San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Turning stress into an ally

In order to find genuine happiness and lead empowered lives, we must first begin to live in the moment, which can be challenging. Mindfulness practices can help you cultivate this lifestyle by encouraging you to bring your awareness back to the present moment and focus your attention on one thing at a time. This column aims to open a space for readers to ask questions and receive answers from a mindful perspective.

Natalie Garvey D.

Natalie Garvey D.

Q: I work in a highly stressful business environment, and I feel very pressured and stressed out. I find that my performance has dropped in my work, and also my relationships around me are not doing well. I want to be successful and live the “modern dream,” but I am unsure about how to get the balance back in my life.

A: Stress can be our greatest ally for motivation, but when it becomes too much, it blocks concentration and productivity, in addition to having serious health consequences. The demands of the “modern dream” can create real challenges to finding the work-life balance you are searching for. However, it is not impossible. In fact, with just a few adjustments, you can quickly get back on track, transform your stress into your ally, regain productivity at work and enjoy your personal time.

The first step is to gain some clarity and assess the priorities in your life. At first, you may feel that everything is a priority; but the more you look at your situation, the more you will be able to see that a few things can be eliminated from your to-do list. This step will hopefully give you some more time in your favor.

Next, look at how you are handling the stress in your life. Become mindful, and notice how you are reacting to stress. Where does this reaction come from? What might help you better manage stress at work? Ask yourself how you would like to handle particular situations differently. The answers will lead you to the transformation point. This is different for everyone, but may include being mindful about your boundaries or limits, learning new communication strategies, incorporating exercise, getting more sleep or looking into stress-management services.

Although changing old patterns can be challenging, looking at the potential benefits can open your perspective to find the incentive to change.

Natalie Garvey D., M.Psych., is a California native and an eight-year resident of Costa Rica. Recognized by the Costa Rican Professional Psychologists Association (4496), she dedicates her professional time to accompanying others on their path of self-discovery and healing. Send your questions to

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