Anyone else feel anxiety at the mall?


Limiting one’s desires actually helps to cure one of fear.

~ Seneca “Letters from a Stoic”

Having teens I’m coming to the conclusion that they naturally gravitate to the mall like a fly to stink. I would be a happy camper if I never went into one again and I’ve come up with a list that supports this I’m-the-mom-I’m-taking-a-stand decision.




1) Safety

If you’ve been anywhere near a TV in the last ten years, you know that you might be safer driving through the streets of Watts than trolling the floors of your local shopping center. Such a sad state of affairs. Watching the news with my mouth on the floor (our local mall had a major shooting two years ago) and tears in my eyes has become too common. I don’t know the answer to my daughters’ questions of, “Why would someone hurt innocent people?” Call me paranoid, but if I can avoid being out in the open (with my children no less) when a loon opens fire, I will make that choice.

2) Avoiding the Teen Gimmees

Funny how they don’t surface quite as much when we’re hanging around the house. It’s that whole “out of sight, out of mind” thing. While I was working on this post, Joshua Becker came up with a brilliant list about raising consumer conscious teens. Good, good advice.

3) Fending off my own Gimmees

Funny how I don’t need anything when it’s not in front of my face.

4) The excess makes me anxious and sad.

Simply put, the place makes my heart heavy.

True blog confession here: I had a total freak-out the other day when I was shopping with my kids for much needed summer shorts. Our local mall was crowded and bustling and I was (as only I can do) equating my current view with the sad, materialistic state of our whole country. I was thinking about the broken people who fill the holes in their lives/hearts with buying stuff. I was thinking about women and our totally skewed view of our bodies due to advertisements telling us we need to feel okay. I was even thinking about the many poverty stricken folks in our midst who need us to help, rather than throw our money at things that just don’t matter. I’m not one for anxiety attacks or panic episodes, but in this instance my heart beat faster and I felt more agitation than usual. It was a “what have we become?” moment and I was sad to be a part of it. I had that let’s-move-to-a-cabin-in-backwoods-Montana feeling and it created a darkness for me that’s unusual. What the heck is going on here? Still trying to figure it out.

Does anyone else feel this way?




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20 thoughts on “Anyone else feel anxiety at the mall?

  1. 1. I did realize several years ago that if I was away from malls I did not feel deprived, but the minute I stepped into a mall, I wanted sooo much and did feel deprived…so now I go to the mall as little as possible, I know what I am looking for, get it, and avoid browsing. My kids are grown-up, so I have an easier time than you do.

    2. I used to have an anxiety not just in malls, but in all places where I needed to spend money for goods–even the grocery store–and I still haven’t figured it out yet, although I do feel it must have something to do with subconscious conflicts about money.It just seemed to occur randomly–buying something essential or “extra;” buying with plenty of money in the bank or not so much. My anxiety often manifests as IBS/diarrhea (sorry…but you asked about anxiety) and I would find myself having to leave any kind of shopping I was doing because of those stomach problems. Luckily, this particular nervous symptom has pretty much disappeared and I can function much better now; I don’t have to send anyone else out to do my shopping for me!

    • Isn’t it incredible how our body manifests what we’re feeling psychologically. I think it’s that blinking red light letting us know we need to heal ourselves of something. Sounds like you did some healing there! I’m trying so hard to avoid situations that trigger a desire for something I don’t need…it’s a process. 🙂 Thanks for you comment here, Margie!

  2. I feel this way very often. I come to conclusions like, 1) I must move into the woods away from all people 2) I must get involved with a worthwhile cause and try to make a bigger difference than the tiny things I do now 3) maybe I should move to a third world country and show my kids what true struggle really is 4) I need more medicine

    I loved reading this. Thank you for writing it.

    • Loved #4 on your list, b/c I’ve felt that too! I am starting to be clear on the fact that I don’t need to live anywhere else to teach my kids about making a difference, but I do need to provide them with opportunities they would not choose themselves. It’s up to us, isn’t it? Thanks for reading—have a wonderful weekend.

  3. Oh Lara! All I can say is Amen, sister!!!! I know EXACTLY the feeling you experienced in that mall. It actually depresses me to go in them some days. Thanks for the post.

  4. I am with you on point number 4. Reminds me of a time I walked into a Costco and there was this wall of flat screen TVs all on and flashing. I thought I was going to fall down on the spot and curl into the fetal position.

