The Best Stress Management Techniques from Around the World - women sitting on a mat and meditating in a garden

The Best Stress Management Techniques From Around the World

Haeli Harris
October 7, 2021
October 9, 2022

Ever wonder where the tried-and-true stress management strategies originate from? With World Mental Health Day right around the corner, we wanted to share the history behind some proven stress management techniques from around the world.  

3 Stress Management Strategies from Around the World

Here are 3 of my favorite stress management techniques and their history.

  1. Meditation
  3. Yoga
  5. Massage

1. Meditation

Meditation is one of my favorite techniques for anxiety and stress management. Meditation, when practiced consistently over time, can change your brain's structure for the better. The amygdala—the part of the brain that manages the fight-or-flight response—actually shrinks for long-term meditators.

Meditation originated in either India or China around 1500 BCE. Meditation has its roots in Hinduism and Buddhism, and many other religions practice it.

Meditation is also a tool to manage mental health.

Meditation is simply focusing on one thing while ignoring everything else. For instance, you can meditate on your breathing, the sound of the clock on the wall, or the feeling of sitting on your chair.

Meditation helps us be mindful. Around the 1970s, therapists discovered the power of mindfulness for stress management. Many types of therapy use mindfulness techniques, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy. These are two of the most popular approaches to treat anxiety and depression.  

How to Get Started: I tell clients to practice focusing on five things they can smell, one thing they can touch, and so on for all of their senses. This is a great way to start practicing mindfulness and meditation. Eventually, you will learn how to bring yourself back to the present moment when you feel stressful thoughts bubbling to the surface.

Related: Breathing Exercises for Workplace Stress Relief

2. Yoga

Yoga dates back to over 5000 years ago. It is a mindfulness practice that started in ancient India. In the western world, yoga is a way to exercise muscles and encourage relaxation.

Meditation and yoga are closely related in history and practice. Essentially, yoga combines mindfulness with stretching. Yoga is a great stress relief tool that encourages you to focus on how your body feels and how you can better take care of it.

While most yoga you will find in the States is westernized, you will hear Sanskrit terminology as you follow along with your instructor. Yoga found its way to the USA around 1890 and gained popularity during the 1893 Chicago World's Fair by Swami Vivekananda.

How to Get Started: Follow along to a quick yoga video and see how you feel!

3. Massage

Massage is a holistic pain and stress management practice that has its roots in India and China. In India, massage is considered a "life health" medicine used to heal the body and prevent or cure illnesses. Massage made its way to China and then Egypt.

The Egyptians took the idea and ran with it by inventing reflexology, which is still used today.

Massage can reduce muscle tension, improve circulation, decrease inflammation, and relieve anxiety.

How to Get Started: Visit a massage therapist or learn how to self-massage with virtual massage.

Try massaging someone you love to increase your connection to them and relax together.

All 3 of these ancient stress management techniques from around the world have mindfulness at their core. When we are stressed or anxious, we are being fearful or not being in the present moment. Mindfulness helps ground us in the now, helping us reconnect our minds with our bodies. Grounding ourselves opens the door to better self-care and greater awareness about what is bothering us.

More Ways Other Cultures Cope with Stress

Here's a glimpse at more stress management techniques from around the world. Take these as inspiration for your self-care and stress management routine!

Siestas in Spain

It is typical for some businesses to shut down from about 2 pm to 4 or 5 pm in Spain. Many use the break to eat a long lunch or to simply step away from work for a while.

The siesta is a great concept to apply to your everyday routine. Taking breaks helps us refresh and recharge—they are crucial. Otherwise, you run the risk of burning out.  In Spain, many people work two jobs, and the siesta acts as that crucial self-care break.

Related: 10 Ways to Get Better Sleep as a Remote HR Leader

Petit aperitif in France

Meaning "small appetizer," petit aperitif is a small break to unwind after the workday. The French will typically drink a glass of wine and a snack to help them transition into leisure time.

Take some time to sit outside, enjoy some good food, and enjoy the moment.

This is an excellent lesson on work-life balance. I recommend that employees have a ritual to help them transition into and out of the workday; the petit aperitif is a great way to do it.

Drumming in Africa

Drumming is an ancient and widespread practice in African. Groups will gather together to drum and connect with one other emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Drumming in groups has been found to reduce depression and anxiety.

Making music with others is powerful. It helps us connect to a community, express our emotions, and be mindful of what we are creating.

Drumming and playing other instruments are a great mindfulness practice. It exercises our brain as well!

Banyas in Russia

In Russia, hot saunas are used to rid the body of tension and toxins. Saunas can be dry or wet and are meant to make you sweat it out!

Spending time in a sauna can reduce pain, relieve stress, and even improve heart health.

In Russia, banyas open the door to conversation and community. They also encourage you to focus on the sensation of the heat—an excellent mindfulness opportunity.

You can transfer this idea into your everyday life by being mindful while you have a hot shower.

Hygge in Denmark

Hygge means "cozy." In Denmark, it is common for people to gather together in their homes after work once the sun has set. The focus is on hospitality and enjoying each other's company.

In our increasingly isolated world, having a tight-knit community to connect with can do wonders for our mental health.

Schedule time with loved ones and friends after work and on the weekends. Become a part of a group that shares your values and interests. This can be a club, a religious group, an art studio, and more. Even better if the group meets in person!

This Mental Health Day, try out one of the stress management techniques. Reflect on your experience and how it changed your mood and stress levels.

Adding one of these stress management strategies to your routine can help you prevent stress. Who knows, you may even inspire your coworkers, friends, or family to take better care of themselves, too!

For more stress management ideas, check out our blog post with 9 more employee stress management ideas.


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Haeli Harris
Haeli Harris
Haeli Harris, LMFT is the Director of Clinical Operations at Nivati. She has been practicing as a Marriage and Family Therapist since 2014. Haeli has experience working as a therapist in private practice settings, residential facilities, outpatient treatment care, schools, and telehealth.