City Planning · Life

Urban Life & Anxiety

Anxiety has been a growing struggle for me this summer. I have mentioned on my blog before that I struggle with depression (see this post to get some of my story). I feel that most of the time depression and anxiety go hand-and-hand. As of recently, I have felt my anxiety become increasingly worse. And it’t not that it’s getting worse, it’s where it is getting worse that worries me. It has been rising whenever I am in urban settings. It’s probably a mix of paranoia and anxiety. When I get in large crowds or rooms that are densely filled, I have started to shut down. This is causing me to stress about my anxiety because I’m supposed to feel comfortable in urban settings because I’m studying them and hope to plan them some day as an urban planner. How am I supposed to be a confident city planner, if I can’t handle walking crowded urban streets?

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I recently found an article by CityMetric that talks about how mental issues and urban life can be connected titled “We should think more about the link between urban design and mental health”.  Seriously, go give it a read! It’s on point describing some things I have been thinking about. It even states that anxiety disorders increase by 20% in urban areas, so I’m not crazy for feeling this way.

One thing I have realized while thinking about this conflict is how Columbus might be too big more me. It’s the fifteenth largest city in the United States with just under 900,000 residents , but it’s also projected to grow A LOT within the coming years. I can’t blame it all on my city, especially because I still do love Columbus. I also don’t even live in a neighborhood that is that urban.  I feel really safe in my neighborhood and the neighboring areas.

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A couple days ago, I met with someone for lunch in the Short North. To give you non-Columbus folks context, the Short North is an urban area of Columbus that has some great shops and restaurants along High Street and the streets perpendicular to High. It’s also an area that can be densely filled with cars and people, which has been causing me anxiety. While most people wondering the area are pretty nice, sometimes the not-so-nice make me nervous. I was feeling a little anxious because I had never been to the lunch spot we picked and I had never biked to the Short North alone (or from campus). Despite it being hot & humid, I really enjoyed the ride and I felt like it was one small step for conquering my anxiety. I had debated on driving to the area because of my nerves, but I’m so glad that I didn’t. I actually had two nice conversations with complete strangers while out riding that made me feel anxious at first, but once we started talking, everything was okay.

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Thanks to those who took time to read all of this because this was a pretty long post! I’ve been working on it for a couple weeks now, so it feels good to finally have it up. I don’t know if I’ll ever fully conqueror my anxiety and depression issues, but talking about them does help. I certainly do not have all of the answers on mental health, but contributing to the conversation helps beat the societal stigma. I’m hoping to do some research this semester about the relationship with mental health and urban spaces, so I’m excited to learn more about the topic!

I hope you have a great weekend!

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