In the Western world, we donâ€™t usually dwell on the distinctions between our reactions to stress . . . we tend to focus on the stressful situations we find ourselves in,Â such asÂ looming work deadlines or a missed train.
And the general stress coping solutions are applicable to most everyone . . . such as a hot bath or long walk. But in the 5,000 year old science of Ayurveda, stress reduction hinges on a complex understanding of each person.
Take this scenario for example:
Itâ€™s Monday morning. John, Jane, and Jack walk into their respective workplaces. They each have an important deadline to complete by the end of the day.
Jack feels he needs coffee stat and heads for the lounge before getting to his desk. He is a perfectionist so wants to get everything done right, but he cannot function on no sleep and gets cranky and snappy when tired . . . plus has a newborn at home that has been waking up every night. The lack of sleep and caffeine addiction has his body responding to the deadline and work stress as the presence of chronic head congestion.
Jane is fired up and loves the start of the week. She is smiling and has her task list already out before she even sits down. Monday mornings are her thing. Sheâ€™s high energy and ready to multitask. Donâ€™t ask her if she feels the same at the end of the day though, she works hard and is go-go-go all day . . . but then burns out fast when 5 oâ€™clock hits, if sheâ€™s stressed. Her crashes in energy have her scatter minded and anxious.
John is the chill guy. Nothing really phases him . . . Â and he walks in with a stroll that makes you want to kick back and relax even though itâ€™s Monday. He takes things in . . . and while you would think heâ€™s moving slower than the rest of the group, he gets things done and is diligent when he isnâ€™t interrupted . . . Â or if he hasnâ€™t eaten a carb heavy meal for lunch. Thatâ€™s when work stress or deadlines cause him to feel less motivated to complete important tasks.
Jack, Jane, and John not only have different personality types that respond to stress differently, they have different body types that react to stress differently as well. This is where dosha, from the ancient Indian healing system of Ayurveda, comes into play.
Since no two people handle setbacks in the same way, everyone needs a different stress-relief strategy . . . what might work for Jane could aggravate John, and what might work for John could prove ineffective for Jack. When it comes to managing stress, Ayurvedic concepts can be boiled down to a basic idea: Trace stress back to its roots, then find lasting ways to change the patterns that cause it.
Each Ayurvedic principle or element, termed as vata (air and ether), pitta (fire and water), and kapha (earth and water), exists in each of us (to varying degrees) as doshas. In an interview on the Dr. Oz Show, Dr. Trupti Gokani, Board-Certified Neurologist and Chief Medical Officer of Ancient Health Care explains these elements and doshas as
Â "Ayurvedic Stress Types." They include: Restless Stressor (vata), Withdrawn Stressor (kapha), and Intense Stressor (pitta).
RESTLESS STRESSORÂ (Vata Dosha): These are your ER doctors, nurses, artists, musicians and your TV producers, salespeople. theyâ€™re made of wind (air and space) which makes you go flow and move and govern your circulation, heartbeat, breath. Â Always moving and going. Â When in balance these people are full of creativity and vitality they can multi-task and theyâ€™re constantly moving and going both physically and mentally. But, when they stress they go into overdrive and can suffer from anxiety. Â This would be Jane from our office scenario!
WITHDRAWN STRESSOR (Kapha Dosha):Â These people are made of earth and water, so theyâ€™re calmer and strive to maintain harmony. Engineers, computer programmers. Â The are relaxed and introspective. Â When theyâ€™re balanced, theyâ€™re calm, grounded, faithful. It takes more to stress them out. Â Theyâ€™re in excellent health and live in peace in harmony. But when theyâ€™re out of balance and stressed, they Â turn inwards thatâ€™s why theyâ€™re withdrawn stressors. They have stress symptoms that lead to sluggishness and fatigue. Often they donâ€™t feel like they arenâ€™t deserving. This would be John from the office above.
As we can see, our predominant dosha shapes who we are, what we look like, and how we think; it influences everything from our career choices to favorite foods and even how we handle stressful situations. Â Therefore, itâ€™s crucial to identify our inherent constitution and which doshas, or stress types, predominate to better understand ourselves.
Dr. Gokani reminds us, â€œUnderstanding your Ayurvedic stress type [dosha] is the most important thing you can do to find balance of your mind and body . . . ultimately leading you to happiness and fulfillment in life!â€
Balancing these doshas is critical in Ayurvedic thought.
Dr Gokani also states, Â â€œThe reality is that MOST OF US are not in balance. Â Do not worry as that is the norm! Â We live a life that is fast paced, high tech world and, often, are enticed by foods that are not the best choices for us.â€
So how do we know when we have an imbalance?
Experts like Dr. Gokani strongly advise visiting an Ayurvedic physician who will make an assessment based on pulse diagnosis, tongue evaluation, and your personal history. As Ayurveda has many subtleties, itâ€™s hard for someone who is not trained to do a self-assessment.
Plus, trying to reduce stress using an incorrect diagnosis could actually cause more stress and make matters worse.
INTENSE STRESSORÂ (Pitta Dosha): Theyâ€™re made of fire and water so theyâ€™re fiery and intense. When theyâ€™re in balance, theyâ€™re focused and detailed, and they can see the big picture. They are excellent speakers. They are often seen as lawyers, entrepreneurs or accountants. When theyâ€™re imbalanced or stressed, they can even be hot headed, and hot tempered, but they can also be self-critical and self-judgmental because they are perfectionists. This example is seen through Jack in our example.