June 20, 2024

Health Mettler Institute

Healthy LifeStyle & Education

How to prioritize your mental health in a city

How to prioritize your mental health in a city

There are advantages to living in a city. Something is always happening, but this can also be a downside. Being surrounded by too much activity isn’t always the best thing for your mental health. Improving your wellbeing in a city is often challenging. However, there are several things you can do to prioritize and improve your mental health.

How to seek professional help if needed

If you’re struggling with mental health challenges and you’re seeking professional help in a big city such as New York, there are various resources available. Here’s how to find the right mental health counselor for you.

Use your health insurance if you can

If you have health insurance, check with your provider to see if it covers mental health and services such as counseling. They may have a list of in-network therapists or counselors in your area. Also, ask whether there will be any out-of-pocket expenses so that these don’t come as a surprise and you can budget for them.

Look around

If you’re a student or affiliated with a university, ask about any counseling services offered on campus. Most universities offer these services. They may provide free or low-cost therapy to students.

You can also ask trusted friends, family or healthcare professionals for recommendations. They may have personal experiences or know someone who can provide the support you need. This also makes those who care about you aware that you might need more support from them. They will probably want to help but can’t if you don’t tell them.

Consider specialized services

If you’re looking for specific therapeutic approaches or need assistance with a particular issue, seek out therapists who specialize in those areas. For example, if you’re interested in cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or trauma-focused therapy, search for professionals with expertise in these areas.

Verify credentials

You may be concerned about sharing personal experiences with a stranger. It can help to put your mind at ease by checking that the mental health professional you choose is licensed and qualified. For example, in New York, you can verify the licensure status of mental health counselors through the New York State Office of the Professions.

Schedule a consultation

Once you’ve compiled a list of verified potential therapists, reach out to them and schedule a consultation or initial session. This lets you discuss your concerns, ask questions about their approach, and decide if they’re a good fit for you.

Therapy is a personal decision, and it’s important to find a therapist who you feel comfortable with. It may take some time to find the right match, so don’t be discouraged if the first therapist you try doesn’t feel like the best fit.

Alternatively, if you’re interested in helping others, you may want to know how to become a licensed mental health counselor in NY. The process typically involves obtaining a master’s or doctoral degree in counseling or a related field, completing a certain number of supervised clinical hours, and passing a licensing examination. Studying can be made easier thanks to universities such as St. Bonaventure offering qualifications where the coursework is 100% online. So, while the commitment to pursue a new career will be hard work, distance learning makes it more manageable.

Seek out green spaces

Spending time in nature and green environments can have a positive impact on your mental health. Exposure to green spaces has been associated with reduced stress levels, improved mood, increased attention span and focus, and enhanced overall wellbeing. Being surrounded by nature provides a respite from the hustle and bustle of city life and allows you to reconnect with the natural world.

You can do this by looking for public parks and recreational areas near where you live. Most cities have them, even if they are within walking distance of busy shopping, residential and trading areas. They may offer a variety of brief escapes from the hustle and bustle, such as walking trails, open fields, playgrounds and seating areas to relax.

You could also visit botanical gardens. These are great places to immerse yourself in nature and appreciate the beauty of plants and flowers. They have well-maintained landscapes, exotic flora and educational exhibits. Exploring these gardens can be a calming and sensory-rich experience, providing a break from the concrete jungle. They are particularly beneficial to those city dwellers who don’t have a garden of their own.

Green spaces are perfect for organizing picnics or outdoor gatherings with friends, family or colleagues. The combination of spending quality time with your loved ones and the peaceful and natural setting can make you feel connected, aid relaxation and boost your mood.

Alternatively, you could try a community gardening initiative in your city. Participating in gardening activities can provide feelings of purpose, accomplishment and a connection to nature. It also offers you an opportunity to interact with like-minded individuals and contribute to the improvement of your community.

Take breaks from the city

Taking breaks from all the activity of a city is essential for maintaining good mental health. While green spaces within the city can provide a temporary escape, sometimes you need to go beyond the city limits for a more immersive experience.

Planning weekend getaways will also give you something to look forward to. Look for nearby destinations that offer a change of scenery and a slower pace of life without being too expensive or far to travel. If you drive, you can explore countryside retreats, coastal towns or mountains within a few hours’ drive from the city. These mini-vacations provide an opportunity to disconnect from the urban hustle, immerse yourself in nature, and engage in activities such as hiking, swimming or just enjoying the peaceful surroundings.

Take part in regular exercise

Physical activity has a significant impact on mental health. You will find fitness centers, yoga studios or sports clubs in your city to help you include exercise in your routine. It may take time and self-motivation, but once it becomes a regular habit, it’s easier to stick to.

Exercise has a powerful impact on reducing stress and anxiety levels. Physical activity releases endorphins that act as natural mood elevators. These endorphins help alleviate feelings of stress and anxiety and aid relaxation. Exercise also provides a healthy outlet to release built-up tension and negative emotions.

