Beat the hazards of urban living

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When you live in a big city, you are bombarded with pollutants and stressful situations every day. You need to build your defense mechanism to survive life and safeguard your health in a big city or any crowded urban setting. Here is how to keep these problems in check and help your body and mind stay on top form:

BLOCK OUT THE NOISE

It’s common to hear noise levels of 92db or more in noisy bars, cinemas and clubs commonly found in urban set-ups. You could also be a victim if you live close to noisy nightclubs, schools, factories and churches, or a busy highway. Exposure to this level of noise for just 10 hours a week damages hearing. The common and most sensible advice is to wear earplugs when out clubbing or in a noisy environment. Also be wary of listening to music in the car because background traffic tempts people to turn up the volume to damaging levels of 85-90db. Noise proof your house if you live close to a highway or in a noisy estate. If your house is not noise proofed, keep doors and windows closed to reduce the noise levels. Wear earplugs when you go to sleep.

BEAT THE TRAFFIC

Vehicles exhaust fumes and particulates, which can be toxic and irritate the lungs. These dangerous pollutants build up in big cities where there are many vehicles, especially during cold weather. Nairobi is particularly dangerous because of the many vehicles exhausting dangerous levels of fumes because they are not well maintained. The numerous illnesses suffered during the cold weather like we experienced last month, including pneumonia and other respiratory infections, are partly caused by a build-up of these pollutants. Hot weather also brings high levels of ozone that can irritate the lungs and eyes, while wet and windy days have the lowest pollution.

The advice is to avoid breathing in these toxic fumes by keeping away from heavy traffic and if you are driving through heavy traffic, keeping your windows rolled up. If you can’t help walking through traffic, wear an antipollution facemask. This is particularly important for cyclists and boda boda riders. If you love walking for exercise, choose routes that do not have heavy traffic and also walk early in the morning when pollution levels are lowest. Walking in a park such as Arboretum or forest like Karura gives you the best health protection but always ensure your security is guaranteed. Avoid late afternoon walks when pollution from motor vehicles and other environmental factors is at its highest. Taking an antioxidant supplement will help protect your body from damage by pollutants. Make sure you take one that contains vitamins A, C and E.

FILTER THE AIR YOU BREATHE

New soft furnishings, such as sofas and carpets, may emit formaldehyde fumes for up to a month and new computers emit damaging volatile organic compounds (VOCs) for as long as two weeks. To ensure you are not breathing dangerous air, filter the air at home and in the office with an air filter. The cheapest and easiest way to filter air both at home and in the office is keeping indoor plants. NASA scientists in the US have found that indoor plants absorb a range of pollutants, and release oxygen. Aloe vera plants were found to eliminate most of airborne toxins, so plant a few in each room in you house and office. You could also buy an air filtration machine and keep it running in the room where you are seated or sleeping.

FIND INNER PEACE

Interacting with people all day, then tackling crowded public transport can be tiring and overwhelming. If crowds stress you, breathe slowly into your abdomen, visualising a calm place such as your rural home. Escape from the city as often as you can and if you can afford it, escape to quiet areas such as a day spa or to a movie or play. You can also go to the park and sit there with a book, but ensure it is a safe park.
You can de-pollute the mental clutter of urban life with meditation. Sitting quietly, focus your attention to an object, such as a candle, or your breath. If a thought distracts you, come back to your object of focus. See thoughts as clouds passing through the clear sky of your awareness.

BE SECURITY CONSCIOUS

One of the most stressful things of living in a big city is worrying about your personal security. You could be mugged, pick-pocketed or robbed in your residence, or even caught up in a shoot-out. Worrying does not make the situation any better but taking proactive steps to improve your security does. Do not walk alone at night or through dark alleys. Avoid crime prone areas and when in a crowded place, hold on tightly to your purse. Do not carry unnecessary valuables with you. Install security gadgets in your home and always stay with your doors locked. Do not open your door to strangers.

GO GREEN

Counteract the concrete jungle found in cities by spending 20 minutes a day in a natural environment. Go for a walk in a safe park, for instance, or walk around your neighbourhood. Plant as many flowers as you can around your home or indoor plants to beautify your environment. You can also grow your own vegetables if you have a small backyard. Protect trees and other vegetation in your neighbourhood and all over the country.

REST YOUR EYES

Attention-grabbing adverts all over the city billboards and in newspapers and TV can add to your stress levels. Your mind is constantly bombarded with information and gets less time to rest. You should be in the habit of shutting your eyes to relax for five minutes several times a day. Do not watch TV to relax. It distracts. Instead read an interesting book or magazine or a holy book such as the Bible or Koran. Or relax in a warm scented bath.

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