• March 2011

Stress! What’s a Girl to Do?

By Jill Leslie
Owner and Founder
Ayurveda Alchemy

These are truly stressful times. Regardless of your age, status, or accomplishments, we all have one goal: To find a sense of well-being.

While it is tempting to look outside ourselves for a supplement, the latest diet craze, the perfect exercise program, or a partner who can provide us with what we need, we all know that the real solution is to look within.

For women especially — even those who have a partner, the children they dreamed of, and work that makes them feel fulfilled — it is important to take time each day to listen to the wisdom inside. When we do, we will find she actually has quite a bit to say.

I would venture to guess on the top of her list is, KISS: Keep It Simple Sweetie.

According to the 5,000-year-old Indian medical tradition of Ayurveda, the three pillars of health couldn’t be more basic:

  • Get a good night’s sleep.
  • Eat a well balanced diet.
  • Make intelligent choices on how we spend our time and energy.

Easier said than done?

The wise sages of ancient India recognized long before the invention of cell phones and double-shot low-fat lattes, that the number one cause of stress and illness is “prajnaparadha,” which means “an offense against wisdom.”

This is what happens when one part of you knows what is best for you, and another part of you goes ahead and does the opposite.

For instance, you know that going to sleep at 10 p.m. is just what your body needs, yet you opt for a bottle of Cabernet and a triple-cheese pizza for dinner. Add to that a couple of scoops of Ben & Jerry’s, and a few hours in front of the TV to unwind from the stresses of the day. In the morning, you’ll know your choices weren’t the best ones.

Understanding dis-ease

Sickness, whether it manifests as anxiety, insomnia, or indigestion, is nature’s way of nudging you to slow down, pay attention, and take care of yourself.

Western medicine focuses mostly on treating symptoms. If you have a headache, you take aspirin. If you are suffering from pain, you take pain killers.

Ayurvedic medicine, on the other hand, is a holistic system of health care that focuses on the underlying cause of the body’s imbalance. When a patient comes to me complaining of chronic headaches, I look at their diet, lifestyle, stress level, relationships, and whether they are satisfied in their job. Uncovering the root of the problem makes it easier to assess and treat.

Another benefit of looking at your health in this manner is that it empowers you to manage your health. Pay attention to how you feel when you are happy, vital, and enthusiastic about your life. Then, when you are out of balance, it will be obvious. Plus, the earlier you catch an imbalance, the sooner you can treat it and avoid getting sick — or sicker.

Understanding stress

Stress manifests itself in three different ways: mental, emotional, and physical.

Mental stress, according to Ayurveda, is caused by an overuse or misuse of the mind. For example, long hours on the computer is a common cause of mental stress. Texting, checking email, and tweeting in the grocery store adds to our mental stress, while exchanging a few words with the people around us can actually reduce our stress.

We are all familiar with emotional stress. It shows up as irritability, anger, depression, anxiety, and fear. All expressions of emotional instability are essentially forms of emotional stress.

Physical stress is caused by misuse or overuse of the body, such as exercising too much or working for extended periods at a job that is physically taxing. Physical stress can also be from lack or exercise, a poor diet, and exposure to toxins in the environment.

So, what’s a girl to do?

1. Simplify. Analyze your diet, and your lifestyle. Clear the junk food from what you eat today. Clear the clutter from your office, your bedroom, your entire home. Then walk into your closet and look at it like you didn’t own all those clothes. Rid the racks of what you no longer wear. Pare down. KISS the stuff that no longer fits — your body, your life, your goals — and put it into a bag for Goodwill.

2. Eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Really. And as you do, enjoy only fresh, whole, organic foods. Use plenty of spices. In Ayurveda we say, “your food is your medicine, and your spice rack is your medicine chest.” The reason is that spices aid in the absorption and digestion of your food. Venture beyond salt and pepper. Put a Lazy Susan on your kitchen table with bottles of cinnamon, paprika, turmeric, oregano, and other flavors you may not have yet tried. Just add a bit of spice to your life, and open yourself to the many flavors of the world.

3. Avoid stimulants like caffeine, and sip on herbal teas instead. I know, it’s not easy to consider giving up coffee. But rather than having a second cup in the morning, opt for ginger tea. It is considered “the universal medicine” in Ayurveda — one that helps the digestive, circulatory, and respiratory systems.

4. Spend time in nature. Plant an herb or flower garden. Watch the sunset — or better yet, watch the sun rise. By waking up a half hour earlier each day, you will have that extra bit of time that there never seems to be enough of.

5. Make sure you get plenty of rest. Go to bed by 10 p.m. It’ll make it easier to wake up to catch that sunrise.

6. Exercise every day. Take a walk on your lunch break. Join a local gym. Do 20 minutes of yoga. Run to the corner with your kids. Shake off the stress by moving your fabulous body. It’ll make you feel better. I promise.

7. Learn to do mindfulness practices, like meditation. In addition to incorporating yoga into your day, try meditation. It’s easier than you think, and definitely not a fad. People have been using these systems to calm the mind and revitalize the body for more than 5,000 years. There are dozens of videos and books to choose from to teach and guide you. Give it a shot.

8. Remember: Life is precious. Spend quality time with yourself, your family, and your friends.

9. Be kind and compassionate to yourself and others. Forgive and let go of the past. There isn’t anything you can do about it anyway. Just move forward with grace and kindness.

10. Be generous. Do something for yourself every day. Smile at a stranger. Love.

How to Transform Your Home into a Spa

If you are not quite sure how to take the leap to relief, here’s a simple first step: Take a bath.

1. Invest in a few essential oils and surround yourself with the tranquility of nature’s precious medicine. The essential oils of flowers like lavender, rose, and geranium are calming. Citruses, like orange and lemon essential oils, are uplifting. Roots, like spikenard, sandalwood, and vetiver are grounding.

2. For the bath, mix 5-10 drops in into half a cup of sea salt and let it dissolve in the water. Not only will you feel better as the essence is absorbed into your skin, but your bathroom will smell incredible!

3. Transform your home with fragrance and notice how it affects your mood. Simply fill a spray bottle with water and add essential oils. For a 1-quart bottle add 15-30 drops of essential oil.

4. Nurture and nourish yourself with an oil massage. Simply add essential oils to base oil. Sesame, sunflower, and coconut oils are wonderful carriers oils. Use 6 drops per ounce.

5. You can find good quality essential oils at your local natural food store. If you want to learn more about essential oils and purchase your oils online, check out the essential oils and aromatherapy products available at my favorite online shop: www.floracopeia.com. Here’s to your good health!

About Jill Leslie and Ayurveda Alchemy

Jill Leslie is a certified Ayurvedic practitioner, herbalist, wellness chef, and yoga teacher in the San Francisco Bay Area who, for more than two decades, has been immersed in the study and practice of natural healing. Her passion for herbal medicine and nutrition, and her love of sweets, inspired her to found Ayurvedic Alchemy, in 2008. In addition to hosting classes and events, and providing consultations and dietary advice about Ayurveda, she has created a line of healthy and delicious confections, which are available online at Kitchen Alchemy Treats. Learn more about her services at www.AyurvedaAlchemy.com.

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