Stress management during the COVID-19 pandemic has become one of the most discussed topics. The public health crisis has taken a toll on people’s mental health. On one hand, people are experiencing fear and anxiety about the novel coronavirus and on the other hand, nationwide lockdown and social distancing have made them feel lonely and isolated. For these reasons, we have seen an upsurge in stress and anxiety cases.
During these challenging times, we must try to cope with stress in a healthy way. Making the most of stress management techniques is critical to taking care of ourselves and our loved ones. According to Ayurvedic experts, a healthy diet and lifestyle and some potent herbs can help reduce stress and re-establish balance during the pandemic. It is also crucial to have a sense of grounding, as we are bound to face a lot of uncertainties and challenges in our daily lives.
Before we dive in to discuss how you can stay on top of stress management during the COVID-19 pandemic, let’s explore the connection between stress and the physiological response to it.
Stress and the Physiological Response to Stress
Stress is induced by a threat to our physical, mental, or emotional well-being. It results in a racing heart and a hyperactive mind. This is how the body reacts to a stressor in order to keep you protected.
A change in eating patterns is one of the most common physiological responses to stress. People tend to overeat or indulge in snacking as a way to cope with stress.
What happens is that the stress warning is identified by our sense organs and is sent to our mind. The mind analyzes the situation at hand and mobilizes the entire body to react to it immediately. While we experience stress on multiple occasions, we are not programmed to deal with continuous stress, which the ongoing pandemic has brought upon us. Having spent six months in lockdown, most people have lost their ability to cope with stress in a healthy way.
In Ayurveda, a stressful situation activates a state of mind called Rajas, which means ‘hyperactivity,’ or ‘uncontrolled activity’. Stress starts a loop of hyperactive or Rajasic thoughts, which makes things worse. When a tragedy happens, our mind goes in a state of shock as we try to make sense of what has happened. Gradually, the Rajasic thoughts take control and our health and well-being will take a hit.
Considering how the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted our lives, we must learn to disengage and destress and help our family members and the people around us do the same. Everybody is going through a rough patch, as they struggle with their mental battles. It is important to be empathetic and support each other.
Our Food Intake Determines Our Mood and Sleep Quality
The demand for comfort food has increased, as people struggle with stress management during the COVID-19 pandemic. While these food items bring immediate gratification, they don’t serve well in the long run.
The Rajas state causes the body to be excited and feels grounded at the same time. We often turn to sweet food items when stressed, as it helps calm our nerves. Many people lean towards cheese and milk, as it reminds them of how protected they felt when they were in their mothers’ wombs.
This is how our brain influences the body’s wind principle, Vata. Vata is light, dry, rough, cold, and movement-oriented. This is why we tend to crave food items that are soft, heavy, gelatinous, and oily.
Stress, sleep, and mood are all interrelated. Stress may interfere with your sleep pattern, which in turn, will cause your cognitive function and mental health to deteriorate over time. A lack of sleep also ruins one’s mood, affects the thought processes and reduces the body’s ability to cope with stress.
Do Essential Oils Help?
Ayurvedic experts believe that body massage using essential oils can work wonders for calming down the nervous system. Touch is an important physical experience that can turn into one of the best stress management techniques by simply rubbing essential oil on your face and body. The body massage will spark the mind-body connection and relieve stress and tension if done regularly.
In Ayurveda, stress is believed to come in through our sense organs. That’s why the key is to soothe the senses to celebrate your presence and mindfulness. There is research evidence that essential oils can help expand our thought processes and alleviate stress.
On this note, we would like to highlight that certain odors can also help relax the mind. You should consider putting essential oils in diffusers or bathtubs. You can also mix them with carrier oils before applying them onto your body.
The use of essential oils is particularly beneficial for children. The olfactory cells can hold memories for the longest time, so if you use essential oils as bathing agents for your children, the smell will remind them of a calming experience. Such relaxing memories will help them develop a systematic methodology to stress management during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Alcohol and Caffeine: Your Worst Enemies for Effective Stress Management during the COVID-19 Pandemic
As stated earlier, diet plays an integral role in determining your stress levels. Alcohol and caffeine are the favorite choices of people when they are stressed. They may not realize how overconsumption of these items can affect their nervous system and overall health. Now, of course, it is on you to be mindful when consuming alcohol and caffeine to avoid ‘abuse.’
