Under Construction

Helen Kobek's picture

Stay Healthy When You Live Near Excavation

Jackhammer being used on city sidewalk.

It happens all over the City, and soon it will start happening to me and my neighbors, right here on Gore Street in East Cambridge. Excavation is being done all down our street to put in a sewer line for North Point (now Cambridge Crossing). This will be closely followed by excavation for a new Eversource gas line. Followed by excavation for a new water main. Followed by jackhammering for replacement of sidewalks. In all, within roughly eighteen months, we will experience four – FOUR! - passes of noise, vibration, and dust. Like a marching band named “The Dusty- Rumbling-Blech-Dread Marching Band” repeating its spirited course, regardless of our mood, our need for daytime rest, and our not deserving punishment. This construction is especially hard for those who work at home, have infants, are sick or recovering from surgery, are retired, or are night shift folks, etc.

The stress and illness induced by exposure to noise, vibration, and dust are real and concerning. They can strain our adrenals, clog our pores and lungs, and put us on edge mentally and inter-personally. This is why it is vital that we take maximum care of ourselves while under construction. If we take good care, it improves our health, as well as our odds of getting through it without sitting in the corner of our most distal-from-construction room, rocking, sobbing, and then yelling at postal delivery people who happen to whistle while they work.

If we can’t stay somewhere else for all or part of it, then we do well to CONTROL WHAT WE CAN. Keep our windows closed during actual work, if possible, and then try these techniques:

For the overall experience of the construction:

  • Go to sleep early so we wake up naturally before the daily construction starts.
  • Give the construction a name. Any name that brings us pleasure – perhaps the name of a childhood pet, or a place we find peaceful. And then call the construction by that name: “Oh, listen! There’s Pogo making noise again!” (Pogo was the name of my beloved dog when I was a child. I had an injured toe years ago which I named “Pogo” while it was healing. It gave me warm feelings in the place of the pain. (“Oh, look, Pogo sure is swollen today!”)
  • Focus our attention on giving empathy to trees on the street – the beset, stay-at-home beings that cannot get away from the situation and are on the front lines. When we are tense, send love and calm to the trees. They need it.

For the noise created by Pogo:



  • Meditate on the noise. Learn meditation skills at your local meditation center, or by watching YouTube videos, and have a daily session of just noticing the sound without attaching anger or fear to it.
  • Learn the Relaxation Response. It helps lower stress responses. Here’s a link to a good site. http://www.relaxationresponse.org/steps/
  • Wear earplugs with a high Noise Reduction Rating (NRR). You can wear them at home, and consider wearing them when walking through the construction area outside.
  • Wear headphones piping in our most beloved, calming sound or music. Or a recording of a friend saying, “Ya know, love, it’s going to be okay.”
  • For the vibration created by Pogo:

    • Meditate on the vibration (see above for direction towards that).
    • Imagine the vibration dissolving and eliminating toxins or pain from our system. In other words, make creative use of it.
    • Imagine the vibration as the thunderous, by-plane arrival of someone we would love to see.

    For the dust created by Pogo:

    • Vacuum frequently, the Lung Institute advises. Washing floors with non-chemical cleaner is also helpful. (https://lunginstitute.com/blog/six-tips-for-keeping-your-lungs-clean/)
    • Wear a dust mask anytime walking through the area. It might feel like it makes you look odd, but notice that it is increasingly common to see people wearing surgical or dust masks when walking the streets. Some folks have found masks that are lovely and colorful to take the edge off their self-consciousness.
    • Wear protective eye wear when walking through the area. Think “goggles.” Again, it might feel odd, but better well and odd than unwell and mainstream, no? Carry these items in a bag or in the car and grab them when needed.
    • Use a quality air purifier and change the filter as needed.
    • Keep our lungs healthy. Deep breathing clears lungs. Take a steam sauna to remove pollutants. Do aerobic exercise. If asthma or other breathing problems are a concern, have a talk with a medical provider for extra support.


    • Laugh every day. Laughing helps open and clear our lungs. Entertain ourselves with whatever makes us laugh. This will also help elevate our mood, preventing bitterness and misery.
    • Do dry skin brushing (see instructive link below) to keep our lymphatic systems working well. The lymphatic system is made of channels and nodes under our skins and throughout your body that catch and eliminate toxins. But, unlike our heart, it has no pump to drive it. So we need to stimulate it with exercise and deep breathing; dry skin brushing also has the same effect. http://naturalhealthtechniques.com/healingtechniquesdry_brushing_technique/

    No one is happy about living, working, recovering from surgery or illness, let alone trying to sleep, in a construction area. But if we have the right approaches and techniques, in body, mind, emotion, and spirit, we can weather the challenge better. And, once the construction is over, with the lovely, new amenities (new water main, accessible sidewalks, and the awareness of Cambridge Crossing residents’ solid waste cheerily racing under our street, etc.) in place, we can look back and think, “Gosh, Pogo! What an adorable dog he was!”