New York City
How to Deal With the Stress of Life in NYC
A famous Manhattan psychotherapist tells us how to get straight.
New York City. The city that never sleeps. As world’s major commercial and cultural center, the city is home to the world’s richest and busiest people. Here, the cost of living is high and the hustle and bustle is typical. People are often too focused on work or too preoccupied with making an impression, or both. Hence, many New Yorkers end up distressed and lonely.
“As big as a city as New York is – it’s still a very lonely place… People are trying to achieve balance in their lives and don’t know how to do that,” says Jonathan Alpert, licensed psychotherapist and advice columnist.
Dubbed as “Manhattan’s Most Media-Friendly Psychotherapist” by the New York Observer, Jonathan Alpert gives us his no-nonsense and results-oriented advice on psychological problems disturbing the city.
Urbanette Magazine: When it comes to psychiatric help, how “troubled” is Manhattan? Are there any circumstances that are innate to the place that trigger the residents’ psychological problems?
Jonathan Alpert: When it comes to psychological issues, Manhattan certainly has its share. Conditions are ripe for such issues. Think about it: there are 1.5 million people in a small strip of land, rents are high, sidewalks are crowded, green space and fresh air are limited, people aren’t friendly, and you can’t walk a block without hearing a siren or a screeching bus. Throw into the mix a bad economy that is driving people out of the city – How can someone not be stressed? Further, it’s competitive and in many ways it is Hollywood-east where people are trying to be someone that they are not just to make a good impression.
I’ve worked in other major cities and Manhattanites hands down face the most stress and are the most ill-equipped at handling it.
Urbanette: What is the most common problem that Manhattanites and urban women seek help for? How do you address this problem?
Jonathan: The most common reason people come to see me is stress, plain and simple. People are trying to achieve balance in their lives and don’t know how to do that. They’re either way too focused on work or on trying to find the love of their life, or trying to please someone else. This is true for women as well – though a bit more of a focus on finding love.
As big as a city as New York is, it’s still a very lonely place. In many ways due to fear. Many people are fearful of the stranger next to them on the bus, or subway, or street. They’ve been taught that they shouldn’t talk to strangers, and so they don’t – perpetuating the belief that New York is an unfriendly city. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
I teach people how to achieve a healthy balance while pursuing their goals.
Urbanette: When it comes to establishing rapport with your female clients, are there any advantages or disadvantages as a male psychotherapist?
Jonathan: There are some clients who specifically look for a male therapist. They say they want insight from the male perspective – especially in areas of sex, dating, and relationships. Many view me as “a big brother they can tell anything to”. Some even have said I am like their “good gay guy friend “– only I’m not gay and I am not their friend. So, I find many like having the male perspective and they feel they are gaining special insight into the male psyche. And of course there are those that insist on having a therapist of the same gender and that is perfectly understandable.
A therapist that is outcome oriented usually is more motivated to actually get you better.
Urbanette: In what way can a therapy harm a person’s mental health? Why do many people become dependent on their therapists?
Jonathan: Therapy can harm a person’s mental health by going on endlessly without making any gains or reaching goals. Way too often a dynamic exists where the patient goes to a therapist, vents and that feels good – and she does this week after week. It only strengthens the person’s fears and problems. A dependence of sorts is created whereby the patients depend on the therapist to listen and the therapist of course depends on the patient for money. Problems are perpetuated all while the person feels better, albeit temporarily.
There’s a difference though between “feeling better” and actually getting better. The latter provides tools and insight so the person can actually become self-sufficient and problem solve on her own.
Urbanette: Do you still recommend anti-anxiety medication?
Jonathan: I am not a medical doctor so I am not in a position to prescribe. I believe there are circumstances that warrant the use of anti-anxiety or antidepressant medication. For long term cases where therapy hasn’t yielded any results it might be worth considering medication as an adjunct to therapy. I do though believe people are way too quick to ask for medication and doctors are way too quick to prescribe.
