Life in the city is hard enough without having to stand in queues reminiscent of food shortages in the former Soviet Union. When you’re not in queues, you’re battling traffic jams, polluted air, work deadlines, hostile strangers, inflation and petty crime. The result is chronic stress.
A little stress doesn’t hurt: You need it for peak performance. It is the body’s physiological response that keys you up for the fight-or-flight response when faced with a threat or challenging situation. Stress releases the adrenalin hormone, which increases heart rate, blood pressure, sweat production, muscle tension and makes breathing rapid and shallow. The hormone cortisol released simultaneously fuels up the body with glucose, fatty acids and amino acids.
When the threat is constant, as it is as you negotiate your day in the city, it jeopardises health by keeping your body peaked for an emergency response all day. It causes anxiety, muscle pain and tiredness. In people with a predisposition, it can cause depression. It affects your ability to work, form relationships and cause physical problems such as sleeplessness and listlessness. Prolonged exposure to adrenaline and cortisol also accelerates the ageing of the brain cells, which affects learning and memory.
Here are five ways to calm yourself while living in chaos.
Disengage: Mentally withdraw from urban cacophony for two minutes to focus on yourself. Inhale deeply, think of something calming and slow down your breathing to a pace you are comfortable with. Relaxation techniques lower stress and improve mood, as does going to green and open spaces. Several studies show people who are connected to the environment feel socially connected and secure than people trapped in iron and concrete jungles.
Stop driving: Driving during peak hours is extremely stressful and long commutes leaves most people feeling exhausted. Use public transport as far as possible and keep chores for off-peak hours.
Get enough sleep: Poor sleep warps your emotional coping mechanism and may cause anxiety. Stop watching TV and using your tablet, smartphone or e-readers as the backlit screen interferes with sleep. Music or reading books help you unwind and prepare your body and mind for restful sleep.
Get active: Most days you have no time or are too exhausted to exercise, but you must. Exercise does more than make you fit. It releases endorphins or “happy” hormones that lowers stress, improves mood and boost immunity to lower emotional and mental exhaustion. To beat winter pollution, consider sunshine walks in the afternoon when pollution is at its lowest.
Spend time with friends: Loneliness is a bigger stresser than work, money or emotional problems simply because it offers no outlet to vent. It drives depressed people further into themselves, more so now when people are living alone or are a nuclear family where everyone is busy earning a living or studying. People often have no time or anyone to share their feelings with, which over time takes a toll on their mind. Friends and family are anchors who can help you make calm down and make the right choices in stressful situations.