If you can’t survive a day without coffee, you may have a cup with breakfast but that’s it. Ideally, you should not rely on caffeine to wake you up because it can be addictive.
On the other hand, alcohol may help relax the heart but it robs you of your ability to think straight. Alcohol has extremely sharp and penetrating qualities, with which it can move the Vata energy from the muscle into the bone and bone marrow. This is the reason you tend to feel pain or discomfort in your bones and joints and experience a decline in your ability to think, process, and remember things. AlcoholBasically, alcohol doesn’t just get the stress out of your body and mind but pushes it deeper into your tissues.
That being said, it is okay to consume alcohol and caffeine according to Ayurveda but there’s a proper method, quantity, and ritual for it. However, people who want to achieve spiritual growth should avoid consumption at all costs.
Lifestyle Habits to Adopt for Successful Stress Management during the COVID-19 Pandemic
First things first, you need to set healthy boundaries around the use of digital devices to feel more balanced and relaxed. Excessive use of social media is one of the major factors contributing to the increasing stress levels in people nowadays since we are bound to stay at home most if not all the time.
For starters, you can allocate time slots for different digital devices. If you find yourself scrolling through your feed on a social media platform for more than half an hour or an hour, tell yourself to put the device down and walk out into a garden or something. Surrounding yourself with nature is an excellent way to unwind. Don’t let digital devices take over your time. Use them productively.
You can go back to using the device after a short break. Another simple way to limit your electronic stimulation is by making a conscious effort to give it up if you feel a lot is going on at once. Usually, when you’re using YouTube or any other social media channel, images and videos just keep popping up one after the other. This is what makes it so hard to quit and put the device down. Too many stimulations happening at once are not only bad for your eyes but also your mind.
The Role of Meditation, Pranayam, and Yoga
People have been using meditation and relaxation techniques for decades to cope with stress. As an adult, you may enjoy doing yoga and deep breathing exercises but your children may see it as a chore. The key is to get them used to these stress management techniques while you have more time to spend with them at home than usual.
Since children love physical activities, you can make them start with a simple morning stretch routine. This will be an excellent way to get rid of all the moving Vata energy that accumulates within due to sitting for long hours. If you don’t get this energy out of your system, it will diffuse into your mind, making it hyperactive. As an alternative, you can go out for a walk with your children.
After following a physical exercise routine for a couple of weeks, you can introduce breathing exercises to your children. To make things exciting, you can also put on some music and let the children dance.
While it is important that your exercise routine targets all parts of your body, you need to pay special attention to the eyes. Children are on a digital device most of the time, whether they are taking online classes, watching a movie, or playing games. Teach them to rub their palms on the eyes and massage them gently before going to bed every day. You can also watch tutorials for eye exercises on YouTube.
The Use of Herbs for Improved Sleep and Immunity
Ayurvedic experts believe that immunity has to do with the mind as much as the body. All the exercises and meditation practices you do for stress management during the COVID-19 pandemic are supposed to strengthen the mind-body connection.
Since boosting your immunity is more important now than ever, you need to do more than just exercise. You can use herbs like Brahmi, Shankapushpi, and Ashwagandha to strengthen your immune system.
Brahmi can be used to make an immunity-boosting tea. It helps promote memory and brain power. The best thing is that it works wonders for children. Make it a point to consume this tea after lunch or dinner as a family ritual. Ashwagandha, on the other hand, serves as an adaptogenic and is suitable for adults. It helps calm down the nerves and can be consumed in the form of pills or mixed with milk. Lastly, Shankhpushpi helps enhance intellectual and reasoning power. This mind-relaxing herb is also good for use by the entire family.
When it comes to effective stress management during the COVID-19 pandemic, you need to take baby steps and remain consistent with your efforts. Incorporating healthy, stress-alleviating habits into your life is the key to not let the worries get to you during these unprecedented times.