September 24, 2019 | Andrew Stead
  • More than half of the world population live in cities and urbanisation shows no sign of slowing. City living can be tremendously exciting and full of stimulus - art exhibitions, restaurants and global cuisines, theatre openings, you name it! And needless to say, career opportunities are greater, shopping is greater and transportation is easier too.  I’ve lived in cities for more than 90% of my life, and I’d also highlight that urban life is not all fun and games. In fact, City slickers are 21% more likely to have anxiety disorders and 39% more likely to have mood disorders (Gruebner et al., 2017).  Commuting is well known to be one of the highest detractors of our well-being.

    So how exactly does city living affect our stress?     

  • 1. Sensory Exposure

    I’ve lived in New York City – the city that never sleeps – for a while and totally love it! I can guarantee you it never sleeps. Want a bagel at 3 am? You’ll get one. Need a haircut at 11 pm? Here you go! Need a cab on a Monday night? Served! Amazing how all our dreams can come true, right? But dreams aren’t happening if instead of sleeping you’re flipping around like an American Psycho.

    Sound pollution is responsible for coronary heart disease, hypertension, high stress levels and sleeping disturbances (Münzel et al., 2018). And if the noise is unbearable during the night, imagine during the day.

    The future’s too bright? Many cities suffer from over-illumination, which is responsible of a gazillion barrels of oil to produce the required electricity.

    Need to give your senses a break but your vacations are still far away? Ever heard of a sensory deprivation tank? These isolation tanks are pitch black, soundproofed environment, heated at body temperature, filled with 10 inches of water and epsom salts to create a specific gravity. You’ll feel like flying in some magic and quiet dimension and get out fresh and relaxed!

  • 2. Slow Motion

    Cities are chaotic and so is living there. We proceed at high speed, busy running errands, reaching work or joining our friends for brunch. The one thing that does go slow in a city? Traffic! The 2018 top 5 congested cities were Mumbai, Bogota, Lima, New Delhi and Moscow (Travel Index, 2018). And if you live in London, Rome or Saõ Paulo and need to get around during rush hour things aren’t looking much brighter.

    Want to avoid the frustration and stress of long commuting? Pedal to happiness! Cycling saves hours in traffic plus the exercise will enhance your mood and energy levels. I miss my bike!!

  • 3. Over Population

    Over population has become a global problem, especially when the ecological footprint is aggressive and damaging the environment permanently. There are 2 major psychological consequences of being constantly surrounded by people. On the one hand we might feel claustrophobic, suffocated and overwhelmed; and on the other, entirely lonely and isolated. My grandmother knew the names of all her neighbours, their dreams, and which tea they preferred. In London one barely knows ones neighbours let alone their favourite hot beverage!

    Isolation and overpopulation go hand in hand: we’re so tired of dealing with people that by the time we finally get home we often shun meeting anyone else!

    The solution? Find your tribe and enjoy quality time with a community of people who share your values and interests: you’ll feel recharged and feel supported by them when difficulties arise.

    And if city living is stressing you out, take a leaf out of the Digital Nomads book - adapt your new needs and organise a new life far from the city. You’ll appreciate going to the theatre and that new art show much more when you rarely get the chance to!

    Have a great stress-free day,