eco-anxiety

How to Beat Eco-Anxiety

How to Beat Eco-Anxiety

Does thinking about the threat of climate change keep you awake at night? Are you feeling overwhelmed by the pressure to live a low impact life? Do you feel powerless in the fight for climate justice? You are not alone! Here are our tried-and-tested ways to help avoid the pitfalls of eco-anxiety so you can keep making positive change without impacting your mental health.

What is Eco-Anxiety?

Eco-anxiety (also known as climate change anxiety or environmental anxiety) is a modern phenomenon that’s inhibiting our ability to help combat climate change by creating feelings of extreme worry. This happens to thousands of ordinary people who are simply trying to go about their lives as sustainably as possible. 

A 2017 report by The American Psychological Association describes the term ‘eco-anxiety’ as:

  • a chronic fear of environmental doom;
  • a source of stress caused by watching the slow and seemingly irrevocable impacts of climate change unfold, and worrying about the future for oneself, one’s children, and future generations;
  • feelings of loss, helplessness and frustration due to their inability to feel like they are making a difference in stopping climate change.

With our social media feeds filled with near-constant headlines of doomsday proportions, it can feel impossible to escape from worrying about the climate crisis wherever we go. When we do ‘slip up’ in our ethical lifestyles, the guilt can be stifling. The uncertainty about the future of the planet weighs heavy on our minds, and this ‘preemptive grief’ can also impact our own future aspirations and ambitions.

Climate change protest

When Greta Thunberg told the world “I want you to panic” in her speech to the World Economic Forum back in January, many of us took that to heart, and started panicking. What we forget is that Thunberg and her army of young climate activists really want the burden of guilt about climate change to shift towards those in power. 

That is certainly not to say that we are powerless to incite real change – individual action is incredibly important, and we can make a huge difference with our own lifestyle changes too. 

Let’s reclaim the power in our own voices and actions so we can be eco-warriors rather than eco-worriers. Here are seven great places to start that will help you to deal with eco-anxiety and make positive change:

1. Reconnect with nature

It’s important to remember that if you’re worrying about the environment, it means you care about nature. So turn away from the 24/7 news cycle on your screen and get outdoors to reconnect with what we’re all fighting for. Whether as simple as a walk around the park or as extreme as a total digital detox out in the wilderness, breathing in the fresh air can really help you ground yourself! Forest bathing is part of my ‘stay sane’ routine.

2. Curate your sphere of influence

Who we follow on social media has a huge influence on our mood. If you’re seeing a lot of ‘scary statistics’ on your daily scroll with no actions or solutions, consider creating a new sphere of influence. There are dozens of brilliant eco accounts to follow instead which have a positive and optimistic outlook, to inspire you rather than make you feel defeated. We love @natgeo, @sustainabilityinstyle, @kidsagainstplastic, @zero.waste.collective, @thegreenhub_ and @lowimpactmovement

3. Banish all-or-nothing thinking

Being 100% sustainable is just not possible – after all, we’re all human!
Sometimes eco-influencers can make us feel rubbish for not having a perfect zero waste home, vegan diet or sustainable wardrobe – but remember that it’s better for more people to be ‘imperfectly’ eco-friendly than for a select few to be absolutist about sustainability. Every little change really does help – but you can only do what’s possible and accessible for you.

4. Take back the power

Reclaim the power of climate action and use your concern about the environment for good. There are two key ways to affect change that will make you feel powerful, rather than powerless: joining in on protests (like the Global Climate Strike), and using your vote to elect representatives who are committed to tackling the climate emergency. If you’re in the UK, make sure to register to vote before 26/11/19 so you can make your voice heard next in the general election!

5. Join a community

None of us can fight climate change alone – it’s vital to join a community so you can battle the feelings of anxiety and overwhelm and instead feel united on embracing the solutions. You could connect with likeminded people online in Facebook groups and Twitter chats, you could join a local Extinction Rebellion group meetings, attend Fashion Revolution events, or simply open up amongst your friends and family to help lighten the load.

6. Give Back

Play your part for the planet in a positive and active way by using your spare time to volunteer for climate cleanup. From litter picks to beach cleans, volunteering is one of the best ways to contribute to the movement and feel good too. Check out the Plastic Patrol to join a whole host of fun activities like paddleboarding, hiking and yoga to help preserve nature across the UK.

7. Protest with your purchases

Last but certainly not least, a huge part of living in line with your values is ‘voting with your wallet’ – what we like to call ‘protesting with your purchases. You can feel good about your impact on the world by backing brands that are helping to change the system. Head over to our shop to discover 50+ brands who are protecting people, animals and the planet.

how to stop eco-anxiety

While eco-anxiety is not yet a diagnosable psychological illness, that doesn’t mean it can’t deeply affect your day-to-day mental health, or be a symptom of a larger underlying anxiety disorder. So make sure to seek professional help if you’re feeling overwhelmed. Mind is a brilliant mental health charity with invaluable resources and support for anyone in need.

For more information, this podcast on BBC Sounds helps explain the mental health impact of eco-anxiety, and this BBC Three article explores real stories of eco-anxiety in action.

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Written by Ruth Macgilp