I live in New York City, a place that is energetically dense, fast paced, ego driven. It isn’t just a city – it’s THE city. And people move around the city like they know it. This is a tough town, but also nowhere else like it.
I find that a big piece of the energy here is very defined by the people who come here – those in their early 20s, vibrating with anxiety, wanting to create themselves as much as they hope to leave their old selves behind. And then there is the undercurrent, the bedrock: the older, soulful New York, native New Yorkers who make up the fabric of the city. I have a lot of respect for those who have roots here and yet still graciously make room for those who constantly pass through.
If I wasn’t led here I don’t think I would have consciously chosen to live here! And yet, here I am. I believe there’s a reason why I was born a city girl and have constantly been drawn to cities, and why many other sensitive folks are, too.
My theory is that it’s no longer time for HSPs to retreat and hide themselves away; that this is the time where we have work to do in population dense areas, whether it’s to influence and affect others with our being, to break barriers in traditional work environments, showing young ones how to cope with their own sensitivities, or simply to lead the way by managing our own sensitivities in a balanced manner.
Which is why I also believe that it’s not necessary to get overwhelmed and knocked over by the energy that comes at you, no matter where you live. I think of this process as a gradual building up of resistance in response to the energies around you. It’s called habituation – you slowly start to get used to whatever it is that you are surrounded by, and over time, it gets easier and easier.
According to the laws of physics, every force has an equal and opposing force.
If you think of the energy in cities as forces that surround you, as forces that push and pull at you, then it means that it necessarily requires a similar level of energy to push back and to stand your ground in order to maintain equilibrium. This requires some commitment, and could even mean a radical shift in the way you live your life.
Here are 5 ways I use to cope with living in big cities as a HSP:
- I prioritize making my home base a place of sanctuary and retreat
Space comes at a premium. Which is why it’s extra important to maximize every inch of it. This isn’t so much about décor and interior design as much as it is about the vibes that dwell within your space. Do you have absolute privacy, even if it’s just in your own bedroom? (I’m aware that this is a luxury for many people – but having any semblance of a private physical space, for at least some of the time each day, is really important.)
Having a designated spot to connect with my spirituality was also very grounding for me. I set up a simple altar with old wine crates and placed some items of value on it, and it feels good to have somewhere that I can go to commune with my spirit (though more often than not, I’m really just tuning in to my jumpy, all-over-the-place thoughts).
Also, very importantly: take care to choose the right roommates – be clear about who you want to share your space with, and who you absolutely cannot stand being around. This is not about being ‘nice’. If you have specific standards, stick to them. At the very least, the people who live in your space must be respectful and are clear about boundaries. The issue of roommates for HSPs can be a whole article on its own. (…I learned this the hard way. I am so sensitive to the energies within my living environment that I was on my way to emotional breakdown when I was in a bad roommate situation.)
- I make a consistent effort to eat well to maintain my own personal equilibrium
A lot of coping with the city requires physical strength and stamina. If you’re physically compromised, it makes navigating the city so much harder. Again, I’m aware that access to fresh fruits and vegetables can be expensive and is a luxury in many places in the world, but even then, I try to make my diet as plant based as possible.
The hardest thing for me is about finding the motivation and discipline to go to the gym or do some yoga or whatever. The last thing you feel like doing when you’re tired is more exercise! But it’s really true that exercise produces more physical energy – and it really doesn’t matter what kind you do. There’s no perfect diet or exercise program. Don’t aim for perfection, aim for consistent motion towards these ideals. This is the reason why I don’t beat myself up for sticking to a perfect routine (I have long given up on this idea in basically every part of my life), but just getting in exercise the moment I feel like it. This could look like once a week or sometimes once in two weeks. But the moment I get the urge, I do it. And then it gets easier each time.
- I value my free time like it’s my job
Only spend time with people you truly like and enjoy being around. You know how in big cities you have the pressure to ‘network’ and socialize for work related reasons? (No other word sends shivers down my spine more than the word ‘networking’.) Superficial and shallow relationships and small talk are maybe the most painful things in my life. If it’s absolutely necessary, do it. But if not, I’ve found that the energy it requires is not worth the pay back I get. Turning things down and saying no becomes a valuable skill. Even when (especially when) you’re turning something down in order to do absolutely nothing after a busy week.
- I express my inner world and spend lots of time exploring and being with myself
Think about all the stimulation and information you get, coming at you and taking up room in your consciousness. I’ve found that it’s so easy to get lost in the barrage of information that comes at you if you don’t push back by also creating and putting your energy out there. Rather than simply allowing social media, videos and other content to occupy your thoughts all of the time, remember to make time to create. I’ve been getting back into doodling and I’ve forgotten just how much fun it really is for me!
- Realize that it requires ego strength to be okay not doing what you see others around you doing…
Such as going out often etc. We are all social creatures at heart and want to instinctively join in and belong. Even if a large aspect of us have already accepted that it’s okay to be who we are, there are times when we see other people and feel… ‘Why can’t I be more like them?’ etc. So know that it’s a balance; that sometimes going to do something that will zap your energies may be worth it for the gratification you get in return, or that sometimes staying strong and saying no will be so much more beneficial for you. There’s no hard and fast rule, only how you feel at the moment, and growing to become so attuned that you can catch yourself when you slide too far one way or the other. This isn’t really a ‘way’ I use to cope but simply a mindset I have – balancing the expectations of mainstream society while checking in with myself about how I really feel about participating in it. It’s nice to be a part of things sometimes. It’s also nice to stand apart from it. In fact, it’s necessary. The ratio just switches up now and again, and I’ve slowly learned to be okay with both withdrawing and putting myself out there when I need to.
Is it worth it living in a big city? Does it justify all the energy you put into maintaining a sense of equilibrium here? Well, that’s something that only you can answer. But know that you absolutely do not have to suffer, wherever in the world you are at the moment. Even as you search for a better place to be, you can absolutely make your living space more comfortable for you, right now, at this moment.