Brazil burnout coping strategies

These are a few of the things that have helped me stay sane during my fading love for Brazil as described in my last post. They’re little things (and I don’t do them consistently) but when I do, they’re an enormous help to my peace of mind.

Leave at least 15 minutes earlier than you technically have to


It’s soooo much better not to be pressed for time in Brazil – because the country will NOT help you.

First of all, leaving earlier gives you a bit of a buffer in case you hit heavier than normal traffic, or your bus passes on the outside lane without stopping (see this masterful illustration) and you have to wait for the next one. Secondly, leaving earlier allows you to walk slower. The New York City power walk does not do well in a tropical climate. Thirdly, if you run into someone you know on the street, you’ll have time to stop and chat a bit rather than being the cold, rushed, time-is-money type. (Of course, this can sometimes backfire).

Throw away your day planner

I absolutely love those little day planner booklets (I’m old school, I like the paper ones). But I haven’t used mine for the past two months, and I’m moving towards getting rid of it entirely. Why? Well, I’m normally an excellent time manager, but the problem is that in Brazil you never get as much done as you plan to.

In the States, you can get 4 errands done in an hour – supermarket, bank, post office, dry cleaners’ and DONE! In Brazil, you’ll spend half an hour in line at the post office, 20 minutes at the bank (even though the legal limit for wait time is 15), and God help you if you expect to “pop in and out” of the supermarket.

So everything kept getting pushed back in my day planner one day… then 3 days… then a week. The errands would pile up and I’d get frustrated because I could never keep up with my own to-do list. Interestingly, without the day planner, I’ve still managed to get (most) things done – with substantially less stress.

Turn rants into humor


Brazilians – and particularly Bahians – are some of the most cheerful people on the planet, and my husband is no exception. I’ve never met anyone who maintains a positive attitude more consistently than he does. His schedule is even tougher than mine, yet he stays upbeat and doesn’t complain.

But one thing that can easily put him in a bad mood is when I vent about my crappy day. The complaining and negativity makes him cranky; the atmosphere in the house changes, and instead of feeling better, I feel like I’ve poisoned the air.

Sometimes I really do need to vent my frustrations, though, and I’ve discovered that I can do it if I tell the story differently. Rather than straight-up ranting, I try to describe my woes with a humorous spin. He laughs, I end up laughing, and in the process I find that my own view of the events is transformed.

Adopt Brazilian ways and “forget” about home


The easiest example is food. If you try to maintain your home country’s diet here, you’ll constantly be frustrated by the limited (or non-existent) availability of your favorite foods. But if you stop fighting the flow and just go with the pão francês and feijão, your cravings for breakfast cereal and PB&J sandwiches will fade. Plus, when you do visit your home country, you’ll have good cheese and chocolate to look forward to.

The same goes for holidays (see Rachel’s post about adapting to Christmas in Brazil) – you just can’t compare them or think about what you’re missing; it’s too painful. The Brazilian calendar has a lot to love (even the ridiculous holidays) – but you need to practice selective amnesia to avoid drowning in saudades. 

Be involved in something you love and/or are good at

For me, that has always been capoeira. After 10 years in the art – although I still have a lot that needs to be improved – I don’t feel so much pressure or urgency to do so. True, on bad days I sometimes bring the negative energy with me and play like I’ve got a chip on my shoulder. But on most days it’s liberating.