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Distressed? Here’s how I destress

By VICKY VELOSO-BARRERA, The Philippine STAR Published Nov 11, 2023 5:00 am

The irony of the holiday season as it gets closer to Christmas is the juxtaposition of Christmas joys—lovely lights, spirit-lifting carols, the coming reunions—with fourth-quarter stress-inducing traffic, work deadlines and the coming reunions (Yes! We know they can be both joyful and not so joyful).

So how to cope? It’s November and tensions can already be running high as you will witness on our traffic-choked streets.

Let me start by telling you how not to cope.

Comfort is probably top of most people’s stress busters. Who hasn’t taken solace in vanilla pudding, pastillas de leche, crispy lechon kawali, garlic rice, your mom’s adobo and so on and so forth?

The problem with sweet, chewy, crispy, fatty or salty—whatever spells comfort for you—is that it’s bound to make your body feel anything but comfort in the long run. 

 Sweets can help improve mood, support effective stress reduction.

But honestly, are you comforted by a salad? You could be but that takes a paradigm shift, as I’ll explain later on. That’s a whole other story for another time!

Clothes getting tight is just one consequence of indulging in (my guilty pleasure) chocolates. This is coming from a chocoholic. If I am capable of going through a box of See’s when I am not stressed, what do you think I am capable of when truly distressed?

Answer: in a day, a whole medium-sized triangular bar of Toblerone plus spoonfuls of Nutella, those Lindt truffles, my homemade enganos bobos and so on. The scale, which I check daily, has been telling me this is not too good for a confirmed fashionista at heart. The clothes won’t look good soon.

While my current situation resolves, and is actually working out so perfectly as I commit the burden to our Heavenly Father’s loving hands, we weak humans still feel sad and overwhelmed. But that’s the consequence of living in a fallen world.

Too much wine—not good also. Bingeing leads to all sorts of terrible consequences, as I should know. Not to mention, a hangover prevents the things I love most—worship, writing, exercise and, yes, alcohol is fattening as well! It also—surprise, surprise!—prevents a good night’s sleep which I am very fond of as I adore sunrises anywhere.

Drinking beyond moderation has clear impacts on a person's health.

Much as I want to I cannot compartmentalize the stressful situations that I face, and some distressing situations can take months to resolve. This is true for most of us.

I have found that breaks here and there can recharge, revitalize, refresh. Some you already know of but don’t make enough use of. Some may be new ideas and experiences, and all are godsends.

While my current situation resolves, and is actually working out so perfectly as I commit the burden to our Heavenly Father’s loving hands, we weak humans still feel sad and overwhelmed. But that’s the consequence of living in a fallen world.

The lotus pond is an addition to the Arboretum at Pinto Art Museum.

First on my list of what works is the power of green—surrounding you, or visible through the windows of your vehicles (throw in mountains and other worthy sights along the way), even in your glass, mug, or on your plate.

Try visiting Pinto Art Museum’s Arboretum, which is less trafficked than the galleries and IG-worthy spots at this world-class destination in Antipolo. Dr. Joven Cuanang spent much of lockdown time here, on the beds he so thoughtfully provides for visitors, gazing at a garden filled with endemic species and listening to the music of the bamboo trees.

There is so much the doctor has to say about healing from the art and gardens of Pinto, but that’s a story for another time!

But regarding art—when I learned that my friend Anson Yu, the man of many hats (photographer, writer, tour guide, heritage and history buff) had also had a bad day I said it was time we walked around the Sacred Heart barangay where Kaida Contemporary is located.

The walk of a few hours passing nice old houses, interesting-looking restaurants including my friend Dina Bonnevie’s Victorino and Deogracias, was a stress buster. 

But it was the exhibit of Kaida last month, featuring young artists on a number of themes, that elevated my afternoon. A young Bitto had a work called “The Roamer” which I felt perfectly captures the adventurous part of me, the part that likes to climb mountains and cross hanging bridges. Had it not been already sold—had I had that extra cash then, had I had the proper wall space—I would be staring at it now to destress.

Art soothes the soul and inspires: “The Roamer” by Bitto was on display at Kaida Contemporary on Scout Madrinan, Quezon City — until it got sold.

Going back to farms, another welcome break for me was a visit to the Echo Farms in Amadeo, Cavite run by my co-author, STAR colleague, coffee expert and slow food advocate Chit Juan.

Not only will you forest-bathe in her farms of herbs and coffee trees, native flowers and fruit trees, peer into ravines on the property for the possibility of bayawak sighting—you will be so entertained by the tour where the guide Yasser explains the coffee-growing process. By the end of an hour’s tour you cannot help feeling like starting a coffee farm!

The scent of this Paraan to attend Instituto Cervantes’ is bliss! Instant spa lovely musical tribute to Luis Eduardo for P299.

Then, among the products she sells at the Echo Café is this Spa in a Can with a minty, soothing, yet energizing scent that will chase the stress away! For only P299 it’s a quick, affordable, effective spa treatment. As I write this I am applying some to my temples and nape!

My bunso also gave me a face mask, which I used yesterday after a stressful day compounded by a sleepless night as I chased letters that needed to be written. I am a sleep monster so to shorten my seven hours to five or less is torture. The mask, the spa and a watchful eye on the stimulants—coffee in particular—assured me of a really good night’s rest last night.

Sheila Ferrer and Toma Cayabyab performed the sweet and quirky melodies of Philippine-born Spanish singer Luis Eduardo Aute at the RCBC Auditorium. The spectacular film showing Filipino singers and musicians performing Aute around Intramuros was an inspired project by Instituto Cervantes’ Javier Galvan.

Oh, and last night I was invited by Philip Paraan to attend Instituto Cervantes’ lovely musical tribute to Luis Eduardo Aute. Why have I never heard of him before? He is to many Spanish my age what Burt Bacharach was to me—the music our parents listened to in the car as we drove to the beach. 

Aute was born in Manila during its WW2 Liberation. The 12 years he lived here (hence the concert title, Born in Manila) taught him to speak perfect Tagalog and those daily sunsets he enjoyed, living in his grandmother’s house on Roxas Boulevard, never left his soul.

Kudos to director Javier Galvan of Instituto Cervantes which produced a brilliant film including interviews of Aute demonstrating his perfect Tagalog and his music performed by Filipino singers and musicians in sites around Intramuros; it was spectacular. Kudos also to Toma Cayabyab for lending his voice, his band Debonair and his arranging skills to this! 

It will soon be uploaded to YouTube but try to do it justice by watching it on a bigger screen, like your TV.

The endearing melodies whether upbeat or slow, the quirky love songs whose lyrics are romantic, humorous and dark all at the same time, plus his artworks, make him a creative genius. 

For more than an hour I was transported away from my sorrows and lifted on a cloud of sweetness and peace.

Chamber music on a weekday afternoon at the Malabon cathedral next week? Count me in! Right, Deepika?

By the way Deepika is my gentle and affectionate Netherland dwarf, a bunny that loves to lick my arm. For the vulnerable rabbit, a prey animal, that is the ultimate sign of its trust.

And the ultimate stress buster.