Recently I was asked by Kristin Bergin, Queensbury High School Health Teacher, Health Ed Department Chair and Parent University Coordinator on behalf of her students to share an Ayurvedic perspective on how to reduce stress and anxiety during preparation for final exams. We discussed Ayurvedic topics that included diet, lifestyle, caring for the five senses, aromatherapy, pranayama (breath control), foot and hand massage and meditation. The 20 minute topics were followed by a yoga class and Divine Sleep® Yoga Nidra (guided meditation). Student feedback was positive. I have been told the sessions were helpful and techniques have been implemented. The following points were suggested:
10 STRESS REDUCING TIPS TO HELP YOU THROUGH LIFE
5 SENSES CARE:
- SIGHT AND HEARING
…Turn electronics off one hour before bedtime. This action alone reduces over stimulation to the entire sensory nervous system and gives the mind and body an opportunity to settle down. See steps 5 through 10 for alternative activities. Also, you can read over your notes or a book (preferably light-hearted types of stories).
…Rest your eyes every half hour when using the computer. Practice eye 30 second exercises throughout your time on the computer. One way is to image a clock larger than your head, so that you need to use your peripheral vision to see it. Then slowly move your eyes around the clock, first in one direction then in the other. There are more on youtube.
…Spend time in nature, even if it is just for a 10 minute, quiet walk.
…Listen to guided meditation anytime during the day – there are many on youtube, such as:
*10 min. guided meditation to ease anxiety, worry and urgency
*Guided Meditation-Sleep Easy
*Guided Meditation – Letting Go of Thoughts (20 minutes)
Everyone’s voice and directions will be different, so listen to a few to find your favorite ones. At first you may find it difficult to settle in, that is natural, but keep with the meditation. You will feel the relaxation effects pretty quickly
…Eat 3 healthy meals a day – SLOWLY
…Around 4:00, when you are feeling sluggish, have a piece of fruit – especially an apple or banana
…Avoid fried and oily foods, they tax the digestive system, thereby causing your body stress.
… Use calming oils on back of neck, wrists, temples and inhale through day. Lavender for calming and relaxing, Peppermint is an anti-inflammatory for the nerves and increases mental activity, a combination of Lavender and Peppermint will help with mental clarity, focus and memory while promoting a calm state of mind. There are others that offer similar benefits.
4. TOUCH Hand and Foot Massage …Applying pressure to the space between your second and third knuckle (the joints at the base of your pointer and middle fingers) can help to create a sense of instant calm. Use the thumb of one hand to massage the palm of the other.
…Give yourself a gentle massage (before or after a shower or bath) using organic sesame oil – or coconut oil if your body tends to be warm. Even a simple foot massage at bedtime will help calm your central nervous system and help you rest.
- PRANAYAMA – Breathing Exercises – can be done anywhere, and found on youtube
For calming the body and mind (when worried or restless)
…Deergha Swasam (3 part belly breath)
…Nadhi Shodanah (alternate nostril breathing)
All yoga reduces stress in the body and mind. But if you have limited time, the following asanas (poses) will bring relief.
Seated Spinal Twist
Supine Spinal Twist (lying on ground)
Legs up the wall
- CHEW a piece of gum
- BODY SCAN or Progressive Muscle Relaxation- find a quiet space to lie on your back or sit.
Start with your toes and work your way up: tighten your foot muscles as much as you can, then relax them. Make your way up, tightening and relaxing each muscle until you’ve finished with your face. It may seem silly, but this practice can help reduce anxiety and stress.
Mandalas are ancient form of creating diagrams considered to be magic circles representing the universe. Your repetitive motions of fine motor skills help relax the mind and will even prepare it for meditation.
IF you are a beginner, try this for 5 minutes, a few times each day:
a. Sit in a comfortable position then
b. Begin to notice your breath then
c. Breath deep into your belly, ribcage and chest (deergha Swasum) then
d. Repeat any of these phrases in your mind, slowly and with focus on each syllable
-I am relaxed
-I am enough
-I am free from worry
OR make one up that feels right for you at the moment, making sure the statement begins with I AM…
Ayurveda science has stood the test of time, and I know the group has benefited from our classes together. I have enjoyed our meetings and I wish the students well in their study endeavors. I know they now have tools needed to reduce stress and anxiety in their lives not only for test time, but in all their years yet to come.