Living in a thriving city can be a thrill, especially for those who didn’t grow up in busy places. There is a hustle and bustle about cities that inspires excitement and productivity. The options for arts and entertainment can seem endless, and the size of the city can make its potential — and yours — seem limitless.
But the same things that make the big city great can also make it anxiety-inducing. The hustle and bustle can be stressful instead of productive. The options for activities can be paralyzing. And the massive size of a big city can make you and your potential feel small just as easily as it can make you feel emboldened.
Particularly — but not exclusively — for those who grew up elsewhere, big cities can be fraught places. Where we live can have a big impact on our mental health, and cities are certainly no exception. Here’s how to adjust to living your daily life in a big, big place.
Find your (mental) space
Cities are crowded. You won’t always be able to find the personal space you need, so you’re going to need to practice shutting out the noise and confusion. A pair of headphones can help, as can a book or a tablet computer.
Note that you should embrace the chaos sometimes. A city is a sensory experience. But if you feel like you want to scream on an early-morning commute or just can’t take any more chatter, find a private space in your own mind and rest up.
Find your (actual) space
It’s hard to find your own space in a city, but it’s not impossible. Explore your city’s parks and try to find spaces where you can feel truly alone for at least a little while. Parks are good for society and good for our mental health, as well. When you crave personal time, head deeper into parks or away from crowded, touristy areas — or come at a time when the parks and other public spaces are less crowded.
Parks aren’t your only option, of course. Go see a movie that has been out for a while, and enjoy the mostly-empty theater. Or eat dinner at a restaurant early, before the crowds alive. There is space in every city — you just have to know where to look.
Find your group
Cities are huge because they’re full of people. That’s good, in a way, because you’ve never had so many people to interact with. There are so many potential friends, so many people to date, and even so many doctors to choose from.
But when people are in large numbers, they can see anonymous to us. Dealing with individuals can be anxiety-inducing, but so can dealing with huge groups of people who seem to lose their individuality in their numbers.
To make things more manageable, look to meet people in smaller group settings. Join a softball team or volunteer with a charity organization. Get to know people on your terms, and build a group of friends in a city full of strangers.
Go to therapy
Maybe you’re worried that your big-city anxiety will land you in therapy. If so, that’s the wrong attitude: you should be looking forward to going to therapy, not avoiding it.
Therapy is immensely valuable for people from all walks of life and of all mental states, experts say. Talk therapy and other forms of therapy are about addressing the sources and symptoms of mental health issues, including diagnosed issues and small everyday frustrations.
And therapy can be a great choice for those who are feeling anxious in big cities, explain expert therapists in NYC. Your space in therapy is your own, and can give you a refuge for a time while equipping you with the strategies and sense of self that you need to better thrive in our busiest cities.
So embrace your city, but don’t go it alone. Get the help you need and employ the strategies above to make the most of your new (or lifelong) hometown.
Have you or loved ones had to adjust to living in the big city?
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