Dealing with Eco-Anxiety
Climate change certainly affects our weather patterns, biological diversity, and landscape composition, but climate change can also take a toll on our mental well-being. According to a survey by the American Psychological Association in 2020, 2 out of 3 (or 68%) of American adults struggle with eco-anxiety. If you’re like me, you fall into that 68 percentile. In this blog, I’ll define eco-anxiety, how to determine if you struggle with it and provide you with ways to cope when all else seems hopeless.
What is eco-anxiety?
The term eco-anxiety, coined by Glen Albrechht, an Australian environmental philosopher, is the feeling of doom or worry brought about by climate change and its impacts. While eco-anxiety is not a clinical diagnosis, many people fear the foreseeable future due to current devastating environmental changes.
Do I have eco-anxiety?
Personally speaking, it feels like eco-anxiety consumes me most days. I constantly ask myself if I am doing enough for the environment; if my youngest sister or future children will reap terrible consequences of climate change as they grow; is it ethical to have children during a climate crisis, or most importantly, why is our government not doing enough? Sometimes, when I forget my reusable water bottle at home, it feels like the end of the world when I need to purchase a plastic bottle of water. Eco-anxiety can cause a range of emotions like helplessness, sadness, grief, or restlessness. If you resonate with any of this, you likely struggle with eco-anxiety yourself.
Eco-anxiety often is worse for those whose livelihoods or cultures depend on a healthy, thriving ecosystem. For example, people with careers that may affected by environmental degradation, such as fisheries and farms, often worry more than the general population. Indigenous communities often face more intense effects of climate change.
How can I cope with eco-anxiety?
With the current state of the world, it can seem impossible to relieve ourselves of eco-anxiety. Reading environmental news about inclement weather events such as flooding in Germany, ice storms in Texas, or the constant wildfires along the west coast of the US certainly make overcoming this fear difficult. But we cannot successfully fight a climate crisis in a weakened mental state, so here are some tips to help you overcome your eco-anxiety.
- Spend more time outdoors
Enjoying the great outdoors will not only relieve some of our eco-anxiety but it will also help our overall mental health. In the high technology era, we tend to spend more time indoors. Perhaps you recall our past blogs about the detrimental effects of Nature Deficit Disorder or about the benefits of Forest Bathing. Enjoying the outdoors can connect us with nature, and if you can’t find the time to get outside perhaps bring nature indoors with you with a house plant or two.
- Look on the bright side
You cannot avoid negative environmental news, it’s practically inevitable, but don’t let the negative news outweigh the breakthroughs happening every day. Surrounding yourself with positive environmental news is just as important as informing yourself of the negative news. Personally, I enjoy listening to environmental podcasts like Sustainability Defined or Sustainababble for a lighthearted twist on environmental news!
- Take action
Ease your eco-anxiety by getting involved with your local environmental groups or making personal changes in your life! Taking part in environmental activities such as a beach cleanup can connect you with others in your community that likely also deal with eco-anxiety. Perhaps you don’t have time to attend environmental events. If that’s the case, consider funding local environmental groups, such as The Long Island Pine Barrens Society! Also, making personal changes in your life such as using a bike instead of a car (when possible), or taking shorter showers can help you feel better about your overall environmental impact!
By Miranda Gonzales, Long Island Pine Barrens Society