By Luciano Sztulman, MD
Despite what many might think, Brazilians have a long history of dealing with stress. Throughout the nation’s history, challenges confronted the Brazilian people, requiring the development of effective methods of survival. With each conflict, the Brazilian people become progressively better in collaborating and developing solutions.
To a great degree, this is what forged their culture of collectivism and community. Even today, in an environment of modern industries, the latest technologies, advanced education, and increasing urban-ization, widespread challenges exist, and they cause many to experience stress on a daily basis. But because Brazilians are accustomed to improving and surviving, people continue to flourish while preserving their health and beauty.
The most important strength of Brazilians in coping with stress involves their commitment to family. Similar to the benefits provided through emotional expression, having the ongoing social support of family and relatives meets critical needs when stress appears. Even after children become adults, they continue to stay close both physically and psychologically to their families. Most Brazilians continue to be a source of emotional and financial support for their children well into adulthood.
In countries such as the United States, the stress of being a caregiver for a parent or spouse is profound, resulting in marked increases in chronic diseases. But in Brazil, event as individuals routinely step in to care for immediate and extended family members, perceived stress is minimal.
Imagine a younger like 17-21 years old boy or girl. In Brazil, with the support of his family, he or she feels completely secure, stable, and safe. Often, the feeling of stress develops when we no longer feel in control. This is particularly important for people living in individualistic societies. Because the individual is responsible for everything that happens, he or she must control everything in the environment.
It’s no wonder stress is a problem for so many. But cultures like Brazil’s, the emphasis is on the group, not the individual. The need to control everything is not the primary focus. Instead, responding to situations in a healthy manner takes precedent. Brazilians have learned over time that the support of families and friends provides the best response to stress because it reassures them everything will be alright.
When people feel more safe and secure, they become more comfortable in their environments. This prompts exploration, interaction, and openness. When people have adequate social support, they develop greater social competence and a sense of well-being. Ultimately, these things created communities of trust, sharing, cooperation, and collaboration.
In contrast, people lacking safety and security often perceive stress. If they also lack social support, the burden of that stress soon begins to place pressure upon them. If poorly handled by the individu-al, secondary issues occur, which can include a host of physical and psychological problems as previously described. It’s not hard to understand why Brazilians have one of the lowest rates of conflict-related stress in the world.
Brazilians have a common saying: “fique tranquilo”, or “don’t worry”. Imagine you were trying to hail a taxi in Rio de Janeiro. Just as you run-up to the cab, it pulled away into traffic. In some cultures, it would be quite appropriate to curse, scream, or make an unfavorable gesture to the cabbie. But in Brazil, you are more likely to hear someone say, “fique tranquilo”. Another taxi will be along shortly. In the meantime, relax, have a conversation with the person next to you, and enjoy the moment.
Effectively coping with stress involves managing our response to a situation. If we wish to be healthier, age slower, and enjoy life, we need not worry about the things we can’t control. Stress is simply a perception. By understanding this and by reaching out to those who support us, we allow ourselves to feel more safe and secure. And this allows us not only greater peace but also greater youth and longevity.
* Luciano Sztulman, MD has dedicated his professional life of over thirty years to women’s health and wellness. He is the author of the book “Beauty Is Power: Dr. Luciano’s Brazilian Beauty Secrets For Staying Young.