We live in a pill-popping culture of quick fixes: Pop a pill and get harder erections. Pop a pill and focus better on tests. Pop a pill and lose weight. So why not pop a pill and be in a better mood? People should know though that meds won’t provide insight into problems and they certainly won’t give the person new tools to deal with problems.
Urbanette: What should be included in the “shopping list” when looking for a therapist?
Jonathan: People who are shopping for a therapist can first ask friends if they know of someone. I realize this is quite personal so if that isn’t an option then they can ask their primary care physician. They should call a few therapists and leave a message for them to call back. If they do, that’s a good sign. Give the therapist a sense of what you want to work on and ask about their experience treating such issues. Ask about their style and approach. Will they offer you advice, or just listen? One that is outcome oriented usually is more motivated to actually get you better.
Urbanette: Your book called “BE FEARLESS: Change Your Life in 28 Days” explores how therapy may be harming one’s mental health. Can you tell us more about it? How can we be “fearless” and change our lives in less than a month, really?
Jonathan: BE FEARLESS consists of five practical and powerful steps that will change your life. Briefly, here are the steps:
1. Define your dream. Here readers visualize the future they want for themselves and really work to define their goals. There are a series of exercises in this step that help readers to create goals they can achieve in 28 days.
2. Break your fear pattern. In this step readers will complete a fear dump and purge themselves of all the excuses that to this point held them back from pursuing their goals.
3. Rewrite your inner narrative. Here readers will learn how to change the way they think and talk to themselves. Out with the old negative self-defeating talk and in with the motivating and empowering self-talk.
4. Eliminate your fear response. In this step readers will learn ways to counter the physical effects of fear and anxiety. They’ll learn ways to calm their nerves and turn fear into excitement.
5. Live your dream. In this step readers will craft their fearless action plan and embark on reaching their goals.
Jonathan Alpert shares psychotherapy advice on his popular column “No More Drama”, which appears in Metro newspapers in New York, Boston, and Philadelphia. To get to know more about him or to set up an appointment, visit him at www.jonathanalpert.com
I gave up on New York because of that. It was a big land for opportunities but I feel like the hustle and bustle wasn’t for me. It became overwhelming, plus the fact that it can be quite rare to find friends who have “time”. Time is very essential for New Yorkers and they don’t always stop to smell the flowers. Every day, you face people who are emotionless half of the time and grumpy people on the streets because they’re rushing deadlines or running late for work.
I’m not into such a fast-paced life. I think that the opportunities are everywhere and not just NYC.
Me too, I moved after a year. I felt like I was happier.
NYC is full of successful but lonely people. It just goes to show that even if your career is thriving, you’re happy. If you live here, make sure that you go out often or keep your social skills in check. It’s also great to finda few trusted friends that will help you get through the rough patches in life. No matter how simple the issues are, it’s good to have friends that will pat you in the back or will help you keep smiling. Schedule your nightouts, it helps.
Nightouts or nights for drinking aren’t exactly healthy either.
Stress levels are very high here in New York. If you don’t know how to deal with it, you’re going to have issues.
I just wasted my money going to one. My friends told me I should have just talked to them and we could have just shopped until we dropped.
I think we’re misunderstanding the concept of New York. The reason why most of us are going nuts is because the cost of living here is high. Not everyone in New York is rich. Most of us are struggling to pay the bills while trying to keep our careers afloat. It’s not easy being here and if you think that everyone here is successful, think again. I would rather be someplace else if it wasn’t for the job I already have at the moment. I feel like I’m going to go nuts already.
Definitely a plus one on the issue about the cost of living.
I think what you should encourage is for people to find better ways other than to seek therapists.
Guys, just build a social circle! No need for this.
I would rather talk to my friends than talk to someone that I have to pay just to talk to me. That’s just sad.
Nothing beats human interaction and the feeling of being loved compared to popping pills for anxiety or depression.
Why not just talk to your close friends instead of going to a therapist? I know it’s all about being able to disclose something with no boundaries, but getting advice from people you really now is helpful.