We are very aware of the physical risks of climate change, carbon emissions released by fossil fuels, and water wastage, but what about the mental risks? The very fact that our planet is dying is leaving many people panicky.
A 2018 national survey shows that about 70% of Americans are worried about climate change and 51% feel helpless. If you are one of these people, chances are the threat of climate change keeps you awake at night, or you feel overwhelmed by the pressure to follow a low-impact lifestyle. Chances are you are going through eco-anxiety.
Wait! Eco-anxiety? What’s that?
What is eco-anxiety?
American Psychiatric Association (APA) defined Eco-anxiety as “a chronic fear of environmental doom.” Conversation psychologist Susan Clayton says, “Eco-anxiety is used to refer to negative emotions experienced in the face of environmental problems, particularly grief, anxiety, or hopelessness,”
The symptoms of eco-anxiety can vary from person to person. But, just like typical anxiety, eco-anxiety can also cause feelings of loss, helplessness, or even depression (because of the sense of not doing enough for the planet).
Other indications may include insomnia, anger, fatalistic thinking, existential dread, obsessive thoughts about the environment, post-traumatic stress after experiencing the effects of climate change, guilt or shame related to your own carbon footprint, distress, and sadness over the loss of natural environment or wildlife populations.
Eco-anxiety is as common as other types of anxiety. According to psychiatry.org, “More than two-thirds of Americans (67%) are somewhat or extremely anxious about the impact of climate change on the planet, and more than half (55%) are somewhat or extremely anxious about the impact of climate change on their own mental health“.
So, remember that you are not alone! And today, we have got you covered with these 10 ways to cope with your eco-anxiety.
Now that you know about eco-anxiety and its symptoms, let’s see how we can fight this and switch from an eco-worrier to an eco-warrior.
1. Disconnect from negative thoughts and reconnect with nature.
It is vital to remember that you deserve a break. So, take a break from the overload of information, continuous negative news, and those obsessive thoughts about the environment. Instead, connect with nature. Take a nature walk, go to the beach, go hiking, or take a forest bath every once in a while. Just like you embrace someone who is going through a rough patch, do the same with nature.
2. Self-love is key!
Do not forget about yourself while worrying about the environment and trying to protect it. While loving nature, remember to love yourself too. Remember the mantra: self-care, self-care, and self-care. Make sure you get enough sleep, eat green, and drink plenty of water. Do things that make you feel alive; move your body, write healing thoughts, and repeat magical and inspirational quotes to yourself.
3. Stay informed.
Get educated about all the environmental problems and climate change, to know what you can do to help. Learn as much as you can. Do not miss out on inspirational stories from environmental activists. Do not worry about assumed facts or statistics. Instead, choose what is worth being concerned about and what is just the outcome of your anxiety. And staying informed will help you do that.
4. Choose your circle of influence wisely.
Choose your influence wisely, as who we follow on social media has a massive impact on our mood. Look for influencers who provide solutions and tips to live sustainably, rather than just scrolling through scary news and statistics without any answers. Here are a few influencers we love and all of us can learn from, about living more sustainably: @lowimpactmovement, @zero.waste.collective, @sustainabilityinstyle, and @kidsagainstplastic.
5. Make your own eco-warrior community.
Connect with like-minded people and make friends with those committed to the same cause. Remember: you are not alone in this fight. Interact with people who can help you ward off your eco-anxiety and not feel overwhelmed or alone.
You can find people who share the same passion via Facebook groups, Twitter, or any online community. Or talk to your friends and family and share what you’re feeling.
6. Play your part for the planet.
Give back to the planet. Involve yourself in activities like litter pick-ups, cleaning the beach, or taking small steps towards a sustainable lifestyle.
7. Meditate and exercise regularly.
Meditation and exercise is the best way to cope with any anxiety. Take your first step by starting meditating for 3-5 minutes daily. Developing a daily exercise routine will help you too.
8. Abandon the ‘all-or-nothing’ thinking.
“I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.” ~Edward Everett Hale
It is not possible to be 100% sustainable. There is only so much you can do. It’s okay if your home is not 100% plastic-free. You can’t give up on your favorite meat yet, or you don’t have a build a completely sustainable wardrobe. Always remember, that every little change helps. It’s okay to be imperfectly sustainable rather than not being sustainable at all.
9. Purchase consciously.
Let’s focus on shopping consciously; put that guilt of not being sustainable enough into something good. Know your products – whether they are eco-friendly or not, before buying them. Also, you should support brands that are trying to be sustainable by lowering their environmental impact, which will make you feel good.
10. Know when to seek professional help.
Last but not least, seek professional help if your eco-anxiety is getting out of hand. This might not seem as serious as any typical anxiety, but it can still take a toll on your mental health. Ask for professional help if you have trouble sleeping, concentrating, or cannot carry on with your day-to-day routine.
Living eco-friendly is all about doing good for the planet, but more importantly, for yourself; after all, you are part of the planet too. You can’t fight for the cause of the planet, unless you fight the anxiety inside you!