After 16 months living in one of Africa's poorest countries, I returned to first world Australia, only to experience a serious case of counter culture shock! I was not used to mass social discussions, setting up new mortgages and outlining ‘plans for the weekend'. Life in Africa was worlds apart. I was craving a quiet walk down an un-named street where I could admire a local Guinean fending his/ her day by preparing dinner from a pot off the street floor.
Rather than be a Jone, I decided my next destination would be Croatia. A half way point between a developing country and a European hibiscus blazing in summer tourism. There were no doubt better opportunities in Croatia to transition from 3rd world to 1st.
After 3 weeks of non-stop business planning, I planned to venture out and spent my day on the beautiful island of Preko – a 20 minute boat ride off the coastal region of Zadar Croatia.
Minimal tourists, cheap Adriatic cuisine, an international marina and elderly Croatians sitting on park benches, I watched as they gossiped about their neighbours and complained about corrupt politicians. Preko was the perfect place to alleviate my new-found ‘2nd world' stresses, and distinguish ways to simplify my life.
Here's what I learnt about stress in Preko:-
Float on Water
Our body is up to 70% water. Think about it. That's a lot of percent! It's our natural physiological disposition to be attracted to water. Whilst swimming through the pearl green sparkles of the Adriatic, I decided to take a minute to lay on my back and float. In that moment, something amazing happened. I COULD ACTUALLY FLOAT! Five years ago in Croatia when I tried to do the same, I couldn't! Back then I was in a bad relationship, now I'm in a wonderful personal place.
Could it have been the difference? Could the weight of my body have lifted so much that now I was able to close my eyes, float perfectly, and let myself drift away with the natural ocean tide? Amazing revelation.
If you can't float, keep trying. Just work out how to stay above water without frustrating yourself on your inability to do otherwise. Use your mind to connect with your body. It's a real easy and therapeutic stress relief technique.
Conversations of the Simple Kind
When was the last time you talked to an elderly person? Sat yourself next to them and said “Hi, my name is so and so, can I sit here and talk to you?”. Elderly people love conversations. You'd be amazed at the wisdom you can gain if you actually connect.
On the island, I sat between a group of elderly men, all with hollywood tans and facial wrinkles harvested from many years working through Croatia's weather elements. After a half hour sitting, I learnt about how many exact kilometres there are between Croatia and Australia, why tomatoes were less ripe this summer, who on the island produced the best olive oil and tips on how to find a good, honest, hardworking man. Grounded and satisfied, I took a photo and thanked them for the best conversation I've had in weeks.
Find time to connect with the elderly, or even spark up a conversation with a stranger. It's amazing what you can learn, and it can be heartwarming and uplifting.
The Stress Dump
When you go on your little outing or retreat, find a nice quiet place, and write down everything that's coming up as stressful in your life. Be elaborate and explicit and capture all the detail. Once complete, fold the paper in four, and tear it up! That's it! Problem solved. Then go back to your two hour nap in the afternoon sun, and just chill the heck out.
Appreciate Your Neighbourhood
As a Full House fan, I'm embarrassed to say how excited I became when I saw an episode randomly pop on Croatian television. The show which enriched my childhood is based on a quirky American family who live in an idyllic San Francisco neighbourhood. I too had a quirky family, and as much as I wished there was a tram running down my street, I grew up in the perfect neighbourhood – great neighbours, community gatherings and a whole host of childhood memories.
Then there was my easy walk through the back-streets of Preko. Old ladies gazing over their balconies, residents walking 2 metres from their front door diving into the sea, and neighbours passing each other fresh garden cucumbers over the fence. It was then that it dawned on me…. From San Francisco to island Preko, every neighbourhood has something special and unique! Take a minute to appreciate the idiosyncrasies of yours, and watch the surrounding world come out and play.
There are so many methods, ways, techniques, strategies, books and ideas around how to alleviate and minimize stress. More often than not, we forget how simple it really is.
A day trip to Preko helped me appreciate the simplicity of finding easy environmental and social pleasures to alleviate stress. Next time you're making it hard for yourself to find ways to relax, remember, Keep it Simple Stupid! Just plan a quick getaway, or take a minute to connect with what's going on around you. It's the simple pleasures of nature, community and showing gratitude that will most likely de-stress you the most. So chill out and don't stress about it!
For more photos of island Preko click here
Ana is a Coach, Consultant & Speaker. She works with individuals & groups to align consciousness with innovation, leadership and social responsibility. Also an athlete, Ana has played sport across most continents. She's President/Co-Founder of a social impact program in Guinea West Africa, and is an advocate for young women and children aspiring to dream. Twitter: https://twitter.com/MizAnnieM Website: www.anamarinovic.com