminating and accumulating them.

At the same time it is equally important to take care and understand that we are like any other species in nature and should stick to natural principles and be near to nature. By being near to nature means eating the right kind of foods according to climatic conditions of the place we live in and also have regular eating habits in accordance with the sun movement there by facilitating optimum digestion, absorption and assimilation.

Then the human system enjoys a state of complete well-being at the physical, emotional, mental & intellectual aspects of our being.

This state of complete well-being is strong enough to manage stress effectively.

How does Mud & Herbal therapy be effective in managing stress?

Mud being one of the nature’s elements containing all the necessary elements for nourishment and its retaining capacity of water and moistness along with its cooling effects would help the human body to detoxify and relax.

In the same manner different herbs when used in the form of compresses which is a speciality of Anandamaya Wellness Center will also help to detoxify and relax.

This detoxification and relaxation will go a long way to handle the day-to-day stress we face.

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