New York City is one popular place: North of 250,000 people move here every year. If you’re one of the many who arrived this year, then you’re in for a treat: This spectacular city is legendary for a reason, and you will find no shortage of things to do, memories to make, and life-changing experiences. However, if you’re new to New York City, there are critical things you’ll need to know about getting by. Here’s what to do when you show up in the Big Apple so that you stay sane, get the most out of this city, and protect your mental health.

Be aware of New York City stress

New York City is a crazy place, and not everyone stays here for long. Eventually, you may be writing your own “Goodbye to All That” and leaving our city for good. We don’t want you to leave because you think New York City is just too crazy or too stressful, though, because the reality is that there are ways to manage those issues and make New York City enjoyable.

That starts with being aware of the simple fact that there are stressful things about New York City. You need to notice that crowds can be anxiety-inducing and that long commutes wear on the nerves. You need to be aware that New Yorkers work for longer hours on average than people in other parts of the country do. You need to remember that being in nature is good for your mental health and that, by contrast, spending all of your time in a concrete jungle is not. 

Here’s how you can do something about it.

Addressing your mental health needs in New York City

New York City’s stresses make it important for residents to be proactive about addressing their own mental health. That might be a blessing in disguise, experts concede: After all, we’re supposed to be more proactive about our mental health no matter where we are.

You do have to create those habits, though, because it could just as easily go in the other direction. New York City’s fast pace and unique character make it easy to trash your mental health by working long hours and then going straight to the bar to burn the candle at both ends. New Yorkers have a bad habit of devouring takeout and restaurant food instead of making healthy dinners at home. Plus, New York City’s loud, hectic streets can be rough on your sleep.

So be smart, say New York therapists, and be proactive about your mental health. That starts at home and extends to professional care: Therapy is for everyone, not just people with depression, anxiety, and other major mental health issues. Talk to your primary care physician about your mental health, and consider seeing a professional.

Meanwhile, make a point of taking advantage of New York City’s wonderful parks and outdoor spaces. Fresh air and sunlight are good for your mental health, as is getting exercise. Why not make your next trip to the park a jog? New York City is also full of opportunities to get moving with others, including things like yoga in the park, rock-climbing lessons, and footraces.

Don’t forget about your diet. Try your best to eat well. Cook at home as much as you can and be mindful of how often you turn to takeout places and restaurant. Your drinking is also something to keep tabs on: The many public transit options in our fair city can make heavy drinking habits feel like no big deal.

Finally, pay close attention to your sleep. Drinking will destroy your sleep (you may fall asleep faster, but you won’t enter restful REM sleep as easily), and so will New York City’s honking taxi horns and bright lights. Invest in things like blackout curtains and white noise machines if you have to.

New York City is a place that can mess with your mental health if you’re not careful, but it’s also a place that challenges us to pay attention to our mental health needs. That can be a good thing if we rise to that challenge.

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