  5. I feel the same way at malls. I used to spend all of my free time at malls dreaming about how much better my life would be if I could only afford [fill in the blank]. One day I was cleaning out a drawer of receipts and realized how much meaningless stuff I had purchased during the past few years – stuff that had fallen apart or failed to last because most consumer goods are designed to do just that. I also noticed that when I would buy something, it would sit in the bag for days or even weeks. After a dramatic change of focus and more trips to the local thrift store than I can count, much of the clutter is gone. I now go to malls only when absolutely necessary, which is almost never. The last time that I went a mall, I left without having made any purchases, feeling depressed over the vast quantities of junk destined to end up in landfills.

  6. Yes, I am with you on this 100%, Lara. Just the thought of a shopping mall makes me kind of shaky. Too much stimulation, too many smells, lights, sounds, and just too much. Greed. Excess. I’m glad I have the choice to not mall shop.

  7. I think that the grief and panic that you are feeling may indeed be due to your awareness of the whole. The “June energy forecast” video on this blog [] might be useful for context and to feel less isolated in the weird feelings to run to Montana. I really, really relate. 😦

  8. Wow Lara, this is so good! I admit, I get a really icky feeling when going to the mall (which happens only a few times a year). I look around and think about how useless all the stuff is. And how the advertising indurstry has tricked almost EVERYONE to think that shopping and buying useless stuff is both normal and desirable. Sometimes I worry if I might be over-thinking things, or being a debbie downer. So it’s great to read this post and all of the comments… I am not alone. The excess can be really disheartening to other too … phew. And I also totally agree, out of sight, out of mind. Going to the mall, I immediately start to feel like what I own is not adequate. The advertising really hypnotizes us into a compare-yourself-with-others type of mood and it’s very destructive.

    Thanks for posting this Lara! (btw, that’s my sister’s name ❤ )

  9. The feeling I get is more along the lines of wanting to walk down the mall smacking people in the back of the head and saying “wake up!” 😀

  10. I get very anxious in any kind of mall or big box setting. Like you, I just look at all the ‘stuff’ and can’t believe how much people will spend on this, plus they are usually in car-centric areas. I don’t usually get the ‘let’s retreat to the woods’ feeling though as much as ‘let’s get back to the city’ where we can walk to several museums, a beautiful library, used book store, farmers market, historic buildings, etc… We never shop, but city living affords us a wonderful existence right outside our door.

  11. Oh so with you. I intensely dislike malls (and our little NZ versions are teeny tiny compared to those in the US!). It’s so easy to get trapped in forgetting the difference between want and need when it’s shoved repeatedly in your face. I’m a “here I go with a checklist, do my chores and get back out to the car before my free hour of parking expires” kind of gal!

  12. I loved the mall as a teen, and worked at one in college. It was great as a central place to meet friends. I came to abhor them after that stage, and now avoid them at all costs. They make me feel like a magpie, dazzled by all the glittery stuff. Basically none of which I need, but which is all so beautifully packaged and displayed. What an illusion (delusion?) of life they provide.

  13. I feel like this, too, but not just when I’m at the mall. It happens when I go to any large store. If I walk into Target, somehow my mind immediately conjures up an image of each item in the store sitting in a giant heap, and then I multiply the stuff in just one store by the stuff in all Target stores, then Wal-Mart’s, etc., and I end up feeling very anxious. Eek!

    • I’ve done that too! A million ab crunchers and salad spinners piling up on themselves in various landfills. Yikes. With each choice to avoid the purchase, we help out, right? I’d like to think so.

      • I even feel this way at the grocery store when I see rows and rows of packaged, processed foods also creating landfill waste, in addition to ill health. That is why I much prefer the farmers markets, for a true feeling of wellness.

  14. Literally every time I go. I rarely need to hit the mall and when I do, I experience waves of emotion. First, I am excited because for once I am planning to indulge myself. Then overwhelmed by all of the different options that somehow end up being relatively similar. Then, inadequate because my shoes look nothing like the freshly purchased high heels around me. Finally, I feel depressed. It becomes clear to me that none of the things around me bring happiness and I feel completely removed from everyone there, like an alien walking amongst earthlings. It always ends in me vowing to live off the grid and learn how to sew my own clothing. I understand your pain!

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