While some are choosing to ignore that climate change is happening, others are having anxiety about what climate change will bring in the future. This feeling is referred to as eco-anxiety or climate anxiety. Along with it also comes guilt, because people in the west (mainly USA and Europe) are not feeling the real effects of climate change. It’s the less developed countries that are affected the most.
If you feel like this, you are not alone. People around the world are suffering from this but it’s completely natural. You’ll be glad to hear that there are things you can do about it.
What does climate anxiety mean?
Eco-anxiety is a sense of extreme worry about our planet, our future, and essentially our existence. It’s a relatively new term since this is something that humankind has never experienced before. However, it seems like more people are talking about it now.
Lately, especially the younger generations have been feeling extremely sad, anxious, and depressed about the future that is waiting for them. The world is falling apart and no one is taking any serious action. How could people not freak out about that?
Some wonder what is even the point of studying if the planet will be destroyed in 10 or 20 years. Cities are already flooding, wildfires are becoming more severe, and more extreme weather can be seen across the globe in general. Meanwhile, governments and large companies are doing little to nothing to protect it.
The media doesn’t help with this either. On social media we constantly see people sharing headlines of extreme weather events and other various environmental issues making eco-anxiety even worse. While it’s good to be educated, we don’t need to be updated on every bad thing that happens in the world.
And it’s not something that can easily be fixed. It’s easy to feel powerless in this situation. We have no control over deforestation, oil drilling and so much more. Our survival sits in the hands of the most money-driven people on the planet. That’s what makes me most worried.
We are faced with a massive threat. It’s only natural we feel scared and anxious. If you are not even slightly concerned, then maybe you don’t know enough about what is happening. This is about our very survival. Not only us but all biodiversity on planet earth.
What can you do about it?
We can barely deal with anxiety on an individual level (e.g. how we look, what others think of us etc.), so how are we meant to cope with something on a global scale? Thankfully, there are a few things you can do to feel better.
01. Follow your values
Live like you want everyone to live. Lower your carbon footprint to reduce your impact on climate change, try to become zero waste to reduce plastic pollution, and consider changing your diet. Align your values with your lifestyle. There are many things you could do to live more sustainably.
In addition, do not support companies who are harming the environment. Think about where you are putting your money. Stop thinking you’re too small to make a difference. How will we see change, if no one changes anything?
Obviously, we are not perfect so if you don’t always follow these eco-friendly habits because let’s face it, society makes it so damn hard, don’t feel too bad or ashamed. That’s going to make your eco-anxiety worse. You are doing your part and that’s what matters.
You can have an impact too. It will be overwhelming and you will feel like you are not making a big difference at the beginning but we all have to start somewhere.
Turn that anxiety you are feeling into action. That’s one of the best ways to feel better. If you are doing something good for the world then you at least know that you are doing your part in this crisis. Turn that feeling of helplessness into a feeling of empowerment.
03. Go into nature
Get a break from the modern world and the headlines on your phone. Once in a while, take the time to walk or sit among the trees. It will remind you what you fighting so hard for. Those times where you feel like giving up, wander into nature and simply observe.
Nature also has healing benefits, including for your mind. When you feel overwhelmed with negative emotions, it might be a good idea to step into nature to calm down and unwind
04. Protect nature
There are many ways in which you can give back. Either by supporting charities and eco-businesses or by going out there yourself. Have you considered volunteering? That could really help you. If there are no organizations near you, don’t be discouraged. You can still go out there on your own ( and maybe take your friends) and do some good deeds. Litter picking is often a popular one.
We are always connected. That device that is never 5m away allows us to get instant updates on current events. While it can be a good thing, there’s a point where you become too updated on everything. This could be fuelling your eco-anxiety even more. Disconnecting every so often will only benefit you.
You should still keep informed but don’t keep checking your notifications every second. At the end of the day, most of the things we see on the news are out of our control.
06. Find your own community
Finding like-minded people could help a lot. Just knowing there are people out there fighting the good fight will make you feel better. Not to mention you will be able to have a bigger impact if more of you join together. Talking with individuals who also care about the planet will make you feel more at ease too. Talking about what you feel is always great therapy.
You could even join climate strikes. There are plenty of them going around!
07. Inspire others
Don’t just take individual action. Inspire others to do the same. If you start changing your lifestyle and telling people why you are doing it, some of them are bound to change too. You won’t be able to convince everyone at once but small steps can make a big difference in the long run.
08. Filter our fake news
Don’t believe everything you see. Just because someone posted something on Instagram, it doesn’t make it true. These inaccurate facts could make things seem worse than they actually are. Always check the information. If there aren’t any other sources saying the same, it’s likely it’s not true or accurate.
One person cannot solve the entire climate crisis. It’s important to understand that. Accept the situation and the fact that you can only do so much. This does not mean accepting that the planet will be destroyed so we may as well sit back and enjoy life while we still can.
Still do the best that you can but know that some things are just out of our control.
10. Be optimistic
Think more positively. Instead of picturing a climate apocalypse, imagine how amazing the world could be if we all fought for the same cause. The world could be an amazing place is all countries joined forces. Stop scaring people of what the future will be like if we don’t act. Tell them about what it could be like if we implemented all these changes and redesigned our society. More people will join you then.
Eco-anxiety is only normal. It shows that you really care about the environment. But instead of letting that fear get the best of you, turn it into action. We can’t just sit in the corner and cry.
People who experience eco-anxiety tend to try and carry the world’s problems on their shoulders and do everything they can do to protect it. It can become compulsive. There’s a line between what you can do and trying to control what everyone is doing. It can be hard seeing people not recycling or wasting energy at your school or office but instead of digging through the bin to recycle all those plastic bottles, maybe you do something more constructive. Like educating those people on what they should do.
Caring about the planet and environment is hugely important but your health is equally important. Never forget that.
Originally published at https://www.terramovement.com on October 21, 2020.