Stressed? Urban Living May be to Blame

by on July 21st, 2011 at 7:00 am

Most people can agree that certain situations can quickly lead to elevated stress levels, such as heavy traffic/congestion and loud, grating noise – both which are pretty commonplace in an urbanite’s daily life. Recently, a study conducted in Germany showed that certain areas in the brains of city dwellers reacted more vigorously to stress, suggesting that urban living may be harmful to your emotional health.

Researchers found that participants from cities with populations of more than 100,000 showed more brain activity of the amygdala (the area of the brain that reacts to threats in one’s environment) as well as the circuitry that regulates the amygdala, versus participants from towns of more than 10,000, who then showed more activity than people from rural areas.

Although the evidence was mixed, the study findings show some indication that urbanites are at a higher risk for mood and anxiety disorders, and previous studies have even suggested that being raised in a city is tied to an increased risk of schizophrenia.

However, researchers do point out that the evidence is inconclusive, but the variances they found between city, town and rural dwellers suggest that stress from dealing with other people may be a contributing factor to elevated brain activity.

So what’s an urban dweller to do? If elevated stress levels are a problem (regardless of where you live), do seek help to manage the condition before it turns into a larger issue.  In addition, if you don’t already have the following healthy lifestyle tips in place, check these out:

  • Practice relaxation and deep-breathing exercises. Studies show that practicing relaxation techniques, such as guided imagery, can help lower stress levels instantly.
  • Eat a balanced diet and avoid stimulants like alcohol, caffeine and sugary foods, as these all can increase the likelihood of anxiety and panic attacks.
  • Exercise regularly to burn off excess pent-up energy and stress-related chemicals, while releasing calming, happiness-inducing endorphins.
  • Form a support network. Having a strong emotional support team, whether it’s family, close friends or a support group, can help ease your mind, even when you don’t actually call on them for help.
  • Especially if you’re prone to social anxiety, don’t use alcohol to help get you through a social situation. Besides potential health consequences, regular use of alcohol has been shown to worsen anxiety symptoms in the long-term.

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One Response to “Stressed? Urban Living May be to Blame”

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