I’m a firm believer in constant learning and am always looking out for the next big tip to help improve my life. It’s no surprise that I wondered about other cultures when the topic of stress relief came up. After all, you and I, dear reader, have learned so much over the last few months: how to spark joy from the Japanese, inspiration for achieving greater happiness from the Danes, and alternative ways to celebrate Easter around the world. During this year’s observance of World Health Day, let us look to our global counterparts for stress-relieving tips. Stress is universal. We all feel it and have naturally come up with methods for countering it. The methods we use are a reflection of our cultures, environments, and values.
In some countries, the attitude towards anxiety and tension may be more of a can-do, willpower-oriented thing, while in others, stress is approached more philosophically. Let us challenge the notion that there is only one acceptable way to manage stress. We might be overlooking better techniques and tips when we believe that we already have the best solution. It’s never too late to learn new things. If you’re looking for some new ways to chill out that are different from what you’re used to, try one of these de-stressing techniques from around the world.
Let’s challenge the notion that there is only one acceptable way to manage stress. We might be overlooking better de-stressing techniques and tips from around the world.
Siestas are the traditional midday sleep of Spaniards and are also practiced by many Mediterranean, South American, and southern European cultures, as well as in the Philippines and mainland China. In Spain, mid-afternoon naps are taken for several reasons, such as to avoid the heat, take a break from work, or rest up in order to take advantage of a robust nightlife. Naps can help everything from memory and cognitive function to performance and mood. A brief snooze is said to be better than caffeine at combating tiredness, so the next time you feel a little drained, take a siesta.
In this tropical country, massage is approached as a science, employed in its medical practices due to its healing properties. Traditional Thai massage combines acupressure, Ayurvedic principles, and yoga-like bodywork to help people relax, relieve pain and tension, and raise the spirits. This option might be a little less accessible for some right now, as not everyone is comfortable with physical contact outside of their pandemic pod, but it can be practiced with modifications. If you live with a partner, friend, or family member who is able, you could each take turns administering a home massage to relieve stress. And if you can find a masseuse in your area with stringent COVID-19 precautions, you might be able to get the benefits directly from a professional.
Whenever many think of France, romance and sophistication come to mind. It’s the city of art, good food, and iconic architecture, and so it’s no surprise that their solution to stress would be elegant as well. In France, it’s common to relax with a petit aperitif after work—a small glass of wine accompanied by a small snack. While it’s not altogether that different from what many do in the form of happy hour or a pre-dinner drink, the French seem to approach it more as a calming ritual, intentionally separating the chaos of work from their personal lives, and enjoying every moment of that time.
Vacations are also a common way to decompress, with many citizens carving out a month or two in the summer to spend with their families. The French government makes this possible by providing five weeks of paid vacation to those who work 35 hours or more each week.
Argentina, Britain, and Sweden
Sometimes de-compressing isn’t about taking a nap or engaging in other kinds of solo activity. Having the opportunity to engage with people and have a chat can be just as beneficial, especially if you can have a warm, soothing drink while you do it. In Britain, teatime is meant to be relaxing and is often presented in an aesthetic that is pleasing to the eye—colorful cakes and macarons, dainty sandwiches, and beautiful china. Accordion to Keith Newton, managing director of afternoontea.co.uk, afternoon tea isn’t a daily occurrence but rather a novelty and “an opportunity to indulge and to take time relaxing with friends and family.”
In Argentina, yerba-maté, a high antioxidant tea found in the South American forest, is drunk communally. A traditional drinking vessel called a bombilla is passed around a group as a bonding activity, which releases oxytocin and fosters a spirit of togetherness.
And in Sweden, there’s fika, a break taken alone or with a partner where tea and sweet pastries are consumed. Stepping away for a short while instead of eating at your desk provides a short time to recharge energy levels and has been scientifically proven to increase productivity levels, as well as cutting down on idle snacking.
Do you incorporate any de-stressing tips from around the world? How do you unwind when you’re stressed?