Urban stress – what is it and how to deal with it?

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The experience of stress is influenced not only by problems at work or mental tension, but also by conditions in the immediate environment. This kind of stress can be caused by urban environments.

What is urban stress?

The physiological reaction of the body caused by factors associated with living in a large agglomeration is commonly known as urban stress. Everyday mood and psychophysical condition are influenced by stimuli which are characteristic for civilization development and long-lasting staying in the city center.

Single factors are not a problem – the body can easily cope with them. A bigger problem arises when several of the stimuli are combined with each other and strongly affect the functioning of all the systems in the body. Such factors include artificial lighting, noise, air pollution, congestion, the daily rush, exhaust fumes, electromagnetic radiation, or improper diet.

All these elements cause stress, generate problems with sleep rhythm, make it difficult to rest or fall asleep, and increase the production of cortisol.

What ailments accompany urban stress?

Noise negatively affects the work of the nervous system. According to studies, harmful sounds start at about 70 decibels. It is estimated that noise associated with the city, such as the sound of car engines, hustle and bustle, or the sound of motorcycles or buses passing by, produces a noise level of 75 to even 90 decibels. Such loud noises weaken concentration, make it difficult to rest, and increase the production of the stress hormone responsible for feelings of tension, anxiety, irritability, and fatigue.

Polluted air is also an unfavorable factor for the body to work. Exhaust fumes or smog can cause difficulty taking in air freely, hypoxia, decreased brain function, and even respiratory health problems. Lungs permanently exposed to city air fully clear up after about two weeks in a less polluted environment, so it’s a good idea to detoxify your body regularly.

Urban stress is also associated with the intensity of artificial lighting. The problem causing unpleasant ailments concerns not only city lights, halogen or street lamps, but also frequent use of computer, TV and smartphone. These devices emit artificial blue light which hinders free vision, causes a feeling of dry eyes, tearing, fatigue, headache, and in extreme cases may lead to serious eye problems.

Blue light also affects the body’s secretion of melatonin, which is responsible for regulating the diurnal cycle. Spending time at night in artificial light and staring at the screen of electronic devices makes it difficult to fall asleep, causes a feeling of stress and negatively affects effective rest.

The last factor that increases the feeling of urban stress is improper diet. People living in large metropolitan areas often use restaurants or delivery services, consuming highly processed foods. Such a diet does not provide the body with the necessary vitamins, minerals and nutrients. Poor eating habits, combined with frequent drinking of alcohol or smoking cigarettes, additionally increase the feeling of discomfort and significantly worsen the daily mood.

How to overcome urban stress?

The basic element for reducing the feeling of tension is taking care of effective relaxation time and healthy sleep. The process of falling asleep can be helped by ventilating the room, using fragrant oils, darkening the bedroom and a comfortable mattress. Covering the windows will also reduce artificial light entering the room, which has a negative effect on your eyesight.

The state of air pollution in the city cannot be changed, but it is worth taking care of a large number of plants in the apartment. They will create a more friendly environment and will supply the produced oxygen on their own. A trip outside the city to nature, for example to a lake, a forest or a meadow, can also help. Spending time surrounded by nature will clear your lungs, calm your growing thoughts, relieve tension in your muscles and oxygenate your whole body.

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