September is Self-Care Awareness Month in the U.S., reminding us to time to remind us that taking care of ourselves is important. In honor of the month, Rahul Vyas, Ph.D., a Lead on Blue Yonder’s Learning & Development team, shares a follow-up to his National Relaxation Day blog on the role of relaxation when it comes to self-care and how other cultures view this practice.

Within you, there is a stillness and a sanctuary to which you can retreat at any time and be yourself.
This purposeful retreat into oneself triggers the «relaxation response.» It is the physiological counterpart to the stress response. Relaxation response involves a decrease in muscle tension, relaxed heart rate and normal blood pressure, as well as increased blood flow to the brain.

Self-care practices such as light nature walk, sight-seeing, deep-breathing, relaxed conversations, meditation, muscle relaxation techniques, yoga, or simply spending time with friends and family can trigger the relaxation response.

When we engage in self-care activities, we deliberately create a state of relaxation in our minds and bodies, reducing stress and promoting a sense of calm.

Regularly inducing the relaxation response has been linked to various physical and mental health benefits, including reduced physical and mental stress, less anxiety, improved sleep, enhanced mood, and better overall well-being.

The diversity of methods people around the world use to practice self-care, relax, unwind, and rejuvenate provide valuable insights into different ways of finding calm and balance in lives. 

Some of the cultural approaches I came across are described below: 

  • Wabi-Sabi (Japan): Wabi-sabi is a Japanese aesthetic that embraces the beauty of imperfection and transience. This philosophy encourages finding beauty in simplicity and appreciating the present moment, which can contribute to a more relaxed mindset.
  • Fika (Sweden): Fika is a Swedish tradition of taking a break to enjoy coffee or tea along with a pastry. It’s not just about the refreshments but also about taking a pause to connect with others and unwind from daily stresses.
  • Siesta (Spain and Latin America): In many Spanish-speaking countries, the siesta is a common practice where businesses shut for a few hours in the afternoon to allow people to rest and recharge. This cultural approach recognizes the benefits of a midday break for relaxation.
  • Forest Bathing (South Korea): Known as «shinrin-yoku» in Japan and gaining popularity in South Korea, forest bathing involves immersing oneself in nature and connecting with the natural world. It’s a mindful practice that promotes relaxation and reduces stress.
  • Mañana (Mexico and Latin America): The concept of «mañana» highlights a more relaxed attitude toward time, emphasizing taking things at a leisurely pace rather than rushing. This cultural approach encourages a more laid-back and less stress-inducing approach to life.

Sometimes the most productive thing you can do is self-care to relax. So, take your time off to invest in your well-being and happiness.