Strategies to Help Reduce Stress

Without some stress, we'd be little more than slugs (minus the motivation to do the things that enrich our lives), but too much stress can affect our health and even contribute to major depression (also known as clinical depression, major depressive disorder, or MDD). "If prolonged, stress can lead to headaches, muscle aches, fatigue, and gastrointestinal problems," says Simon Rego, PsyD, director of psychology training at Montefiore Medical Center and assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, N.Y. "It can also affect appetite, sleep, and mood, generating anxiety and depression."

For people predisposed to depression -- especially major depression -- or who are already depressed, stress can be overwhelming, triggering a downward slide. "Depression is like kindling on the forest floor," says Daniel Buccino, MSW, clinical supervisor and assistant professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University. "Stressors can sometimes be the spark that ignites the vulnerability to depression."

In part that's because chronic stress may change behavior in ways that fuel clinical depression, Rego says. "For example, people who are stressed tend not to go out as much or sleep as well, or they may overeat or drink too much. Those things can generate symptoms of depression."

Try these strategies to help reduce stress and overcome major depression:

  • Recognize what causes your stress. "Each person needs to know [his or her] particular vulnerabilities to certain kinds of stress," Buccino says. Maybe too little sleep or too many commitments at work put you over the edge. "Figure out your limits and then try to manage them," Buccino says.
  • Exercise. Moderate-intensity exercise, such as walking at talking speed, can help lift people out of anxiety, stress, and depression, Rego says. Exercise isn't a substitute for medical treatment for major depression, but it can help support your recovery.
  • Tap into social support. "People who are stressed and depressed tend not to use social support networks," Rego says. "Reaching out to friends or trusted colleagues can buffer stress and offer an outside opinion on stressors, and connections can create a sense of belonging, which lessens depression." Connections don't always have to be in person: Start out with a text or an e-mail, or Skype.
  • Challenge your perspective. "When people stress, they tend to see only threatening information," Rego says. "Examine your thoughts to see if they're as negative as you think. For instance, if you're stuck in a traffic jam, instead of thinking you'll never arrive on time, ask yourself, 'What's the worst that can happen if I'm late?'"
  • Sign up for therapy. If you have clinical depression, psychotherapy is probably part of your treatment. It's a great tool to treat major depression and address stress, Buccino says. "You're forming a useful working alliance with another person, whether to gain insight or make changes."

Rejuvenation of the Body Through Yoga

Yoga helps in the rejuvenation of the body. Resistance, observances, posture and pranayam have a major role in rejuvenation. Practice of Yoga maintains the functioning of all physical and mental organs in their natural condition. It is needless to say that functioning of organs in their natural state is the key to good health.

The health obtained through artificial means cannot be said to be stable. Excessive use of medicines makes the organs not only sensitive but it also completely ends the chances of their functioning in natural condition. A medicine that is taken to control one particular disease gives birth to another disease. These physical ailments produce mental disorders.

Different yogic actions in Yoga – Asana, pranayam, austerity, mudra, bandh, shatkarma etc. are used to purify blood, nervous system and vital life. All faecal matter is thrown out of the body, which is the main cause of diseases and disorders. The chariot of life moving on the basis of good food, sleep and celibacy never deviates from the path of good health. Yoga philosophers had fixed the form of the first two steps of Ashtanga Yoga, namely resistance towards passion and observances, were actually the basis of healthy people and healthy society. Resistance towards passion includes not harming other creatures, truth, not stealing other’s things, celibacy, not collecting unwanted things which will contribute in building progressive society on one hand and on the other hand, observances like cleanliness, satisfaction, austerity, study of religious books and deep devotion towards God represent the personal development.

It should not be understood that non-violence and other observances are not with the purpose of personal development. Finally, the acceptance of people maintains the discipline of the society. Non-violence and observances except celibacy are relevant to the society.

Whereas, cleanliness etc. are relevant to an individual. Saint Patanjali is claiming the observances as most important vows on this very basis. Patanjali’s views are clear that the practitioner of Yoga should not follow nonviolence in the pretext of nation, time and circumstances. Although, nation, time and circumstances could be suitable with respect to cleanliness, austerity, self-study of religious books etc. The word ‘austerity’ used with reference to observances has a broad scope in Indian literature. Saint Patanjali has given a very brief concept in the form of kriya Yoga, self study of religious books and deep devotion towards God along with austerity which is an important part of it. It is clear that austerity is the final outcome of physical and mental energy and consciousness, not exploitation of physical organs. Saint Patanjali considers tolerating dilemmas as austerity. He says that a person has the capacity to bear two kinds of dilemma, namely logic at mental level and energy at physical level.

Indian sages have recognized the dilemmas coming up at physical and mental levels as thirst-hunger, cold-heat, happiness-unhappiness, loss-gain, fame-infamy, victory-defeat, etc. The capacity to bear these confusions is tolerance, which is known as the basic quality of personal, family, social, political, religious and spiritual life.

Austerity has been explained further in some religious texts. The factors of resistance towards passion and observances have been included in physical, verbal and mental types. Actually pretentious luxurious life style destroys the moral strength of a person at a very fast pace. A person who gets used to comfortable life style cannot imagine living without these comforts. A person leading a luxurious life feels handicapped in the absence of comforts and luxuries. The body becomes a bundle of diseases due to this tendency. At this point the nature appears to be an enemy. Austerity is the invitation to sacrifice luxurious life style that is away from the nature. Asana or posture is the most popular branch of Yoga to maintain a balanced physical structure. Saint Patanjali has given a very simple and easy definition of posture.

He says that sitting in a comfortable position is posture. Different writers have different views with respect to number of asanas. One of the interesting views has been expressed in Dhyanbindupanishtkar. According to him, the number of postures is uncountable. It is necessary to strengthen the nerves and muscles in order to lead a healthy life for longer time. The nutritional elements taken in the form of food reach different parts of the body through pranayama. In the absence of this, the body does not develop properly. Posture and light exercises strengthen our respiratory system. The yogasanas are successful treatment for various diseases. An easy and effective treatment for different types of diseases occurring in stomach, back, neck and knees is possible through asana.