Engaging in physical activity also provides cognitive benefits. It promotes blood flow and oxygenation to the brain, improving cognitive function, concentration and memory. It also enhances neuroplasticity, the brain’s ability to adapt and reorganize itself, which can positively influence your learning and problem-solving abilities. If you’ve ever struggled to find an answer to something and have then gone for a walk or to the gym and the answer has come to you, this may be why.

You can also boost your self-esteem and improve your body image with regular exercise. Achieving fitness goals helps you feel stronger and more capable, and observing positive changes in your physical appearance can enhance self-confidence and self-worth.

While all this exercise is important, so is sleep. Physical activity has a positive impact on your sleep quality and its duration. This is particularly helpful in a city because when something is always trying to get your attention, sleep allows your mind and body to rest and recover.

Finding an exercise routine that suits you is key to sustaining long-term engagement. Experiment with various activities, such as jogging, cycling, dancing, swimming or yoga, until you find one that makes you happy. Remember, even small amounts of physical activity can have positive effects on your mental health. Start with manageable goals and gradually increase the intensity and duration as you progress.

Practice mindfulness and meditation

Developing mindfulness can be beneficial, especially in a city environment. Many cities have meditation classes or workshops that provide guidance and a supportive environment for practicing mindfulness. Look for local meditation centers or community centers that offer these sessions. Joining a group provides accountability, learning opportunities and a sense of community with others who share similar interests.

If you can’t attend in person, there are numerous mindfulness apps and online resources available to guide you through meditation and mindfulness exercises. Popular apps such as Headspace, Calm and Insight Timer offer a wide range of guided meditations, breathing exercises and mindfulness practices that you can access anytime and anywhere you feel comfortable.

You might feel like you have too much to do and no time for mindfulness, but there are still ways to fit in the practice with the rest of your daily activities. You can practice mindful walking during your daily commute by paying attention to each step, observing your surroundings, and engaging your senses. Incorporate short meditation breaks during the day, even if it’s just a few minutes of focusing on your breathing to release tension.

Designate a specific area in your home or workplace to practice mindfulness. If you don’t have a lot of space, that’s okay. This can just be a comfortable cushion or chair in the corner of your room. Add soothing elements such as plants or soft lighting to create a serene ambiance. This space can serve as a retreat from the city, allowing you to reconnect with yourself and find inner calmness.

You can also include mindfulness in your regular activities by approaching them with intention and presence. Whether it’s eating a meal, enjoying a cup of tea, or even cleaning your living space, bring your full attention to the experience. Notice the tastes, smells, textures and sensations involved, and savor each moment mindfully. Focusing on the smaller things can stop you from being overwhelmed by all the bigger things going on around you.

Connect with the community

Loneliness can take a toll on your mental health. Although it may seem like you’re never alone in the city, it’s easy to get lost in the crowd and feel lonely. Make an effort to connect with others and build a supportive social circle. Join clubs, volunteer for community events, or participate in group activities that match your interests. This will help create a sense of belonging and provide opportunities for meaningful connections.

Joining groups where most people already know each other can feel daunting. However, with some strategies and a positive mindset, you can overcome the initial barriers and build connections.

Take the initiative to introduce yourself and engage in conversations. Show a genuine interest in getting to know others. By being approachable and open, you increase the likelihood of others feeling comfortable reaching out to you.

By joining a group or starting an activity that interests you, you already have something in common with the other group members. If you feel a little nervous or unsure of what to talk about, your shared interest is the perfect place to start.

Volunteer your time and skills within the group if the opportunity presents itself. This could include organizing events, contributing ideas or providing support to ongoing projects. This can help you become more integrated and valued within the group. It also provides opportunities to interact and collaborate with others.

Limit screen time and technology use

Constant exposure to screens and digital devices can increase stress and anxiety. It may seem as though everyone is leading a better life, with higher-paid jobs, more costly vacations or more friends. However, the people who post these things rarely post the negative parts of their life, so it’s likely that they have some of the same problems and worries as you.

Start by setting the specific boundaries you want to impose on your screen time. Think about the amount of time you currently spend, the activities you want to limit (e.g., social media, gaming), and the specific times when you want to implement technology-free zones (e.g., during meals or before bed).

Let friends, family and coworkers know about your intentions to reduce screen time and explain why it’s important to you. When everyone is aware of your goals, they can be more understanding if they don’t always get an immediate response from you.

It will seem strange at first, and you might forget your intentions to limit your screen time. So, use physical reminders if necessary. These can include placing a basket near the entrance of your home to deposit phones and other devices during technology-free hours, or sticking post-it notes around your home as reminders.

Conclusion

Living in a city can be both exciting and overwhelming, and it’s important to prioritize your mental health in such a fast-paced environment. Thankfully, the strategies discussed in this article can help to improve your wellbeing and find a balance. Seeking professional help is crucial if you’re struggling with mental health challenges, and there are resources available for this.