Learning to Stress Less in Costa Rica
So you’ve moved to the tropics for your dreamed of, perfect, stress free life. Sorry to say there is no place, no life, that is stress free. However, you’ll be glad to hear you can lessen your stress and learn how to manage or eliminate stressors for a healthier lifestyle anywhere.
First, lets define a stressor. Stress is your reaction to an activity, event, demand, or any other stimulus. Could be your job, your commute, a family member. You may feel threatened, or sense a loss of control, anxiety, and feelings of being overwhelmed will surface. It is how you perceive these last in your life and more importantly, it is how you react to them that leads to physical or emotional stress.
In the moment of stressful events, physically we are affected. Our cardiovascular, musculoskeletal, nervous, and immune systems change immediately. If repeated over time and left unchecked, these stressors can leave detrimental long term damage to certain organs and the brain. The good news is we can all consciously learn to be aware and to act upon these mental patterns and the physical sensations they produce to create a healthier stress response, lessening the negative reactions, even possibly eliminating them.
Here are the essential building blocks to lowering our psychological stressors:
Get control of your life, create predictability.
Don’t let yourself fall into the daily patterns, just start one thing at a time. You can eat better today, and you can go to bed earlier too. As well the weather, at least in Costa Rica, rarely presents an obstacle to outdoor activities when planned early in the day.
Develop flexible coping strategies.
Try to be less rigid in your thinking, just by letting some things go by without comment, simply observe without having any reaction.
Create a social support system and give support to others.
Meet new people, spend time with family and friends. In the area we have various free activities, join gringo softball, hang out at the beach or the river with friends. Go out to a local coffeehouse, soda or restaurant. Do something for others in the community, we have a lot of creative people here who understand this and have started projects for the good of our community, no matter what your skill set we have work for you.
You can meet new friends and instill purpose into your life. You might find having some scheduled activities weekly helps to keep you active and engaged with others in the community.
Create a healthy lifestyle.
A regular schedule that includes physical exercise, practices conscious breathing, and practices some form of daily meditation can work wonders on anyone’s stress levels.
Make sure you are moving, go to the beach for walk or a hike in the rain forest. Take a class in something new or deepen a current practice such as yoga, chi gong, zumba, surf, SUP, or kayak.
Stop Stress in its Tracks.
If you find you get overwhelmed, have trouble sleeping, grind your teeth at night, or exhibit any other signs of chronic stress try to begin taking some deep breathes inhaling ad exhaling through the nose. Sit down or lie down and concentrate on making the breath long and slow on the inhale. Allow the belly to rise and the rib cage to expand. Exhale slowly through the nose and the chest and the belly will fall.
Practice daily, with full attention to your breath and the subtle relaxed movement of the body. If you find it difficult practice more often, just stop what you are doing several times a day and simply focus on just one or two breathes. The more you practice the easier and more relaxing it will become. The way we breathe, the pace, and the depth directly affects the state of our mind, and the chemistry of the brain. It can keep us hyper aroused or keep us calm, it is all in the breath.
One of the best things you can do for yourself and your peace of mind is to start a regular yoga practice. At Bienestar, we focus on connecting the mind, breathe and body to keep you centered.
So take the time today to look at your life and decide what are the issues causing you stress and see what can be done about them. Reflect on what you might be able to do to change that. Remember by creating new habits you can live a life that contributes to your health and well being, it is never too late, so start today!
This article was originally published in February 2017 by Costa Pacifica Living, Costa Rica's premier lifestyle and living magazine.