Embracing Diversity—Culture-Specific Strategies on How to Manage Stress

Posted October 23, 2023 by in Health + Fitness

As technology improves at connecting people from different corners of the world, it also helps us see our common ground. The internet has shown us many similarities in human experiences, preferences, and defense mechanisms. Even the problems we encounter daily possess a similar tone. We are more alike than our great-great-great grandparents have thought, but we are also very different. 

It is fascinating to explore how the culturally influenced ways of stress management help us shape our resilience, shedding light on the diversity of human approaches to stress relief. Some cultures are more open to expressing emotions, while others are taught emotional restraint. Our ability to regulate our feelings profoundly affects how we deal with stressful situations. Thus, this is where our difference starts.

Asian Cultures: Meditation for Mental Strength

Asian countries typically have a collectivist culture that tends to align their sense of self with that of their close community. They embed themselves in their relationship with others, a concept known as interdependent social orientation, and often prioritize social harmony when planning their course of action in certain situations. The idea that people’s psychology and physiology are interconnected does not sit well with their culture. Instead, they practice being emotionally reserved to preserve social relationships.

As the younger generation gets more exposed to many campaigns about pursuing their sense of self, their stress lies in achieving a balance between finding their true identity without having to sacrifice their sense of belongingness to their community. Asians feel more strongly about being presented in a positive light during social interactions, making them easily distressed when they encounter social situations that challenge their persona. 

Most Asian countries have deep ties with their religion, including Hinduism and Buddhism. They emphasize the mind-body connection and employ meditation, such as Zen and Vipassana, to manage stress. These practices encourage living in the present, focusing on breathing, and achieving mental clarity for handling challenges.

Nordic Cultures: Defeating Mental Stress with “Hygge”

Nordic countries are notorious for being at the high end of the happiness scale, a source of envy from other nations for a long time. They are all about individualism, where people’s loyalty and sense of identity lie within themselves instead of with their group. They are also very process-oriented; they pay more attention to the process, considering every stakeholder’s sake, and often see these decisions as free-flowing rather than final. 

On the other hand, recent polls have shown a decline in the happiness scale for these countries, especially among young people. An increased number of young adults have reported poor mental health due to stress, depression, anxiety, and even self-harm. With a seemingly epidemic of mental health issues spreading across the globe, the Nordic nations are only starting to be affected. 

This culture, however, has its coping mechanism. They practice a concept called “hygge” where they promote relaxation by creating a warm and cozy atmosphere. This includes simple activities, like lighting a candle, enjoying a warm beverage, or even spending quality time with loved ones, just enjoying each other’s energy. 

hygge setup on a table

Latin American Cultures: Family-Oriented Coping to Everyday Stress

Latinos/Latinas typically experience higher stress levels when balancing their cultural norms with typical American values. Different age groups face various challenges from acculturation. The younger ones often struggle with finding their identity while successfully assimilating with their American friends. Their daily worries are about maintaining their connection with their parents or community’s customs and traditions while developing their own set of modern values and beliefs through peer interactions.

On the other hand, the older generation struggles with adapting to the new culture and ensuring their children are still in touch with their heritage. This often strains their relationship, as discrepancies between traditional versus progressive values give rise to heated discussions, depression, anxiety, and more mental health problems for both generations.

Ironically, in Latin American cultures, strong family bonds and close-knit communities are crucial in stress management. Sharing problems with family, engaging in lively conversations, and leaning on social support networks are the most prevalent ways of managing their stress. 

Indigenous Cultures: The Natural and Spiritual Way to Mental Healing

Little research is done to examine indigenous people’s mental health status worldwide. This is astounding and problematic, knowing that their long history of abuse and suffering has been widely documented throughout history books. It is safe to assume that these groups, still continuously being subjected to trauma and dislocations, suffer from various physical and, most significantly, mental disorders.

In contrast to a limited reference about their mental sufferings, people have taken advantage of their natural stress management strategies worldwide. Some even capitalize on it by organizing retreats, selling commercially made sages, or even doing fraudulent activities, claiming they have experienced spiritual actualization. 

Indigenous cultures worldwide have been known to emphasize a deep connection to nature and spirituality to manage stress. Practices like smudging, vision quests, and connecting with the natural world are believed to restore balance and inner peace. People have been incorporating these practices into their personal stress management regime and have reaped the benefits of the indigenous culture. 

Stress is a natural result of human’s initiative to navigate the complexities of our existence. Ultimately, we suffer from the same societal pressure, although dressed differently from various cultures. Yet, we define and experience stress differently, as they are closely tied to our cultural norms and values. For instance, conservative societies link stress to preserving their honor and duty, while liberal societies focus more on individualism and personal ambition.

For an interesting read about cultural differences in the perception of daily stress between undergraduate students, click here.

No matter how many similar traits we share as part of the same species, culture, unique experiences, religion, and family dynamics still play a substantial role in steering our worldview. Thus, even if there are concepts that are regarded as universal human experiences, we perceive them uniquely, and our coping strategies are heavily influenced by the society we grow up in. 

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