Eco-anxiety is real and it’s here to stay. But living with eco-anxiety doesn’t have to be miserable. Here are 7 tips you can start today to help get your eco-anxiety under control.
The world is on fire, everything is wrapped in plastic, the recycling system is broken, the air quality is always ‘moderate’ and as if that wasn’t enough, there’s a global pandemic that keeps teasing us.
Let’s talk about it.
Having access to the news 24/7 is one of the many benefits of living in the digital era. But constant exposure + click-bait headlines = a combo of burnout, stress, helplessness, & anxiety. Totally not speaking from personal experience.
On the plus side — you’re not alone in these feelings, we’re feeling it too! If thinking about the future of earth and all her inhabitants causes you to reach for the antacids, then welcome to eco-anxiety. It’s nice to meet you and we’re not necessarily glad you’re here but it’s nice to have company.
What Is Eco-Anxiety?
Eco-anxiety, at its most basic definition, is the constant worry about our planet, the state of Earth, and concern for all living inhabitants present and future.
Fact: Climate change is recognized by the American Psychiatric Association as an increasing danger to mental health.
But the tricky part of eco-anxiety is that it doesn’t always manifest itself in any particular way. As great as it would be for there to be a one size fits all cure, the right answer will look different for each one of us.
How Can Eco-Anxiety Affect You
Eco-anxiety can show up in the form of general symptoms such as anger at people, policies, even entire generations; anxiety in all forms; sadness; helplessness; and more. More definitive symptoms such as existential dread, fatalistic thoughts, PTSD, shame and guilt at your own habits, and obsessive thoughts are also common.
As is the case with most things, these symptoms can also have secondary effects such as trouble sleeping, changes in appetite, difficulty concentrating.
But no matter how minor or severe you experience eco-anxiety, know that it is very real and there are some things you can do to help yourself. If there were a pill or a vitamin or a phone number that instantly cured it, you better believe that would have been in the first sentence.
“Eco-anxiety is a natural response to a threat. And this is a very real threat.” — Leslie Davenport, author of Emotional Resiliency in the Era of Climate Change: A Clinician’s Guide
Below Are 7 Ways To Help You Live With, And Manage, Eco-anxiety
1. Turn off the news
It’s great to stay connected and up to date on current affairs, the news can be a major source of headline-inducing eco-anxiety.
- Turn off notifications and/or filter what kind of notifications you receive
- Move the ‘news preview’ screen off your home page or into a folder
- Avoid the news as the first thing you read in the morning or the last thing you read before you go to bed
- Take time to start your morning, fully wake up, and mentally prepare before diving into the news
- Set time limits for how long you spend reading and browsing the news
2. Connect With Nature
Spending time outside is known to have a positive impact on your mental health and happiness. Wherever you have access to the outdoors, spend a few minutes everyday. Take a book and read for 10 minutes, be outside with your pet, significant other, or even read your daily news outside in a green space. If you are sedentary all day, taking just a 10-20 minute walk around outside is another option. Studies show that spending around 2 hours a week (roughly 20 minutes a day) outside improves health and well-being.
3. Go Offline — Nurture In-Person Relationships
Things have been hard since we’ve all been in quarantine and various forms of lockdown; our social circles and norms haven’t quite returned to normal. And it’s easy to go online rather than contacting a friend when you’re upset. But the internet is full of click-bait and doesn’t have your best interests in mind. Spend less time on social media and be more present in the moment — schedule time for a quick phone call, video call, or in person meeting with friends. Nurturing your existing relationships and being around people can help bring back a sense of calm and normalcy.
4. Take Action
Start with the things you care about the most and use your talents to take action like joining a local group or donating to something you care about. Taking any kind of action is more than most people do. Think about the best way you can use your hobbies, skills, network, and resources to get involved. A local group or a google search are easy ways to get started. Places like 350.org and StopLine3 (for Americans) are great places to get started. Other things to consider are what big businesses are you supporting with your purchases? Where are you putting your money? Do they fund fossil fuels? JP Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo, & Citi are part of the group that funds the most fossil fuels. Move your money into a local credit union or an institution that supports better causes such as Green America.
5. Join a Group of Like Minded People
With so many meet-ups and forums available there are plenty of opportunities to find other individuals who share your values. Get involved in your community with organizations that align with your values. Showing up for your community with others that share your same values is so rewarding and beneficial for your mental health and happiness.
6. Educate Yourself
A big aspect of fear is the unknown — take the time to learn not only about the issues that are going on, but dig a little deeper and try to find companies and people who are solving these problems or working towards solving them. You might even learn a thing or two to add to your eco-friendly journey. Try replacing a little bit of your news-reading time with following good news-spreaders. Look for resources that help you better understand what’s going — from climate justice, to food inequality, to listening to indigenous voices. Earthrise is a great resource to use.
7. Talk About It
Whether that’s with a therapist or friends or a volunteer community, sometimes talking it out is the best treatment. Talking about the issues that concern you can help bring awareness to these topics, plus you can learn from other people’s experience and opinions. Journaling is another good option — take time to write out your feelings and concerns but before wrapping up focus on something good to redirect your thoughts.
No matter how it manifests itself for you, eco-anxiety is no joke; avoiding it and trying to power through it isn’t going to make you feel any better. Most importantly, allow yourself to feel all the feels — they are completely valid. And don’t expect perfection. Holding yourself, and others, to an impossible standard is a recipe for a letdown. Take action in whatever way you can, nothing is too small or too large.