I have officially moved into my local coffee shop in Central London
I thought it’s easier to do that since I already spend so much time there instead of my actual home.
But seriously …
Anyone who knows me knows how much I love coffee. Coffee to me is the equivalent of Honey Boo Boo’s infamous ‘Go Go Juice’. Most of the day I feel like a headless chicken running around who relies on Pret a Manger for Coffee, Lunch and Dinner because I normally have after work ‘stuff’ to do and don’t get home until about 9pm/10pm. I manage a few hours sleep then repeat.
I feel it’s almost impossible to live in London without some kind of Caffeine addiction. But I wonder if I need to be doing this to stay afloat then is living in London actually toxic for my mental and physical wellbeing?
The rest of the world may see London as a lively, exciting and filled with opportunities. Don’t get me wrong it is all these things, but just like anything that has a ‘glamorous’ reputation, there are also some major drawbacks that people on the outside just don’t see.
I love London. I moved here when I was a youngster from the leafy Home Counties of Surrey. So I’d consider myself pretty much a Londoner now because I’ve been here so long, but it certainly is different from Surrey.
What I like about London:
- Everything is pretty much on your doorstep. You don’t have to drive anywhere, everything you need is just a tube or a bus stop away.
- There is so much opportunity to build an exciting, successful career that many people would love to do. Everyone knows someone who can help you progress. There’s greater access to high profile people and exclusive places.
- You get to meet a lot of people from all over the world.
- There are so many chances to expand your mind. We have some of the best Museums, Exhibitions, Universities, Galleries etc… in the world.
- Celebrities are all around (Sorry I still find this exciting especially when it’s Aiden Turner aka Poldark!).
- London is jam-packed with the best Support Groups, Therapists, Courses etc… it’s all within reach.
- The nightlife is amazing. Whatever you like doing there’s something for everyone. Whether it’s partying in Mayfair, fine dining, Olde English Pubs, Theatre with some of the best actors in the world, a multitude of great takeaway’s (one of my favourite ways to spend Friday nights) … the list goes on.
- You are spoilt for choice with the latest fashion must-have’s. Whether it’s High Street or High End.
- London is filled to the brim with culture and history. You can visit the Tower of London, or the Houses of Parliament or even drink at the notorious ‘Ten Bells’ Pub made famous by Jack the Ripper and his victims.
- North, West, South and East London are all so close but so different. You are spoilt for choice.
DAY TO DAY LIFE
So you can see why a vast amount of people love living here or want to come and visit/live here.
But as for Londoners themselves; City life can be hard work.
Like any major City filled with opportunities, people struggle to keep their head above water. London is a dream for the Workaholic; but for many, it’s a constant rat race.
Every time I’m away from London it always takes a few days to detox from the jitters of City life. It’s always so quiet when I’m out of London, I immediately go into withdrawal from the lack of sirens, hoards of people and bustling traffic. My thoughts are not racing as much and I feel able to breathe without pollution seeping into my lungs.
Between the caffeine crashes and the constant buzz, I find that I’m regularly exhausted. Even on the days, I haven’t done much I think just being in London is an energy drainer. Everyone is trying to cram in a demanding ‘To Do List’ within a measly 24 hours, and to be honest people just don’t look happy. Check out anyone on the train in rush hour, their face is a mix of irritation and exhaustion.
I’ve also noticed a lot of anger in London. A friend told me recently she was just standing still on a tube platform when a woman bumped into her and barked ‘Watch where you’re going!’ Any logical person would be able to see this other woman was clearly in the wrong and had a bad attitude. Admittedly I have been guilty of getting frustrated with strangers when I’m in a rush and vice versa (at this point I’d like to point out I’ve never got angry with a person standing still). People who are slow or dare to get in the way tend to receive a backlash from other people’s built up frustration of being trapped in the endless rat race.
It’s been said that people living in London are nearly twice as likely to develop problems with Mental Health than anywhere else in the UK. Yes, we have some of the best doctors and support here, but can we even fit it into our schedules?
I’ve pinpointed the main symptoms of long-term stress here:
- Mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, and personality disorders.
- Cardiovascular disease, including heart disease, high blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythms, heart attacks, and stroke.
- Obesity and other eating disorders.
- Menstrual problems.
- Sexual dysfunction, such as impotence and premature ejaculation in men and loss of sexual desire in both men and women.
- Skin and hair problems, such as acne, psoriasis, and eczema, and permanent hair loss.
- Gastrointestinal problems, gastritis, ulcerative colitis, and irritable colon.
With the wonderful career options in London comes fierce competition. There are not enough opportunities to go around in this overpopulated city. It’s harder than ever to find a job, and when you do, companies often merge two jobs into one and ask people to stay later in the day for the same amount of money. This also adds to the already mounting stress and pressure people are under.
