What to do when loving the city isn’t enough.
In a previous I wrote about how life in big cities can make you a bit wobbly. These are a couple of my coping techniques when life in London starts to get a bit overwhelming.
1. Stay on the couch and read a book
This is the first thing I do when London is starting to stress me out. Escaping into a book is an easy way to shut out the problems of everyday city life. Sometimes you just need the feeling of being somewhere else. Sure whatever you’re trying to escape from is still there when you put the book down, but if you’ve been able to concentrate on reading then those problems are probably not that great. Escapism is under-rated.
2. Find the places you love
What really grounds me and helps me stay sane in London is hanging out in the areas and places I like and have come to know. London is a series of villages, every area has its own centre. The city becomes less overwhelming if you only have to deal with the same familiar areas every day. The nice thing about this is that after a while London takes on a small city feel. You get to know the owners in the local cafes and shops, you start recognising people in the grocery store, you know the names of the people in the post office and they ask you about your latest holiday. This how everyone in London stays sane, they turn the place into a much smaller city.
3. Have a quiet day
Sometimes it’s OK to have a quiet day to yourself when you don’t need to see anyone or do anything. Cancel your appointments, put the phone on silent, look out the window and count how many planes fly across the sky in fifteen minutes. Make a cup of tea. Bake a cake. Relax.
Apparently 2014 is the year of joyfully missing out, now is the time to do it.
4. Get some exercise
Exercise is good for you. It relieves tension, stress and releases endorphins. We all know this. I know this and yet I’m not very good at exercising. But I know that every time I do it I feel better, I breathe better and I feel calmer.
Do whatever feels good for you. I do a lot of walking because it slows me down and calms me down. I also do a bit of yoga at home. Don’t feel like you need to spend a lot of money to do exercise. You don’t need to join a gym or pay for expensive classes. You just need to get up and move.
5. Find a sauna (the right kind) or SPA
I’m Finnish so going for a sauna has always been a great way to relax for me. I recently rediscovered it after Gerry became a bit of a sauna addict on one of our trips to Finland. When we travel back home he’s been known to sit in the sauna twice a day.
It can be a bit tricky finding the right kind of sauna in London (saunas being a euphemism for brothels). We go to the Finnish church in Rotherhite, which has a proper Finnish sauna with löyly (you can throw water on the hot stones). You need to book in advance and it’s £20 for an hour in the sauna. Your local gym might also be a good place to go.
A top sauna trick is to take cold showers in between turns in the sauna. It’s good for your blood circulation and really relaxes your muscles. Be a bit careful (or avoid the sauna) if you have any heart problems though.
Breathing helps. Just sitting quietly, letting your mind go quiet, focusing on your breath and breathing into your belly can make a huge difference. I don’t do this often enough, perhaps because it’s so simple. Sometimes the only thing you need to do is to just stop and breathe.
A friend of mind gave me the advice to try to feel to four corners of my feet whenever I feel stressed. That’s also a great way to feel more centred and grounded.
Image via pinterest
7. Find a green space or a beach and stay there
If I’m feeling extra frazzled there’s nothing quite like going to Epping forest or Brighton beach and spending some time in nature or by the sea. Both places are easy to get to, there are plenty of trains going down to Brighton every day and Epping forest is only a short tube journey away in Essex.
Take off your shoes, dig your toes into the soil or wade out into the water. Listen to the waves or the wind in the trees. Nothing is quite as good as this.
8. Listen to classical music
If you can’t get away from the city find some time to go to one of the many classical music recitals in town. Find a local venue or check out what’s on at the Barbican. Live music is another thing that can stop the city stress whirling around you. It stops my thoughts and for a while there is only the music.
If you’re more of a death metal mosh-pitting sort of person then I’m sure that will have the same effect. If you’re a football fan going to a game will probably also be a good way of forgetting about yourself and the city.
9. Go for a long walk with a friend
This is another easy one. Think about it. Instead of meeting up in a busy bar or cafe, where there will probably be lots of distracting noise, mums with screaming kids, loud music and bored staff, go for a walk instead. Find new places in London to explore.
There are plenty of walks I’d like to do around London, but haven’t yet found the time for. I’d like to explore the Hackney Marshes. Walk London is another great resource with lots of walks around the city.
10. Get out
If nothing else works get out if you can. Go for a short break. Go camping (it’s good for you), go for a walking holiday, go to the Highlands or the Lake District or Devon. This country has an amazing countryside. It would be a shame not to explore it.