Dear Barb—Big City Living

Dear Barb:

Hi, I have just moved from a small town in south-western Ontario to downtown Toronto.  Wow, what a change!  I am finding life very hectic and stressful.  I have stopped driving to work; I couldn’t deal with all the stressed-out drivers rushing here and there.  And the cost of parking is crazy.  Public transportation is slow and crowded, but still better than driving.  But by the time I get home after work, I am exhausted.  I sit down and watch the news and all I hear about is the high crime rate and the horrific accidents on the superhighways.  I am wondering if I will be able to adjust to this lifestyle.  I love my job and the pay is good.  I live in an apartment but doubt I will ever be able to afford a house in Toronto.  I am seriously considering relocating to a smaller center, but I know I will not be able to make the same wages I do now.  Do you suggest I try and stick it out with the hope things will get better, or should I pack it in and move to a smaller city?

Alina in TO.

Hi Alina:

Thank you for your email.  I am going to begin with a quote from Dr. Tirrell De Gannes, a psychologist in New York City:

as a person that has lived in multiple cities, the common positive effects are; you can have a higher chance of finding a place that has the community you’d like to be surrounded by, there are more options to engage in self-care, and your expectations for others is more nuanced. 

Conversely, you can become more jaded in some city environments, you have a higher chance of being stressed given the competitiveness of jobs and crowding, and you can easily feel like you’re just one of many.

So there are pluses and minuses to big city living.  I don’t think you should “pack it in” just yet but give yourself time to adjust.  Get to know your environment, talk to people, and join a yoga class or a gym.  Locate nearby parks and hiking trails.  Nature offers a great boost to your mental health and well-being.  Studies have shown that connecting with nature reduces feelings of anxiety and depression.  The hustle and bustle of living in a large center can no doubt be stressful, but the answer is not moving away, it is learning to manage your situation.  Urban living has its advantages such as employment and an increase in social activities.  It is most important to create a work/life balance.  If you feel you cannot manage, do not hesitate to talk to your family physician about speaking to a counselor.  Do not rush into a decision, give yourself time, and if you cannot adjust then perhaps a move to a smaller center will be the answer for you.

Thank you for writing, and best of luck Alina.

Email your questions to Some submissions may be edited for length or to protect confidentiality; your real name and location will never be printed. This column is for entertainment only. The author is not a professional counsellor and this column is not intended to take the place of professional advice.