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Preventing Summer Burnout

4 months ago / by Sweta Vikram

Ayurveda can help prevent you overdoing it this summer

A woman exhausted in the heat
A woman exhausted in the heat. Shutterstock

I live in NYC—one of the most Rajasic cities in the world. Ambition, power hungry, fame, determination, deadlines, hustle, passion, anger are at the main drivers of this city. I am a high pitta individual. It can translate to Type A doer. Among all the three Ayurvedic doshas, pittas get burned out a lot faster.

Pittas are typically focused, competitive, ambitious, and highly intelligent. Like I said above, they are comparable to Type As. Pittas are workaholics, have good insight, are loyal, and very discerning. Pittas will rise to the occasion to get things done. They can take on information and have the desire to learn. They digest information with a great degree of success.

What is Pitta Dosha in Ayurveda?

According to the ancient healing sciences of Ayurveda, pitta dosha is made up of fire and air elements. The basic function of pitta dosha is to transform energy and assimilate food on the physical level, and process thoughts and perceptions on the mental one. Every Ayurvedic dosha has its own qualities, called gunas. The main qualities of pitta are oily, sharp, hot, light, fleshy smelling, spreading, and liquid. So, having a pitta-predominant prakriti means that these qualities express themselves generously throughout your mental, emotional, and physical make-up. Gunas are extremely important. The foundation of Ayurvedic treatment is to identify the out-of-balance guna and apply its opposite.

How Gunas Reflect in Our Strengths and Weaknesses

  • Do you pride yourself on your sharp mind and repartees? Have a drink in the middle of the afternoon in an outdoor restaurant when it’s 95 degrees Fahrenheit and pair it with a burger! Pitta escalates and the sharp mind will quickly transform into “sharp” tongue.
  • The hot quality of pitta in balance may be seen as rosy complexion, warm body temperature, good metabolism, and well-functioning digestion, while the hot quality in excess can be noticeable as hot-headedness, irritability, moodiness, or even burning digestion.
  • The light quality in pitta can be the medium-frame or light body. When a pitta person skips a meal, the light-headedness experienced is a sign of excessive lightness.
  • Pittas in balance generally have good and glowing skin: the oily guna of pitta allows for softness and moistness. But the oiliness in excess results in clogged pores, oily skin, or even acne. In terms of personality, think of people who are too slick. The “oiliness” can be that slithering quality where they manipulate people and situations to their advantage.
  • One aunt says people flock to me when I speak, and feel inspired to take action. Pittas tend to be great orators, love being the center of attention, and having control. The “spreading” quality can be the desire to be famous, be influential, spread the word, or impact others. In excess, it can look like hives, rashes, and other skin issues that spread quickly.
  • Have you met people with a strong body odor? I grew up in a boarding school. There were always a few girls who let off a peculiar, acidic smell during their periods. Ayurveda tells us that it is the “fleshy-smelling quality” of pitta.
  • Most pittas tend to break sweat easily. The “liquid guna” of pitta may look like excess sweating.

Maintaining That Balance

What does all this mean? It does NOT mean that all pittas will have the same level of all these qualities. As a writer, coach, and speaker who works with people and words, I benefit from the spreading quality. The tiksna or sharp guna is a big part of me. I constantly strive to excel. The activities I pick, my career choices, my academics, the need to be the best, is deeply ingrained. I am quick on my feet.

Pittas in balance are naturally sharp, dedicated, great orators etc. like I wrote above. But Pittas out of balance can be hot-headed & competitive. They burn out easily. While I don’t compete with others because it feels endless and mindless, I can’t deny this pitta trait of wanting to compete with myself. As a result, I try to beat my own performance and records.

I can be hard on myself, make assumptions about my tipping point, and create depletion. I tend to take on too much. While I’d like to believe that I have the robustness of a kapha, I don’t. I will push myself until I feel heat spreading in my gut and mind. Or I start to notice that I am short with people. Pittas don’t take well to advice; I believe I am the best judge of my work-life balance. I am sure all the pittas reading this bit are nodding in agreement.

Remember to Laugh

Pittas can be very intense and take themselves too seriously. I love watching dog and baby videos on Instagram for silliness and laughter. Talking to friends, who have a sense of lightness about them, lowers the heat in my mind and body and makes everything more enjoyable.

Say NO to Excessive Beer/Wine

Pitta has the fire element. Imagine what happens when you stand under the sun on a 90-degree Fahrenheit day and sip on alcohol that further aggravates pitta. Imagine attending a party where the floor is heated for a winter night and you are walking barefoot absorbing all the heat. Pitta gets imbalanced out of proportion.

Imagine how binge drinking shows up in a person who tends to have a tendency to get agitated easily. Some people will get rashes or hives. Then there are folks who become mean and violent. I drink on extremely rare occasions, never more than a glass of wine, and will constantly keep hydrating myself. Despite all the precautions, sometimes the heat from the alcohol keeps me up at night; other times, it messes with my digestion. Stop the pitta spread.

Make Time for Daily Reflection

One common recommendation for any client experiencing Pitta imbalance: Introspection at the end of the day. This reflective quality can be cooling for Pittas. Instead of ending the day on intensity and holding a grudge, learning to let go can be therapeutic. It also helps the quality of the sleep as we aren’t obsessively thinking about a person or an issue.

Practice Cooling Asanas and Pranayama

On the east coast, we have had an unusually warm and erratic winter. I know for sure that I feel more heated up this winter. Moon salutations, twists, and side bends can be very calming for pitta dosha. Both sitali and sitkari add moisture to your system, it soothes the mind, and softens the pitta dosha imbalance. You can read how to practice these pranayamas. There is also left-nostril yogic breathing called chandra bhedana to cool the body. Always learn yoga and pranayama from a trained yoga teacher to get the technique right and to understand if it’s suitable for you.

Walk in Nature Near Water Bodies

Want a pitta to cool down and slow down? Get them to walk near a lake or a stream or a pond. Not an intense hike but a gentle walk connecting the mind and body to nature. I prefer the softer sounds of these water bodies to the aggressive sounds of the ocean. But that’s a personal preference. See what works for you.

Eat Cooling and Sweeter Foods

No, I don’t mean being face down in ice-cream. Pittas might crave hot, spicy, sharp, and sour foods, but they should eat foods that neutralize pitta qualities. Foods that are dry, mild, cooling, grounding, stabilizing, and dense can help to balance excess pitta. Pitta is pacified by the sweet, bitter, and astringent tastes and aggravated by the pungent, sour, and salty tastes. You can learn about Ayurvedic cooking in my article here.

Just Deal with the FOMO

Just because you can think you can do everything; doesn’t mean you have to. It’s okay to decline party invites or not attend every webinar or not respond to every email within minutes of receiving it. Learn to create space in your life by being mindful of who and what you say a yes to. No one can be in five places at the same time. Surrender and enjoy the sweetness of slowing down and replenishing yourself.

Ayurveda and yoga have been instrumental in my healing journey and ensuring that I am not perpetually burnt-out. The minute I feel exhaustion in my mind-body-behavior, I will surrender and pause without fear or guilt. They have brought me closer to achieving balance in life. Feel free to connect if you are interested and looking to live a more balanced life.

Disclaimer: The content is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. The information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure, or prevention of any disease. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or health care professional. If you are nursing, taking medications, or have a medical condition, please consult with your health care practitioner prior to the use of any of these herbs. If you are looking for advice from a trained yogi and Ayurvedic coach, contact Sweta Vikram here.