Here in the U.S., we’ve become a stressed-out society. What do other cultures do to manage the stress of daily life?
Some societies have a different base from which they approach stressful situations. Americans have a can-do, solution-oriented mindset, whereas many Western European cultures embrace an attitude of, “it is what it is,” and are more accepting of negative or stressful events.
Many societies have stronger family and societal networks, which many Americans have, for the most part, abandoned—our backyard oriented, fenced-in suburbia can isolate us from the greater community.
What can we learn from the ways other cultures handle the stress of daily life? Here are some things people do around the world to manage it.
1. The French have a ritual known as petit aperitif – “small appetizer” – when they get home from work.
Usually consisting of a glass of wine and a healthy snack, they use this time to decompress from the day before starting dinner. Creating a boundary between our work life and our home life alleviates stress, and having a ritual such as this draws a subconscious line between the two worlds.
2. France also has government-run daycare centers where parents send their children – even if the parents don’t work.
The French give employees generous paid leave when their children are born. The family unit is prized and nurtured on the state level, and the stress of having a new family member to care for is carefully considered. Families’ needs are met as a matter of course.
American parents feel the same pressures, but our attitude is more hovering, hands-on, and stressful.
We jump to fulfill every need and whim of our children, yet have fewer resources on a cultural level to handle our needs; the French have a more relaxed attitude when it comes to parenting, and have a strong cultural network to deal with it. We’ve become guilt-ridden, “helicopter” parents.
3. Most of Russia is cold. In order to decompress and relieve daily stress, Russians spend a lot of time relaxing in hot saunas.
Heat relaxes muscles and the body, making it easier to relax the mind, as well. By removing an environmental stressor to relax, they create the crucial “line in the sand” between their work and personal lives.
4. Unfortunately, excessive vodka consumption that becomes alcoholism is a huge problem for Russian society.
The socialization surrounding this ritual, however, it is a common stress reliever in many countries.
The Argentinians, Swedish, and Danes all participate in practices that use social contact for stress relief.
5. Gathering at friends’ homes, sharing coffee or a special tea, their social networking offers chances for detachment from day-to-day work, and social support networking is a wonderful way to vent about issues.
Many experts feel that having a strong social network is key to managing stress.
The Japanese have an entirely different viewpoint on life. They’re more likely to appreciate things we don’t even think about – the nuances of communication and how it affects others, the sacredness of the passing of time, and the beauty of what’s around us at the moment.
The general outlook of the culture is one of mindfulness – something Americans have either forgotten or never learned in the first place.
Related: 18 Best Mindfulness Books
While we’re constantly obsessing over what has past or is to come, the Japanese take the time to appreciate the moment at hand.
The Japanese language has several words that are nearly untranslatable to English that involve concepts such as beauty, harmony, the passage of time, finding gratitude, and appreciation for things that improve with time.
6. Meditation is a huge part of many cultures, particularly in those countries with a large Buddhist population.
Removing ourselves from the stream of busy-ness—even just for ten minutes—creates new neural pathways in our brains that replace the knee-jerk reactions to stress and pressure that we’ve developed.
Meditation and mindfulness have been used to treat stress, anxiety, PTSD, ADD/ADHD, and a host of other conditions in recent years. Western societies are beginning to understand and embrace the value of being mindful, and how it can relieve daily stress.
7. Massage is used in Thailand to reduce daily tension.
Loosening tense muscles, removing ourselves from the rush of life, and releasing beneficial brain chemicals in the process are all efficient ways to reduce stress levels.
While we may not have the time or resources to schedule frequent professional massages, we can certainly give and receive quick back and neck massages from our spouse or partner, or relaxing foot baths and massages when we get home from work to decompress and create separation between the different parts of our day.
Researchers have found that the stress we’re under on a daily basis is not very different from that the rest of the world experiences. Business pressures, family pressures, and difficult life situations are a reality for all humanity.
There are, however, many attitudes and practices that we can adopt from other cultures to develop new ways of coping.
It’s not daily stress that is the problem; it’s what we do with it that counts.
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