Stress Management Latina Style
We come from a rich Indo-Hispano tradition of adversity, cultural clashes, magical spirituality and wisdom. We carry this mixed bag passed down by our grandmothers, madrinas, tías and mothers. It’s in our blood and in our soul. We hand it down to the next generation through our DNA, our traditions, memories, stories and practices. But did you ever think of these remedios as stress management tools?
As we take a deeper dive into the negative effects of stress in our lives, and we become more immersed in the science of chronic stress and its effects on our health, we can also dig deep into how our abuelas and great-grandmothers endured and thrived in spite of their adversity. They may not have been calling it that, but those tips, tricks and yes, even brujerías, were the original stress management tools!
Two concepts come to mind when thinking of stress management in Latino cultures. One is Aguantar and the other is Remedios. One is better than the other.
Aguantar is one of those words that has much more meaning in Spanish than in English. In English it means to put up with, to endure. But for generations, we Latinas have been conditioned to not just endure, but to be silent about it. That “Calladita me veo más bonita” type of endurance. Aguantar goes with silence and that goes hand in hand with “sucking it up” for the sake of others. You’ve seen it in your mothers, tías and abuelas, that stoic dignity that comes from suffering – from grinning and bearing it.
I loved attending the #WeAllGrow Latina Summit last year and seeing droves of young Latinas pass by ¡Calladitas No More! banners, some even taking selfies by this 3-word manifesto: Silent No More!
Latinas are learning and growing and taking back our health, our power and our joy. As always, and like good Latinas, we do this not just for ourselves, but also for our familias. And that is a very good Latina tradition that we vow to pass down.
The other concept that comes to mind as we explore this multigenerational link of Aguantar el Estrés, is the concept of Remedios.
All things have a dark and light side and to me, the light side of Aguantar is the magic and power of our Remedios. The Remedy!
Remedios carries with them the magic of healing, of miracles, of hopeful expectancy. I went on a Búsqueda of Remedios that can help with stress management and here are a few that I found in my own Remedios Tool Box:
1. El Santuario. The Sanctuary.
You may associate the word sanctuary with a church, such as El Sanctuario de Chimayó in beautiful Northern New Mexico, but you can make your own little sanctuario in your home or garden. Claim a little corner somewhere in your home or garden. When you make this special sacred place, you can use it as an intentional remedio to help you cope with stress. Your bedroom works well for a sanctuario because often, it is the most private place in a home.
- Start by claiming it as a special place where you can go for a quiet moment.
- Place a few objects there that have meaning for you. A picture of your dad if that inspires strength, or a picture of your mom, if she inspires faith.
- Place a picture or statue of your favorite Santito, or Our Lady of Guadalupe, a rosary, or whatever holds sacred value or a positive memory.
- Choose a candle that you will light only when you are in the room and place it securely on a flame proof base. (Twice, I almost burned the house down.)
- Add some flowers. A bowl of holy water, or a bowl of water that you have blessed yourself.
- Spend a few minutes with your sanctuario every day or acknowledge it when you pass by.
Use this sacred space to let go of your stress, worry and fear. Practice this and little by little you might find some magical refuge.
2. Sanctuary Creative Visualization
Another sanctuary practice that is lovely and has given me comfort in hard times is to do a deep relaxation exercise and add a creative visualization. Imagine a special place in your mind’s eye where you can go to feel comfort and peace. Does a beautiful garden come to mind? Or a special place to go for a sunset? Perhaps you went for a long walk on a beach one day and you felt relaxed and at peace. Take a few minutes and create this special sanctuary in your mind. Feel peace and refuge there and go back anytime you want.
3. Un Tecito. A little cup of tea.
Latinas have a long tradition of drinking their tecitos. Té de manzanilla – Chamomile tea is the most common. We even give it to babies to relax! Take a break, brew some tea, sit down and drink it in. As you sip your tea, try to relax and “letigo.”
Té de tila – Linden tea is popular as a relaxation tea, but you shouldn’t drink it if you are pregnant or have heart disease. If you have any kind of chronic condition, it is always a good idea to ask your doctor if you should drink té de tila.
Another favorite is té de azar – which is orange blossom tea. Té de azar was the classic tea given to young ladies when they were nervous before the big dance. Life is a big dance, sometimes, Comadres, so fortify yourselves.
Any kind of herbal tea will do. There are some great teas, like Sleepy Time, that will do the trick
3. La Limpia. The Cleanse.
Limpia has different meanings to different folks. Most would agree that a limpia is a cleanse. You might want to ask your abuelas and madrinas what they have used to do a limpia, or if they ever did one at all. Not all Latinas practice this tradition, but the basic limpia that I do is simply get some good sage and burn a little in a metal or ceramic bowl. It’s nice to offer it to the four directions, face each direction and let the smoke go over your head. After you smudge, you could put a few lemon drops in a cup of water in spray bottle and spray the room. This is a simple ritual that could help you feel more relaxed after an argument, after a guest leaves your house if she or he stressed you out, or you feel tension or unpleasantness in the room and you want to “clear the air.” The important quality to try to achieve is to intentionally let go of tension, stress, and malas vibras.
4. La veladora. The blessed votive.
We love our candles, but we have to be careful. Did I tell you I have almost burned down the house twice?! So fair warning, comadres! But there are some wonderful veladoras out there. Te prendo una veladora always means I will light a candle to help make your wish come true. So use your veladoras, wisely. I burn mine in the fireplace now, so there is no chance that I will cause a fire except the one that is burning in my passionate heart. We love the classic Virgen de Guadalupe votives.
5. El Bubble Bath.
I’m a Latina and I am a grandmother now, so you can say this one came from an old abuela. I love a good bubble bath. Just take some “me” time, ¡Comadres! Get some bubbles, put on some relaxing music, a do not disturb sign on the bathroom door and chill out! This remedio works wonders if your back aches or you have tired feet from standing all day at work.
What are some of your tried and tested remedios? What customs from your culture do you bring to your own stress management?