Published 05-10-2023

Stress vs. Anxiety: Understanding the Difference and Finding Relief in Ayurveda


Stress vs. Anxiety: Understanding the Difference and Finding Relief in Ayurveda

Dr. Shivani Nautiyal

Dr. Shivani Nautiyal is a renowned Ayurvedic physician, Panchakarma therapies specialist, and detox expert who has made significant contributions to the field of natural holistic healing and wellness. With her profound knowledge, expertise, and compassionate approach, she has transformed the lives of countless individuals seeking holistic health solutions. She is a Panchakarma expert, which are ancient detoxification and rejuvenation techniques. She believes in the power of Ayurveda to restore balance and harmony to the body, mind, and spirit.

In today's fast-paced world, stress and anxiety have become constant companions for many. These two emotional states, while distinct, often overlap and can significantly impact our overall well-being. Understanding what sets them apart is crucial for effective management and achieving a sense of balance in life. Additionally, suppose you find yourself frequently experiencing headaches as a result of stress and anxiety. In that case, it's essential to know which doctor to consult for effective headache relief.   

Differentiating Stress and Anxiety   

Stress is the body's natural response to external demands or perceived threats, whether positive or negative. It acts as an alarm system, preparing one to confront challenges or escape from danger. When stress strikes, the body releases hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, leading to physiological changes such as increased heart rate, heightened alertness, and muscle tension. Stress typically corresponds with the presence of a stressor and tends to dissipate when the stressor is resolved.   

Anxiety, on the other hand, goes beyond immediate stressors. It involves persistent and often excessive worry or fear about future events, even in the absence of an imminent threat. Anxiety can be all-consuming, filling one's mind with endless "what-if" scenarios and worst-case imaginings. While anxiety also triggers physiological responses like increased heart rate and muscle tension, it lacks a clear connection to a specific stressor. Anxiety tends to be long-term and can impair decision-making and lead to avoidance behaviors. Clinical anxiety disorders, such as generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and panic disorder, often affect various aspects of an individual's life.    

Distinguishing Symptoms    

Distinguishing Symptoms

The symptoms that differentiate stress from anxiety are as follows:   

Physical Symptoms  

  • Stress: Headaches, muscle tension, fatigue, sleep disturbances, digestive problems
  • Anxiety: Rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, trembling, sweating, nausea

Emotional Symptoms   

  • Stress: Irritability, mood swings, difficulty relaxing, feeling overwhelmed
  • Anxiety: Excessive worry or fear, restlessness, feeling on edge, trouble concentrating

Behavioural Symptoms   

  • Stress: Procrastination, increased substance use
  • Anxiety: Avoidance behaviours, seeking reassurance, ritualistic behaviours

Also Read: Achieve Peace with Ayurvedic Solutions for Stress & Anxiety   

Ayurvedic Solutions for Stress and Anxiety  

Six Ayurvedic therapies that can help alleviate stress and anxiety symptoms are as follows:   


This full-body massage therapy uses medicated herbal oils to increase blood circulation, remove metabolic wastes, and stimulate vital pressure points. Abhyangam can reduce stress, anxiety, and depression while balancing the doshas and treating mental, emotional, and physical disorders. It also enhances immunity and prevents conditions like insomnia, paralysis, arthritis, and spondylosis.   


An Ayurvedic foot massage that stimulates nerve endings and vital pressure points to promote mental calmness. It improves blood circulation in the lower legs, revitalizes tired feet, and helps eliminate psychological disorders such as nervousness, anxiety, and insomnia. Padabhyangam also prevents muscle cramps, boosts fertility, and reduces swelling and pain in the lower leg region.   


Part of Panchakarma therapy, Nasyam, involves the administration of medicated oils or drugs through the nostrils. This treatment stimulates vital brain centers to overcome problems like stress, anxiety, depression, and insomnia. Nasyam includes a facial massage or steam application, instillation of herbal oils, juices, or powders through the nasal route, gargling with lukewarm water, and inhalation of medicated smoke. It also treats disorders of the ear, nose, and throat, unblocks energy channels, boosts immunity, and improves eye health.   


This treatment involves the squeezing of warm medicated oils over the body to induce physical and mental relaxation. It helps combat oxidative stress caused by stress and tension buildup. Pizhichil rejuvenates the body, enhances the nervous system's functioning, reduces Vata dosha, and alleviates tension, anxiety, depression, muscular aches, rheumatic problems, insomnia, and sexual problems. It also improves skin tone and promotes blood circulation.   

