New York City is a place known for its aggressive pace. As a rather new resident, I have found myself sitting back and watching the chaos as if I am not a part of it. Like a massive ant colony, New York moves in a way that often feels frantic yet purposeful. Though I enjoy watching things move around me, I am indeed a part of it because I contribute to this fast amoeba of pizza, ballet, subways, and seasons. One cannot be in New York City and be separate from the whole. However, it will function as it does whether or not you choose to keep up. But what happens if you are committed to being here, to being present here, yet your natural pace does not match the city’s? Like trying to wear polka dots and stripes, this mismatch cannot only be unsightly, but will leave you feeling like an odd ball. How do you immerse yourself in the culture around you and truly absorb all that this vibrant place has to offer if you don’t function on the same wavelength? Whether you are naturally anxious or naturally mellow, New York can overload you. There is so much happening and moving at such a rapid pace that keeping up can feel daunting. And even if you are able to keep up, honoring your natural pace is just as important.
I grew up in a corner of southern California that had the feel of a small town but the culture of a big city. I was a bit of a country girl and spent the majority of my free time on the back of a horse. The beauty and serenity of the western United States was an everyday part of my life. However, living in New York City feels much more like the Wild West of legend than I ever knew growing up. Some days it can make you feel incredibly alive, navigating the rhythm things move to here. Other days it can be exhausting and require everything you have simply to make it through the week.
The first step to fixing this up and down pattern that we can feel forced into is identifying with what feels good. This does not mean indulging in the unhealthy habits that we sometimes use to cope during tough times. It means that there is a unique way for each person to balance the demands of living in New York while honoring your natural pace. My first piece of advice is to find a place where you feel completely yourself. This can be a neighborhood bar where you enjoy your favorite music, or at a French style café where you feel transported back to the things that inspired you as a teenager. For me it is a long walk deep in the wooded areas of Prospect Park.
When you find yourself getting overwhelmed by the pace of things go to your place. If it’s a bar only have one drink and enjoy it slowly. If it’s a park, make sure to leave your music and headphones at home. If it’s at the gym, go at a time you don’t feel rushed. And wherever your place is, make sure it is in New York. You need to develop that balance for yourself within the confines of your everyday life. Granted an escape for fun or to reset is always beneficial, but it is ultimately just an escape. To balance out the pace of your life here you have to be here. Spending time with yourself is the best way to come back to your natural pace.
Slowly begin to work habits into your week that manifest that pace into your everyday life. Soon you will have found a balance between what feels good for you and the pace at which New York City moves. You will create a rhythm of living that is perfect for you. This will never be permanent, so be flexible. And when your feel overwhelmed again, go back to your place, spend sometime with yourself, and find your pace again.
Here are my 5 tips for Finding Balance in NYC.
Don’t make plans on back-to-back weekends. Always try and give yourself a weekend to take care of yourself and things you need to do at home to stay organized. As my father-in-law advised me once, “Don’t feel obliged to do something every weekend.”
Have a fitness routine you do once a week no matter how busy you are. Getting a little sweaty, stretching it out, feeling the burn – no matter how you put it – being active is extremely important for your body. This has nothing to do with how you look in a bathing suit either. It’s about what happens internally when you work out. The endorphins released from working out lower anxiety and stress which is very important in a city like New York.
Be attentive to what you eat. Think of food as fuel. You want the best, most nutrient rich food available. When you eat every day to fuel yourself rather than feed yourself you will have the energy needed to supply you and balance the pace of life here.
Go to bed early. Wake up early. My mother has been waking up before five o’clock in the morning since before I can remember. She does this because the rest of the day she’s busy doing things and caring for other people. But in those wee morning hours, it is all about her. She gets to run, enjoy her coffee, or do whatever feels good before she has to attend to any of her obligations. Wake up earlier than you need to and try to maintain this rule throughout the week. Even if you stay out late with friends on Saturday, try to wake up early Sunday and enjoy your tea and read the newspaper, then nap before you meet friends for brunch at noon.
Do a seasonal purge. As each new season approaches, go through your closet and cupboards and examine the things you have. Reflect on the year before and rid yourself of anything that will not serve you in the coming season. This is especially important in the summer and winter because of the busyness of summer and the bulk of winter. Having fewer things that serve you better helps you to de-clutter and stay organized throughout the year.
What helps you maintain your own pace in NYC (or another big city)?
Related: How New York City Changed Me
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Photo: kaysha via Flickr