Change Your Surroundings: My Escape from Philly

Do you ever feel trapped? Does it ever seem like there’s no way of escaping your current surroundings and environment? It’s so easy to get caught up in your usual surroundings. When you’re stressed, it can be hard to imagine that anything else exists outside of your bubble where all of the things that are triggering your anxiety are occurring. In this post, I’ll discuss the importance of making a change in your surroundings, specifically in regards to connecting with nature, and my opinion of the mental health benefits.

My Bubble

After spending 4 years of undergraduate college at Stockton College in the beautiful Jersey Pine Barrens I wanted nothing more than to move to a big city.  I moved to Philadelphia with my friends in 2008.  Early on I was madly in love with the city.  I’m fairly extroverted.  The energy of having more than 2 million people living their lives in the same small area made me feel really grounded.  As I’m creeping towards my 10 year mark in the city, the honeymoon period has worn off.  I love my city but all the crime, noise, trash, and lack of green spaces has started to take it’s toll.

Path - The Web Shrink
The Connection Between Personality Type and Environment

I’ve discovered while working as a therapist that I’m certainly not the only one who feels this urban fatigue.  Countless people I’ve spoken to have asserted similar feelings regarding the stress caused from living in major cities.  The tricky part is that you get so used to the stressors in the environment, you can forget that they themselves are even contributors to your stress levels.  I’ve found it’s even harder to recognize this if you were born and raised in a major city and have never lived anywhere else.

You might already be aware of some of the basics when it comes to our understanding of extroverts and introverts.  In case you’re not, in a nutshell, extroverts (such as myself) feel an increasing need to socialize and be around others.  This is how we recharge our batteries.  Introverts tend to require more alone to relax and reflect in order to recharge their batteries.  An important consideration that most people ignore is that almost every single person exists somewhere on a spectrum between extroversion and introversion.  Being on this spectrum means that even extroverts absolutely need some alone time.  Conversely, all introverts absolutely need some time to socialize and spend time around others.  On the same line of thought, I believe that whether you are a city, suburb, country, mountain, beach, etc. person you need to occasionally change your surroundings.

Waterfall - The Web Shrink
Get Out the Tents!

Whether it be in therapy or on this blog, I always try my best to practice what I preach.  Over the last few years I’ve been lucky enough to have an amazing group of friends who often organize camping trips and outdoor activities.  Aside from all the benefits I’ll discuss in the next section, these types of trips have been the perfect fit for my wife and I.  I say that first and foremost because we don’t have the money to take luxurious trips and stay in fancy hotels (and even not so fancy ones half the time).

Camping requires very little money compared to other trips as renting a camp site for a night or two is generally a very small fraction of the cost of staying in even a cheap motel.  Once you’ve invested a little bit of money in good camping gear, so long as you take care of it, you’ll have to spend very little money for years while going on your camping trips.

The Web Shrink - Boulder Field
The Benefits

There are so many benefits to getting out of your current surroundings and exploring a new space.  If you are doing your exploring with friends in an outdoor setting, you will be checking off some of the important factors for maintaining your mental health such as sunlight, social activities, and in some cases both engaging activity and exercise.

Aside from the obvious benefits of getting outside, getting some exercise, getting some peace and quiet, and/or spending time with your friends I think that making a change in your surroundings has an even stronger philosophical benefit.  Putting some physical distance between you and where your stressors exist can help you put distance from the stress in your mind.  On top of this, when feeling stressed you may feel like the entire world is crashing down around you.  When you change your surroundings whether it be for a day, a weekend, or longer, you realize that the place you live is much less significant in the grand scheme of things.

You lose your overblown sense of importance (which we all have).  What I mean by this is that you no longer feel as though the world will come crashing down if you screw up a report at work, upset a friend or family member, or any other worry you have that consumes your thoughts.  Once you get outside of your usual surrounding you quickly realize that whether you worry yourself to death or not at all about real or imagined stressors, the world will continue to go on.

What I want you to take from this post more than anything is the follow:

If you feel like life is a rat race then your routine is your cage.  Never forget that you created this cage and that you will always hold the key.  You can open the door and leave any time that you’d like or need.

River - The Web Shrink
The Impact of My Trip

I thoroughly enjoy hiking which is something I never could have imagined loving so much until I forced myself to give it a try.  This past weekend’s trip to Hickory Run State Park in Pennsylvania was exactly what I needed.  While I usually use stock photos for my posts, all of the pictures in this blog entry are pictures I took on the trip.  The pictures I took and have displayed here were only a fraction of the beauty and do no justice to seeing the waterfalls, river, and trails in person.

The biggest take I personally get from these trips is that when I return to Philadelphia I feel refreshed.  I feel like I regained the appreciation for all of the things that make me love the city and choose to call this place my home, while being able to put up with all of the negative aspects for a good deal longer, or at least until my next trip.

Lastly, In Defense of the City

I live in the city.  I love it here and can’t imagine having had a happier decade anywhere else.  If you generally live in a more rural area, a shore town, a suburb, make sure that you spend some time in the large cities across the country.  While nature can provide peace, serenity, and natural beauty, larger cities will provide something different but equally important.  Large cities are bursting with the energy of all the people that make it up.  The buildings, structures, and history stand as proof of mankind’s abilities and accomplishments.  Spending some time in large cities (especially if you don’t live in or near them) will be one of the best changes of environment you can get.


I hope that you enjoyed this article and above all else, I hope it inspires you to allow yourself some time to get away.  If you found this post hepful, please share on facebook and retweet.  Comment about the ways that you get away and change your environment!  I’d love to hear!

-The Web Shrink




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