It has been over five years since I first moved to DC and, though I can hardly believe it’s been that long (I only intended on staying here for 1-2 years!), it feels as though I’ve had enough time to really soak in this place and experience what it means to live in a “real” city. There are so many beautiful things that come along with urban living: access to public transportation, the ability to walk or bike ride just about anywhere, so many events and concerts every single day of the week, and an abundance of restaurants to visit! City living does come with some major downsides, though, and as the years have gone by, I’ve realized that if you’re not careful, it can take a toll on both your physical and mental health.
I know I am not alone when I say that along with the hustle and bustle of city living comes a general energy suck. There are so many times every single day where I feel as though my energy is being slowly zapped by things out of my control (ex: airplane noise, cars honking, close proximity to neighbors, etc!). I have so many people reach out to me and express the same feelings of wanting to experience less overall stress on a day-to-day basis so I figured it might be helpful for me to share some of the ways that I manage everyday stress to ensure my nervous stays healthy and happy.
Take A Walk
Getting outside, even when it’s rainy and cold outside, is often the very best part of my day, especially when I feel overwhelmed or stressed out. Humans are designed to spend time in nature, but living in a city can often discourage us from doing just that, and I have found that getting fresh air and immersing myself in some greenery takes pressure off of the nervous system and reminds me that I am part of something much greater than my own little world. If you live in DC like me, I recommend the many trails and parks around the city like Rock Creek Park and Roosevelt Island! If not, start doing some research of where you can spend some time outside and put it on your calendar!
Noise Cancelling Headphones
This is probably the easiest way to get rid of actual noise “clutter,” aka all of the noises we tend to get used to over time (ambulances, cars honking, plane noise, other people chatting in the background). I’ve had a pair of Noise Cancelling headphones for years but always kept them tucked away and saved for airplane travel, but a few months ago, in a time of desperate need for silence, I pulled them out and put on some calming music to help drown out every little sound around me. Now I just can’t go a day without them and swear they make me a more productive (and chill) human.
I admit this habit is still very new to me, but since downloading and actively using the app Headspace, I’ve noticed a huge difference in my ability to manage the chaos that is often abundant in my day to day. Even taking 10 minutes to shut everything off and focus on my body and my breath is sometimes all that I need (and all that I have time for!).
I posted a little bit about my use of essential oils here a while back in case you missed it, but we keep our oil diffuser turned on in our bedroom almost all day every day. My favorite calming essential oils are frankincense and lavender (or a combination of the two), but if a diffuser is too much work, I love these room sprays that instantly clear negative energy and refresh your physical space. These are great to keep in your purse, in your car (hello, traffic!), or on your desk for a quick pick-me-up: Chill Pill & Relaxing Mist.
I joke that I should just quit health coaching and go work for Natural Calm because I am so in love with their Magnesium powder that I tell everyone I know about it and have been known to gift it incessantly. If you’d like to read a more in depth look at the benefits of magnesium, I wrote a post about it here. Essentially, though, magnesium is a mineral that nearly all Americans are deficient in due to a depletion of our soil over time. A magnesium deficiency can lead to feelings of anxiety, sleeplessness, restless legs, and overall heightened stress levels. I take 1.5 tsp. of it every single night before bed and swear it has made me a less anxious, more rested person as a result. You can get it here (and I prefer the raspberry lemon flavor!).
This is the biggest lesson I’ve learned this year in searching for more calm, and it has also been the absolute hardest by a landslide. I’m scheduling way less than I ever have before and it feels SO good. I used to say yes to everything — every client, every yoga class, every event, every errand (“sure! i’ll do that! easy!”) and then I would feel so burnt out all the time, even though a lot of those things were “good” tasks or obligations. What I’ve learned about taking care of myself, though, is that even if something looks good on paper it doesn’t mean I should commit to it. I feel significantly better during weeks where I spent more nights at home than I do out. Saying no is probably one of the top 5 things my clients want help with and I know that the social pressure is real, but believe me when I say that life feels better when you have more time for yourself than not!
Just One Cup of Coffee
Ah, the dreaded caffeine debate. Let me be clear that I am a total coffee lover — I look forward to my morning almond milk cappuccino every single night when I’m falling asleep and I have never once told any of my clients to drop caffeine altogether (a little bit is ok!), but it should be made very clear that excess caffeine (and I’m talking about more than 1 cup a day) can not only drain us of healthy energy levels, but can also elevate stress hormones to a dangerous level. Because of the stress we already subject ourselves to by living in urban areas, adding more stress on the body in the way of consuming caffeine can cause us to feel even more tired and stressed than we normally would anyways. I highly recommend cutting caffeine consumption down to 1 cup a day (preferably after you’ve eaten breakfast rather than on an empty stomach) and substituting your second cup for tea instead.
What do you do to bring your stress levels down on a daily basis? I’d love to know!