"Stress and the City"

For today's mid-week post I thought I would talk about something semi-serious. Something we all experience, whether we are in or out of the city. Something we experience as individuals in all shapes and forms. STRESS. Stressful situations in the city can really linger whilst surrounded by looming skyscrapers and the bustle of New Yorkers on the street level. Recently within school, we have had numerous final examinations in our lessons, as well as our current end-of-year play series, and with these finals comes STRESS. Stress is different for each individual in any situation, and I came to realise that I can overcome or really deal with my stress levels in a variety of different ways. I managed to whittle this down to 5 ways that help me deal with stress, I hope these help you as much as they help me:

1. Journal about the emotion you are feeling

This may seem almost too simple, however I have found that if I'm in a busy subway carriage or I have a lot of work to do. Writing it all out in notes on my phone, whether its in list format or in the form of a first/third person journal, really helps me off-load the days tasks or a situation that I have experienced that has left me feeling down, stressed or anxious. In the past I've even found writing to really open up the positives within my life. Last weekend writing my post about Madison Square Park really got me thinking at how lucky I am to be here and how thankful I am and doing the photoshoot in the park Saturday and then writing about it made such a great weekend in the city. Something that all came from an idea that I had one time, and then wrote down. Creative outlets act in the same way whether you're a writer, poet, photographer, reader, artist, the list is endless.

2. Keep a day free

It is so easy to fill up your weekend after a long week at work. I've had such issues with this in the past. A busy, busy week that leaves me exhausted gets me really looking forward to down-time at the weekend, however that margarita at Benny's Burrito's on Friday night can seem tempting. A new Netflix series can carry you all the way through a Saturday night into the early hours of Sunday...trust me (*cough*How To Get Away With Murder*cough*). This only puts you into an endless cycle of exhaustion and exhaustion is one of the main causes of stress. Simply keep a day free, a full Saturday or full Sunday where you simply have NO PLANS. Now if you're like me and suffer from severe "FOMO" (fear of missing out) this is easier said than done but I have found that having a day free to catch up on errands or sleep in and not set an alarm really does help clear my own headspace, and allows me to think positively about the things I need to get done.

3. Change your environment

Most recently when my roommate and I were going through a stressful time in college, we rearranged our room. This simple change in space allowed us to really feel a sense of a "fresh start". I remember even doing this when I was younger. Whenever I wanted to work on "a new me" I would rearrange my bedroom and put a new collage up on my wall. Now that 21 year old Luke is not as self-loathing as 15 year old Luke, I find a simple rearranging of furniture, de-cluttering of my desk/workspace or wall decoration is really therapeutic and brings a new perspective to my personal space. Changing your environment doesn't necessarily mean rearranging your whole house/apartment/bedroom, it can even mean the place where you spend most of your week. Sometimes for me, living, working, training and hanging out ALL on the same block in the city can drive me insane. Going for a wander at the weekend around the calming streets of Brooklyn or along the West Side riverfront can really just calm me down, allowing me to reflect on the week I've had and prepare for the week approaching. 

4. Music

Anyone who knows me, knows that I have a constant musical theatre song, show or number going around in my head. And that I am not one to shy away from singing it out loud...constantly. My head is normally going crazy going through musical theatre song lyrics! When the "Hamilton" Cast Recording came out at Christmas, I spent most of my downtime trying to nail the lyrics to Renee Elise Goldberry's rap in "Satisfied". Exhausting stuff for me and the ears of my family members! I always thought that a love ballad or duet or emotional solo from a sad point in a musical would chill me out but how wrong was I. In January when I signed up for Apple Music I began creating playlists to cater to different situations that I could play depending on the day I had had. I know creating playlists is not a new thing, don't worry, I haven't been living under a rock and of course you can do this on your preferred music platform. But this is the first time I'd really utilised the playlist feature. I've discovered recently that Sigur Ros, Troye Sivan and Oh Wonder are really my saviours when my head is buzzing at the end of a long day. Music doesn't necessarily help everyone but I know some people turn to different genres for various situations. My roommate happens to find punk really chills him out whereas one of my other flatmates prefers classical jazz music. Safe to say I'm with the latter!!!

5. Remember you are in control

I think this is a way that can never really be mastered, but is constantly being worked on. This is what I try to tell myself, usually when I am at a real tipping point with stress or anxiety. I am in control. I know, it sounds simple and usually I say to myself "Yes, but in control of what exactly?" Sometimes we AREN'T in control of a situation, and that can be hard. But when it comes to making decisions, or plans, or environmental choices, or where your attention is, or how much time you spend doing what etc. etc. Sometimes reminding myself that these are decisions I make as a human being really calms me down and enables me to look at what I'm doing with more clarity.  

Stress isn't something that can disappear into thin air instantly. What works for one person may not work for another but it is something we all feel at some point. Finding out and discovering ways that you can help others and most importantly yourself can be crucial in getting through moments of doubt or hard times in our lives. Comparing your stresses with someone else's can be detrimental in helping yourself really deal with what is going on with YOU. What you find stressful may be an absolute breeze to someone else but thats what makes us, us. and you may find that something that they find tough to be really easy for you. When it comes to stress there is really no space for judgement or comparison but instead, compassion and understanding. 

What helps you guys through stressful times? I would love to know in the comments below!

Here in NYC there are many hotlines that can help through any hardships you may be experiencing including: LIFENET - a 24/7 hotline for New York residents experiencing emotional problems, drug & alcohol use, depression, excessive worry, fear or anxiety, bullying and more. You can call for advice for a friend or family member or yourself by contacting -- 1-800-LIFENET (1-800-543-3638)

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