Last week, during a drive to and from cottage country for a work-related event, I listened to The Upside of Stress: Why Stress is Good for You, and How to Get Good at It by Kelly McGonigal. The idea that stress is not dangerous is relatively new to me. Ten years ago, I used to avoid difficult situations and experiences because of the stress and anxiety that they most often connote. Since then, I have learned that when we try to avoid potentially challenging situations, we often do so to our own detriment. Instead, by accepting each scenario as it comes, responding to it accordingly while keeping a focused and calm mindset, we can deal with stress in a mature and mindful manner. Our response to a situation determines our experience.
Yet, our mindset is only one piece of the puzzle. As a yoga and meditation practitioner and guide, I have learned that the state of the mind influences our physical and emotional states. As a student of Ayurveda, I have also learned that our physical energy and the energy of our environment have a tremendous influence on our emotional and mental wellness. If I spend a quiet evening at home, by 9 p.m., I feel blissfully tired, both in my mind and body. If, instead, I spend several hours before bedtime running errands and doing housework, my mind is abuzz due to my physiological state.
September has been a busy time for our family. I typically avoid the use of that ubiquitous word because of its myriad convoluted meanings. For most of us, life moves fast and we must prioritize. The autumn Vata season is a time when we tend to start new projects, take on too much, and generally run ourselves off our feet, feeling spaced out and far from grounded. For me, whose dominant dosha is Vata, this is a time of year when I especially must make self-care a priority, eating warm and unctuous foods, keeping up with my daily warm oil massages, drinking hot liquids, moving slower, and enjoying plenty of rest. Yet, over the past few weeks, with changes to our family’s routines, I have not had many chances to slow down. Instead of going to bed earlier, I catch myself loading the washer and cleaning the kitchen at a late hour. We have been working diligently to avoid over-scheduling, paying no mind to the expectations of our fast-moving society and the priorities of the people who surround us. It has not been easy to completely isolate ourselves from those expectations, to heed only to our own directions. Yet, we remind ourselves that we know ourselves best and must continue to prioritize self-care, creating a schedule that feels intuitive and logical to us, whenever possible setting aside less important tasks for another time.
Here is today’s lesson: Stress is real and inevitable, and to avoid feeling overwhelmed, we must continue to approach life with a lighter attitude. Nevertheless, we must also make space for ourselves to slow down and pay closer attention to our own physical and emotional signals, instead of trusting the power of the mind to get us through challenging situations. Self-care must always remain a priority.
More information on Vata:
In a recent podcast episode of Yogaland, Andrea Ferretti and her guest Niika Quistgard discuss excellent tips for self-care during the Vata season for people with Vata dosha and for everyone else who lives in our fast-paced society.
How Ayurveda is helping me change my approach to exercise, published on April 13, 2016
Self-care tips for the Vata Season, published on September 16, 2014
If you have additional self-care tips to share, please leave a comment below. Thank you for sharing this blog with a friend.