Potalli Therapy (Pinda Swed) 

This therapy enhances circulation and reduces oxidative stress to relieve psycho-physical symptoms of stress. It involves the use of powdered herbs, rice, or sand tied in a muslin cloth, which is heated and lightly pounded over the body or specific areas. This treatment provides dry heat and effectively treats conditions like depression, anxiety, muscular cramps, swelling, obesity, lower back pain, diabetes, osteoarthritis, and spondylosis.   


In this healing massage, medicated oil is continuously poured onto the forehead with a pendulum motion for a specific duration. Shirodhara may also use decoctions, buttermilk, or water. The continuous pouring of oil stimulates and soothes the hypothalamus, reducing stress and inducing relaxation. Shirodhara boosts the immune system, enhances blood circulation around the head and face, and effectively treats conditions like hypertension, insomnia, depression, and jet lag.   

Ayurvedic Medicines for Stress and Anxiety   

According to a study by the Mental Health Organization, people felt stress at some point in their lives; 16% had self-harmed, and 32% said they had had suicidal thoughts and feelings. This makes it necessary to treat stress and anxiety as soon as possible. The five Ayurvedic medicines and herbs for stress and anxiety that are commonly used are as follows:  

Ayurvedic Medicines for Stress and Anxiety

1. Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera): Renowned for its adaptogenic properties, Ashwagandha helps the body adapt to stress and reduces anxiety by balancing the nervous system. It promotes relaxation and mental clarity and can be consumed in various forms, such as capsule powders or as part of Ayurvedic formulations like Ashwagandha churna.   

2. Brahmi (Bacopa monnieri): Known for its cognitive-enhancing properties, Brahmi reduces stress and anxiety while improving memory, concentration, and mental clarity. It can be consumed as a capsule or used topically as Brahmi oil for head massages.   

3. Jatamansi (Nardostachys jatamansi): This potent herb calms the mind and reduces anxiety, making it a valuable tool for stress-related issues. Jatamansi is available in various forms, including capsules and powders.   

4. Tulsi (Holy Basil): Tulsi is revered in Ayurveda for its stress-reducing properties. Regular consumption of Tulsi leaves, or Tulsi tea can help manage stress and anxiety. It's also available in capsule form.   

5. Shankhpushpi (Convolvulus pluricaulis): This Ayurvedic herb promotes mental relaxation and reduces anxiety. It's often used to improve cognitive function and manage stress-related disorders. It's available in various forms, including powders and capsules.   

Lifestyle Modification   

1. Nutrition: Consume a well-balanced diet rich in whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Avoid excessive caffeine and sugar intake, as they can worsen anxiety. Include foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, and sardines), flaxseeds, and walnuts to improve mood and reduce anxiety.   

2. Hydration: Stay adequately hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the day. Dehydration can contribute to stress and tension.   

3. Exercise: Exercise releases endorphins, which are natural mood lifters and stress reducers. Practices like yoga and tai chi not only provide physical benefits but also promote mindfulness and relaxation.   

4. Mindfulness Practices: Dedicate time to daily meditation to calm the mind, reduce racing thoughts, and enhance emotional well-being. Practising deep breathing exercises instantly helps to reduce stress.    

5. Sleep Hygiene: Maintain a regular sleep schedule by going to bed and waking up at the same times each day, even on weekends. Ensure the bedroom is dark, quiet, and cool to promote restful sleep.   

6. Screen Time: Reduce exposure to screens (phones, computers, TVs) before bedtime, as the blue light emitted can interfere with sleep.   

7. Stress Management: Prioritize tasks, set realistic goals, and break them down into manageable steps. Set boundaries to prevent overcommitting and feeling overwhelmed. Learn to say "no" when necessary. Sharing feelings and experiences with loved ones can provide emotional support.   

8. Alcohol: Limit alcohol intake, as excessive alcohol can disrupt sleep patterns and worsen anxiety. It is also important to reduce or eliminate caffeine and nicotine as they can increase anxiety levels.   

9. Hobbies and Leisure Activities: Pursue hobbies and activities you enjoy to relieve stress and promote a sense of accomplishment and happiness. Spending time in nature can also calm the body and provide a rejuvenating effect.   

Lifestyle modifications may take time to yield significant results. Be patient with yourself and continue to experiment with different strategies to find what works best for you.    


Ayurveda offers a holistic approach to managing stress and anxiety through a combination of herbal remedies, treatments, and lifestyle modifications. Before starting any Ayurvedic medication, it's essential to consult with an Ayurvedic practitioner. Dr. Ayush at HealthyBazar is a highly experienced Naturopathic Consultant. He can provide personalized recommendations based on your constitution (dosha) and specific stress and anxiety-related symptoms. Additionally, he can guide you on the appropriate dosage and duration of these herbal remedies to ensure safe and effective results.   

Last Updated: Oct 16, 2023

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