Ayurveda for Self Care During Trying Times
Are you feeling a bit anxious about your own health and the health of your family? Maybe a little bit more isolated than usual? And probably also a bit anxious about the future, the economy, and when things will return to normal? You’re not alone!
The coronavirus pandemic continues to bring unprecedented uncertainty and anxiety all across the globe. Clinical depression is on the rise, with finances and job loss being a top concern for many. Money is known to be a significant source of stress even in normal times, and during these trying times, stress is at an all-time high.
Unfortunately, anxiety, depression, and chronic stress can take a major toll on the immune system. Taking care of yourself must be a top priority for staying healthy, both mentally and physically. Here’s how you can use Ayurveda for self care to support mental health and immunity during this trying time.
The Ayurvedic Approach to Mental Health
Ayurveda is an ancient health science that emphasizes the connection between the mind and body. It defines health as being centered in the self, or Swasthya.
Swasthya requires equilibrium of:
- The Doshas
- Tissues and Excretions
- Digestive and metabolic fire
- The spirit, mind, and sensory organs
Ayurvedic principles for mental health management, known as Manas Shastra, prioritize prevention along with gentle interventions. They do not stigmatize mental health. Ayurveda for self care recognizes that all of us go through seasons of lethargy, restlessness, sadness, alertness, happiness, and productivity.
These attributes of the mind are summarized into three qualities:
- Sattva: Pure, clear, and happy
- Rajas: Active and restless
- Tamas: Heavy
We require Sattva for good mental health, happiness, wisdom, and productivity. Tamas is associated with rest and Rajas with action. Whenever there is an imbalance in these three attributes, issues such as anger, depression, anxiety, and lack of focus are the result.
Since Sattva is the attribute that provides us with good mental health, we should follow practices that support Sattva to improve mental health.
In addition, we should also promote balance in the Doshas, known as Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. These are the three energies that form each person’s constitution. Most people are naturally dominant in one or two Doshas but having equal amounts of all three is also possible.
When the Doshas are in balance, the mood is pleasant and calm. But when the Doshas are out of balance, it can have an impact on our mental health. For example, an imbalance in Vata leads to anxiety, fear, and restlessness. Too much Pitta results in anger and irritability, and too much Kapha leads to depression and lethargy.
Ten Ayurveda for Self Care Strategies to Support Mental Health and Immunity
1. Support Sattva
We’ve already mentioned that supporting Sattva was essential for good mental health, but exactly how do you do that?
Yoga, stretching, and meditation are the most important places to start. Join a yoga class that teaches stretching, meditation, and breathing techniques, or find one online. Be sure to choose a class that’s appropriate for your experience level and physical abilities.
Establishing a good exercise routine, getting plenty of fresh air and sunshine, and consuming an Ayurvedic diet is also essential. Reading, journaling, expressing your creativity, learning new things, and taking a break when you need one are all good ways to support Sattva, too.
2. Balance Your Doshas
Balancing the Doshas is essential for mental and physical health. Learn how to balance your Doshas based on the seasons and your personal strengths and weaknesses. Rest and exercise are both essential, as well as following an Ayurvedic diet.
The three pillars of health in Ayurveda are nutrition, sleep, and a balanced lifestyle. Following a daily regimen and season regimen to balance the Doshas is also key for managing mental health and immunity.
3. Consider a Cleanse
In Ayurveda, when your digestive and metabolic fire, or Agni, is compromised, toxins build up in the body and can lead to a variety of mental and physical health issues. Functional medicine also places a high priority on cleansing and detoxification for mental health, gut health, and boosting immunity.
According to functional medicine, harmful bacteria can build up in the intestines and lead to chronic disease. Integrative medicine services like therapeutic colon cleansing, ionic foot baths, and IV nutrition and hydration therapy are very helpful for supporting the body’s natural detoxification process and strengthening immunity.
