Ever think of running away to escape the stress of modern American life? The truth is—stress is not relegated to one country. We don’t live on a stress-free planet—especially during the holidays. People around the world are embracing the idea of dealing with stress through various, innovative methods. Take this stroll around the world to see if there are some new stress-busting tips you would like to incorporate this holiday season and into the New Year.
South African Ubuntu
Ubuntu is the ancient belief that by being kind to others, we become uplifted. The word can be translated to “I am what I am because of who we all are.” Generosity is the basis of ubuntu. It’s especially easy to practice this type of kindness during the holiday season by volunteering at your local food pantry or homeless shelter, or by simply assisting a neighbor. Another plus? Connecting to other people can encourage you to be more optimistic and satisfied.
Swedes stop their day to enjoy a coffee break, have a treat, and catch up with friends. Fika breaks last 15 to 20 minutes each, usually at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Research shows that Swedish workers are some of the least stressed workers. At first blush that may not sound productive, but in fact, one study found the most productive people work for 52 minutes and take a 17-minute break. And, if you happen to love coffee—even better! Swedes also boast of practicing lagom—which translates to balance in all things—not too much and not too little. This approach cuts down on the stress that can occur from being surrounded by an abundance of things.
What are you passionate about? What makes you jump out of bed in the morning? That’s ikigai, from “iki” (life) and “gai” (the fruit of that life). The combination of these ideas is discovering what gives you a reason for being. That can mean time spent with friends or pursuing a hobby. If you’re not sure what that is for you yet, here’s a simple formula to get there. Think about what you love, what you’re good at, and what the world needs. Where these three intersect is your personal ikigai. Another Japanese meditative practice to de-stress is shinrin-yoku or “forest bathing”—a form of nature therapy that includes watching sunlight stream through the trees while mindfully breathing the damp, cool air of the forest.
This translates to time spent outdoors in the woods, among trees. More specifically, wald means “woods” and einsamkeit means “solitude.” Even if you don’t have a life that allows long treks through the wilderness, spending just 20 minutes in a woodsy area can also lower your stress levels. Just looking at pictures of trees can be effective. It’s similar to the concept of meditation—the consistent process of training your mind to focus and redirect your thoughts—and choosing a place that encourages this type of concentration. Taking the time to recognize the serenity available by walking or sitting among trees combines two forms of de-stressing for a happier holiday season.
As they say in Paris, would you like to flâner (pronounced flan-ay) down the Avenue des Champs-Élysées? That would be wandering the streets of Paris without a specific destination or goal. Your aim is to soak up the beauty that surrounds you. Of course, you can take that attitude anywhere you are by intentionally deciding to relish the moment. In the process, you will make quick, micro decisions as opposed to being on a plan or schedule. You’ll have an enjoyable time and build new brain neurons. Perhaps adopting this attitude toward holiday gift buying could take some of the stress out of your shopping trip.
Norwegian Koselig, Danish Hygge, and More
Pronounced “koosh-lee,” this Norwegian answer to stress is translated to mean “coziness.” Without a direct English translation, it’s close to the Dutch “gezelligheid” and the most well-known of the cozy concepts—Denmark’s “hygge” (pronounced “hue-guh”). Part of the national character of Norway, the concept combines companionship, nature, and coziness to bring you to a state of personal well-being. Think of it as the opposite place of where stress reigns. While Norway and the other Scandinavian countries are subject to isolated, long, dark winters, practices like koselig go a long way to help those who live there deal with seasonal affective disorder. Bonfires, warm sweaters, embracing nature as it is—they all lead to the blissful state of koselig.
Perhaps “kalsarikannit” is your cup of tea, or possibly a glass of beer. That’s the Finnish de-stressor that involves sitting at home by yourself, drinking. Oh, and then there’s the part where you are clothed in just your underwear! When it comes to feeling stress-free, you can choose your own adventure! Whatever practice you adopt to foster a stress free existence, the end-result is the same—greater joy and longevity!
Stress Answers from Around the World
In addition to walks in the forest, cozy foods, and the soothing effects of meditation, nature also provides botanicals that can effectively fight stress. You can find your bliss no matter where you live. Turn to these supplements and get back to that holiday cheer.
Echinacea. If the holidays have you feeling overwhelmed and anxious, consider a clinically tested botanical—a specially cultivated species of echinacea called Echinacea angustifolia (EP 107). Discovered by Hungarian researchers, it’s not to be confused with the echinacea used for colds and flu. This is a single compound from the species found to influence brain chemistry. It doesn’t cause drowsiness, but reduces anxiety without triggering side effects. In fact, studies showed a reduction in stress in as little as three days. And because echinacea has been used for centuries, we know it’s safe—even for children. The best part? This natural relief is in supplement form at a clinically studied low dose that can alleviate anxiety symptoms quickly and safely. Check the label on your stress-specific supplement for Echinacea angustifolia root extract, standardized for proprietary echinacosides.
Lemon Balm has been used for over 2,000 years as a way to deal with stress. A clinically studied herb, it contains compounds that include acids known to inhibit an enzyme in the body called gamma-aminobutyric acid—or GABA. A great holiday stress antidote, GABA brings balance to stress and anxiety. The key is to use a clinically studied extract of lemon balm leaf and stem along with supercritical extract of lemon balm. The combination of these two lemon balm extracts delivers highly concentrated, active constituents that work well against stress.
Holy Basil. This wonder of nature has been held sacred in India for thousands of years due to its ability to increase feelings of relaxation and calm. One laboratory study showed that holy basil reduces oxidative damage even in high-stress cases. Holy basil’s relaxing effects are even more effective when paired with lemon balm. Taking these together in the form of a supplement is a convenient way to manage stress throughout the season.
Lavender. Looking for an added bonus? Take a good long sniff of lavender. As an essential oil, lavender can be used with a diffuser in your home, or topically. Spritz a lavender spray on your pillow to help you drift off to holiday dreamland.
Ashwagandha helps build stress resistance for both the mind and body. It contains powerful, natural compounds that increase the body’s resistance to stress by supporting the adrenal glands. Clinical studies have shown ashwagandha’s ability to lower cortisol levels while increasing antioxidant activity. As a result, you will feel calmer and your body will experience less oxidative damage. Look for an ashwagandha supplement standardized to contain 5 percent withanolides—hormone precursors that modulate stress hormones and help keep the body in balance.
Rhodiola, an exceptional adaptogen, can help you adapt and thrive during times of emotional, physical, and environmental stress. It’s known for being emotionally calming, allowing you to stay cool and collected even in high-pressure circumstances. Choose a supplement standardized to contain at least 3 percent rosavins and 1.8 percent salidrosides. Energizing and calming at the same time, combining ashwagandha and rhodiola creates a synergistic way to combat seasonal stress. They are an unbeatable combination to help you through the holidays and beyond.