Companies can be pickier than ever before as they are inundated with choice. And I wonder what people have to do to get to the top and stay there. Sleep seems to be one of the main sacrifices. I know people who struggle with insomnia and survive on 4/5 hours a night. There’s a fear if we slow down we will fall behind as we no longer seem to have the comfort and security of a ‘job for life’.
Let’s face it to have a comfortable life in London you need money. Recently there’s been a dip in house prices which makes buying a house slightly easier, but normally it’s almost impossible for people to afford a mortgage. It’s the norm for people of all ages to rent rooms more than anywhere else in the UK ( but try explaining that to people out of London, who think you just refuse to stop living like a struggling student. Ergh!). Actually, it’s more about having to pay extortionate rent for something that’s akin to a shoebox. On the upside, you can always live in Outer London and get a nicer place for your money but the commute into Central London can be a bitch, especially in rush hour. And don’t even get me started on the black mucus that comes out your nose after a day on the tube!
Unfortunately buying a property in London seems more and more unlikely. People are exchanging their mental health for broken down properties, with sketchy landlords in less desirable areas just to be ‘in’ London. Check out this funny Buzzfeed Meme about Expectation vs Reality of living in London.
Let’s talk about relationships, baby, let’s talk about you and me.
The majority of my friends who don’t live in London are happily married with kids. I thought it was just me that was destined to be single forever. But then I realised some of my most beautiful, kind, intelligent friends were also despairing about how difficult it is to find a man in London so I figured if they are struggling, maybe it’s not just me.
I think one of the main problems is that London is so transitional. People don’t come to the Big Smoke to settle down. They come to work and to have fun. Competition and overpopulation don’t just affect work/careers; it affects being able to find a desirable suitor who isn’t either ‘taken’ or just a bit of a dick.
Tinder has enabled Londoners to have a fast track love life. There’s not much incentive to put any work in when the next ‘eager’ candidate is just one swipe away. It’s a players paradise. Obviously, not all people are like this but it makes things difficult as most Londoners want things NOW. And with this high-speed life, they are used to having this insatiable need met.
There’s not much of a community mentality in London like there might be in other parts of England or the world, which can make living in an overpopulated, bustling city actually quite lonely. People are incredibly busy and it just seems acceptable to be flaky and cancel plans last minute. Obviously, it’s not nice to be on the receiving end but there is an unspoken acknowledgement that we understand from our own experience, people are just that busy and if they’re not busy their exhausted from juggling a million responsibilities.
I understand the rest of the world has busy lives as well, but I genuinely think that living in London is particularly unhealthy. When you think of our lack of Nature, expensive healthy food, pollution, constant noise, always being in a rush, hectic lifestyle, pressure to succeed, expectations from other people, binge drinking, disturbed sleep, sharing public transport with angry fellow Londoners, tube strikes, intense careers, lack of job stability, caffeine addiction etc… It’s no wonder we burn out so easily if it’s not the greatest place to raise our kids is it really that good for us?
Honestly, if you do suffer from any Mental Health issues I don’t think living in London long term is great. It can be extremely stressful, fast-paced, difficult to meet people and at the same time difficult to leave the concrete jungle. Also, people are stressed, especially now with the economy the way it is. I know it’s not just London that is affected but living in the Capital of England you definitely feel the undeniable presence of fear.
The constant drive to strive can trigger anxiety which triggers exhaustion from constant demands which leads to depression, it’s a vicious cycle. It’s about who you know, where you work, how much you earn, how recognised/successful you are etc… and for some people, their sense of worth is determined by a job or not being able to keep up with ridiculously high standards.
It is a tough city. Which is possibly why many of my friends have moved out to raise a family. I don’t sleep as well as I used to. If I’m not fretting about my financial stability or ‘Where my life is going?’ I’m struggling to come down from all the caffeine I’ve drunk throughout the day. Then I struggle to get up in the morning to exercise and need a coffee to be awake for work and so the cycle continues. Relying on too much coffee is stressful to the nervous system, and that’s really before you’ve even left the house.
Despite pointing out London’s flaws and negative impact on Mental Health, I think living in London is great. I don’t regret living here, but I definitely would not want to live here forever, especially when I have kids. And you definitely need regular breaks, even if it just means going to the outskirts of London.
This post isn’t meant to bash London but I just wanted to give people insight into other aspects of what life can be like living here. More of a balanced version.
Meditation has been a Godsend. Even little breaks away from my ‘should be doing’ ‘should have done’ thoughts has helped me massively. I need to start getting out of the city more. I love being by the sea, I really find it more therapeutic so I will be doing that more. City breaks are a necessity, you have to get out from time to time for your own sanity. If you don’t treat yourself right it can lead to burnout which I see and experience often. People (including myself) push themselves to the point where their body forces them to stop and this is not at all healthy way to live and can lead to serious illness!
Take care of your health and living in a city can be great fun. But in all seriousness, once this has gone you really don’t have anything and will certainly not be able to work or push yourself!