6 Tips for Calmer City Living

6 Tips for Calmer City Living

Has the bustle of the big town got you down? Try these strategies to help you chill out.

Staying calm isn’t always easy in the big city. Between the constant noise, traffic and air pollution, living or working in a relatively confined space with lots of other people can be stressful. While you can’t change many things about urban life, you can help take the edge off day-to-day stress with these simple steps.

Seek out green spaces 
Whether it’s a nature reserve, a soccer field or a local community garden, numerous studies suggest that spending time in urban green spaces can improve focus, ease stress and boost overall wellbeing. A 2019 meta-analysis published in The Lancet Planetary Health found access to nature was even linked to a lower risk of early death. 

Why? Well, it’s thought that not only do parks and playgrounds give our brains a break from city commotion, but they enable exercise and socialization—both of which can benefit mental health. So, the next time you’re feeling anxious, park yourself on a park bench and take it all in. 

Try deep breathing
Generally, when we're stressed, we take shorter breaths that don’t always provide enough oxygen. To get your breathing under control and help relax, try this: Sit in a comfortable place, even it’s your office chair. Breathe in for four seconds. Hold that breath for two more seconds. Then, breathe out for six seconds. Repeat several times. You can also start with shorter breaths, so long as you repeat them a few times. Do it as often as necessary throughout the day. 

Teach yourself a new relaxation technique
Mindfulness, meditation, progressive muscle relaxation and guided imagery—focusing on a positive image when you encounter a negative one—are four easy-to-learn methods of chilling out when you're anxious or stressed.  If you're new to the practice, some websites, such as the Dartmouth College Student Wellness Center, offer free audio files for self-teaching.

Find a personal indoor relaxation spot
While a yoga studio provides a peaceful location for relaxation exercises, you can do them anywhere. A comfy office chair may be the perfect place to practice deep breathing or guided imagery—or even self-hypnosis—in short bursts. Find a nesting spot for a few minutes of relaxation at least once per day.

Take time to laugh
One easy method of relaxation is to simply find what makes you happy and keeps you calm. While a comedy show or your favorite TV series are always good for a few laughs, sometimes you need a chuckle on the go. Have routines from your favorite stand-up comic at the ready to play in the car, bus or train. Carry a funny book with you. Do what you can to give yourself an escape from reality.

Ask around
If you’re having problems relaxing, ask others what they do. Talk to a family member about their favorite calming exercise or speak with a friend about their yoga routine. Get referrals from other practitioners, too. Many chiropractors work with or know a good massage therapist, for example.

Of course, if your stress is persistent, overwhelming and interferes with your day-to-day function—or if you’re experiencing physical symptoms, like panic attacks—speak with a healthcare provider. They can refer you to a mental health professional or prescribe medication that can help.

Ultimately, relaxation methods can be clinical or as simple as reading a book—and there isn’t a one-size-fits-all way to let your hair down when you live in the city. Whatever method you choose, make sure it's the right one for you.

Medically reviewed in February 2018. Updated in January 2020.

NIH National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. “Relaxation Techniques for Health.”
Dartmouth Student Wellness Center. “Relaxation Downloads.”
Harvard Health Publishing. “Relaxation techniques: Breath control helps quell errant stress response."

Less Clutter, Less Stress
Less Clutter, Less Stress
Jane and I usually have lunch after yoga class on Saturdays. Recently, she politely excused herself and told me how excited she was to continue declut...
Read More
How can the Slow Medicine Wheel of Health help me manage stress?
Michael B. Finkelstein, MDMichael B. Finkelstein, MD
To help manage stress, the Slow Medicine Wheel of Health suggests seven areas that need to be touche...
More Answers
10 Healthy Ways to Handle Excess Stress
10 Healthy Ways to Handle Excess Stress10 Healthy Ways to Handle Excess Stress10 Healthy Ways to Handle Excess Stress10 Healthy Ways to Handle Excess Stress
From exercise to meditation, here are 10 ways to manage unchecked stress.
Start Slideshow
Can You Repair a Telomere?
Can You Repair a Telomere?