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Big City Life VS. Good Mental Health - How to Live in Chicago and Stay Mentally Healthy? Chicago Therapist's advice on how to do it.

Chicago Therapist’s Ways to Look After You Mental Wellbeing in Big City Living 

When you live in a big city, like Chicago, it may be easy to get lost in the hype of it all. Mental health issues, along with the everyday overwhelming issues have become more and more common in people maintaining their lives around a metropolitan area. How can we address this challenge? It's easy to overlook self-care amidst the demands of work, finances, and maintaining social connections while living independently. Chicago therapist, Todd Nelson, delves into strategies for self-preservation, enhancing our wellness, and thriving in the urban milieu without being overwhelmed.

How Living in a Big City like Chicago Can Effect Your Mental Health?

First of all, let’s delve into the difficulties associated with living and keeping up with bills, social life, love life and career in Chicago. What threatens our mental health in Chicago? 

Many people, especially those from small towns and villages, dream about living in a big city. Big cities like Chicago, New York City, Los Angeles, Houston, Phoenix or Philadelphia may offer a lot of entertainment and joy. Urbanites enjoy many things about city living, such as walking to quaint, local coffee shops and restaurants, attending sporting events, cultural events, and meeting people from diverse backgrounds. Even though living in a metropolis can be exciting, there are some downsides.

The physical and social environments of urban life can impact mental health and wellness in various ways, both beneficial and detrimental. Studies reveal that cities are associated with higher rates of mental health problems compared to rural areas. Statistics indicate nearly a 40% elevated risk of depression, over 20% increase in anxiety, and double the likelihood of schizophrenia. Furthermore, urban life often correlates with heightened feelings of loneliness, isolation, and stress. 

6 risk factors contributing to decreased mental well-being and increased incidence of mental illnesses among urban residents.

Research has revealed six leading factors that worsen individuals’ mental health in big cities.

  1. Disappointment and Unrealistic Expectations: The allure of big city life can often lead to disappointment and heightened expectations, whether in anticipation of city living or upon relocation. Unrealistic expectations may strain mental health as individuals grapple with the realities of urban life.

  2. Preexisting Mental Health Conditions: Those with preexisting mental health conditions face heightened risk factors in a big city environment, where stressors and triggers may be more prevalent, exacerbating their condition.

  3. Social Risk Factors: Both urban and rural settings present social risk factors for the development of mental health conditions, such as social isolation, lack of social support networks, and interpersonal conflicts. In big cities, these factors may be magnified due to the fast-paced, often impersonal nature of urban living.

  4. Environmental Factors: The urban environment itself can pose risks to mental health, including pollution, overcrowding, and limited access to green spaces, which are vital for psychological well-being.

  5. Sensory Overload: Big city life is often characterized by sensory overload, with constant exposure to noise, crowds, and bright lights. This overload can overwhelm the senses and contribute to stress, anxiety, and other mental health issues.

  6. Diminished Protective Factors: While big cities offer numerous opportunities and resources, they may also diminish certain protective factors associated with mental well-being, such as close-knit communities and a sense of belonging. In urban settings, individuals may feel more disconnected and alienated, leading to increased vulnerability to mental health challenges.

Chicago therapist's advice on how to live in Chicago and keep yourself away from depression, stress and sensory overload.

As a Chicago therapist, here are some practical tips to help residents stay rested, avoid feeling overwhelmed, manage sensory overload, ease loneliness, and reduce stress while navigating their big city lives:

  1. Establish a Sleep Routine: Prioritize consistent sleep patterns by going to bed and waking up at the same time each day. Create a calming bedtime routine to signal to your body that it's time to unwind.

  2. Practice Mindfulness and Meditation: Incorporate mindfulness techniques into your daily routine to help ground yourself and reduce stress. Various apps offer guided meditations that can be easily accessed anywhere in the city. If you want to know more benefits of mindfulness, you may wish to try mindfulness-based therapy approaches like Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy. 

  3. Take Breaks from Technology: Limit exposure to screens, especially before bedtime, to prevent sensory overload and promote relaxation. Designate tech-free zones in your home where you can unwind without distractions. Blue lights from phone and laptop screens heighten our brain activity at night, leading to sleep deprivation. 

  4. Seek Green Spaces: Explore Chicago's parks, gardens, and waterfront areas to reconnect with nature and find moments of tranquility amid the urban hustle. Spending time outdoors can rejuvenate your mind and body. If you have a weekend off, consider going outside the city. 

  5. Cultivate Social Connections: Attend local community events, join clubs or classes, and participate in group activities to combat loneliness and build meaningful relationships. Chicago offers a diverse range of social opportunities to connect with like-minded individuals.

  6. Cultivate Healthy Relationships: Open communication in a romantic relationship, family, between parents and children, at work, at school and with your friends means a lot to your mental health. Consider therapy if you have communication issues. As a Chicago therapist I teach my clients how to openly communicate their needs. You may need tools to communicate better, and improve your social life, family life, or relationship. 

  7. Engage in Physical Activity: Incorporate exercise into your daily routine by walking, biking, or taking fitness classes. Chicago boasts numerous recreational facilities, jogging paths, and bike trails, making it easy to stay active regardless of your fitness level.

  8. Practice Deep Breathing Exercises: When feeling overwhelmed or stressed, take a moment to pause and focus on your breath. Deep breathing exercises can help calm the nervous system and promote relaxation, even amidst the city's hustle and bustle.

  9. Utilize Mental Health Resources: If you're struggling to cope with the demands of city life, consider seeking support from a qualified therapist. Therapy can provide valuable tools and strategies to manage stress, improve mental well-being, and navigate life's challenges more effectively.

  10. Have a Pet: Having a pet in a big city can boost mental health through companionship, stress reduction, and physical activity. Additionally, pets provide emotional support and routine, fostering social interaction and stability amidst urban life's challenges.

Remember, prioritizing self-care is essential for maintaining balance and resilience in a fast-paced urban environment like Chicago. Whether it's taking a stroll along Lake Michigan, attending a yoga class, or seeking therapy, make self-care a priority to enhance your overall quality of life. If you feel overwhelmed or need additional support, don't hesitate to reach out to a trusted Chicago therapist for guidance and assistance.

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