City living is stressful living

Published 12:24 am Friday, June 24, 2011

I am bored and from the looks of things these days, many of you must be bored too.

For me, this period of ennui is almost inevitable. Just after I complete a big project or finish some exciting adventure, a period of letdown always follows.

I am not certain why this is exactly. But there always is.

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Take the great Mississippi River flood of 2011, for example. After the National Weather service predicted the river would eclipse its previous record flood level by seven feet, adrenaline was pumping pretty hard in this community.

For weeks people were moving day to day on nothing else, it seemed. Whether it was the families in Concordia Parish who were busy packing up their cherished belongings, the work crews moving dirt and filling sandbags or community leaders scurrying about attending to emergency plans, there was a real sense of motivation and common purpose in our region.

All along, the newspaper was covering the community with afternoon and evening news updates, aerial photos and video.

Things were pretty exciting those days, not to mention a little nerve racking.

But such a level of activity could not be sustained over a very long period of time. I know I couldn’t as a newspaper staffer.

Now that the river is below flood stage, once again, things have become, well, a bit boring, haven’t they?

Maybe it’s the summer heat or maybe it’s because many residents have packed up and gone to the beach, but life has slowed down to a crawl — or at least that is the way it seems compared to those days watching the rising river.

Standing in the line at the coffee shop or at the grocery store, I hear the b-word crop up many times in ordinary conversation.

Of course, this was a common complaint before the flood, especially among teens and young adults who wish for something to do. Thinking the grass is greener in bigger cities that have multiplexes, water parks and dance clubs, they forget that these urban areas have higher crime rates, traffic jams and higher costs of living.

And now it seems they have higher amounts of stress and higher health risks, too.

You might have noticed in Thursday’s paper the story from the Associated Press with the headline, “Small town residents less stressful, study says.”

Scientists have discovered that the two regions in the brain that are responsible for responding to stress could be potentially harmed by living in the city.

The new research delves into the possible explanations for why city dwellers have a 21 percent higher risk of anxiety disorders and a 39 percent higher risk of mood disorders than the average person.

Researchers found that higher stress environments cause those two parts of the brain to work in overdrive. Stress has long been known to have short-term health affects. This new research is the first step in determining the long-term effects stress may have on our health. Whether city living permanently harms the brain, researchers don’t know yet, but they plan to continue more research.

Meanwhile for those of us who like to sit on our porch swings or walk along the bluffs as the sun sets in bright oranges and reds over the Mississippi River, maybe boring isn’t too bad after all.

Ben Hillyer is the design editor of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3540 or