These toxins, called Ama in Ayurveda, can come from the environment, your internal moods and thoughts, and even psychological inputs like toxic news and relationships. Doing a cleanse helps to eliminate Ama, improve clarity, restore health and wellbeing, and promote future health.
4. Eat for Your Gut Health
The mood, gut, and immune system connection is a hot topic right now, but the relationship has always been acknowledged by Ayurveda.
To support your gut health and digestion, consume seasonal, warm, fresh foods that are easy to digest. Season your food with herbs and spices that support digestion, too, like coriander, cardamom, cumin, turmeric, Tulsi, and ginger.
Try to incorporate the six tastes, or Shadrasa, into your diet regularly and prioritize fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats over animal products. Warm broths and herbal teas are also essential for digestion. Avoid cold, raw foods and processed foods as much as possible.
5. Maintain a Balanced Lifestyle
If you’re working from home now, be careful not to let it disrupt your routine. Following a consistent meal schedule, following your normal hygiene practices, and staying on the same sleep/wake schedule is essential.
Maintaining a balanced lifestyle even when you’re stuck at home will help you stay healthy and feel more “normal.” Try to spend a little time outdoors every day to ground yourself, too.
6. Prioritize Sleep
Lack of proper sleep contributes to anxiety, depression, mental focus, and poor immune function. Science and Ayurveda for self care are in complete agreement on sleep and the importance of circadian rhythms.
Digestion can interfere with sleep, so be sure to eat at least two hours before going to bed. Put your phone and other media away at least an hour before sleep, too. Instead, create a soothing bedtime ritual, such as taking a bath followed by warm oil self-massage to help you relax.
If possible, go to sleep by 10 PM and ensure that you are getting plenty of sleep at night. Sleeping during the day can lead to imbalances in your Kapha energy, causing lethargy.
7. Stay Connected from a Distance
Ayurveda emphasizes the importance of connecting with one’s family, friends, and community. Research also shows that nurturing relationships can improve mental health and even increase longevity.
Even if you can’t meet up with loved ones in person, talk on the phone regularly and schedule virtual chats so you can see each other, even if it’s from a distance. Be sure to nurture your spiritual life as well, for comfort and support that’s always with you.
8. Avoid Overstimulating Your Senses
Ayurveda teaches us that caring for our sensory organs is crucial because we use them to perceive the world around us. Caring for them protects our mental health.
Be sure to plan breaks during your workday and simply rest your eyes, breathe, and internalize for a few minutes. If you can get outdoors for a brief walk or meditation, that’s even better. Media breaks are also crucial for preventing overstimulation and helping you be more mindful.
Other ways to soothe your senses include:
- Tongue/Taste: Nourishing food, consistent mealtimes, herbal teas, tongue cleaning, avoid overeating
- Ears/Hearing: Soothing music, chanting, warm oil in the ears
- Nose/Smell and Respiration: Steam, aromatherapy, neti pot
- Eyes/Site: Resting the eyes and performing eye exercises
- Skin/Touch: Marma, Abhyanga, and Shirodara to soothe the tactile senses
9. Rejuvenate the Immune System
Ayurveda for self care utilizes rejuvenating therapies to post the immune system, including immunomodulatory herbs, meditation, and a nourishing diet. Steam inhalation and gargling with herbs are also encouraged.
Adaptogenic herbs that boost the immune system and promote mental health at the same time include Tulsi, Ashwagandha, and chyawanprash. These herbs can be consumed as a warm, herbal tea infusion or taken in extract form.
10. Try Therapeutic Massage
Self-massage is a wonderful method of Ayurveda for self care with therapeutic benefits for the mind and body. If you have an Ayurvedic facility near you, Ayurvedic massage combines warm, medicated oils and massage to calm the mind, boost clarity, improve memory, relieve anxiety, treat insomnia, and support immunity.
For those who are quarantined, caregivers, have sick loved ones, or who have lost a loved one during this trying time, Ayurveda for self care is of the utmost importance. The importance of nourishing the body daily, staying connected, and rejuvenating with warmth and grounding can’t be overstated.