Eco anxiety is all too common these days. We're all faced with a stark reality – our world is changing, and not for the better. We are each and every one of us to blame. It is understandable that so many of us struggle to cope with the emotions we feel surrounding this existential threat.
Uncertainty, lack of information and loss of control are all contributing factors to eco anxiety. It is very easy to feel adrift and helpless in the face of such major problems. How can we deal with the stress, guilt, anger, frustration, worry and sadness that eco anxiety brings?
Remember, You're Not Alone
If you are suffering from eco anxiety, the first thing to remember is that you are not alone. Many, many people are feeling the same way. Reaching out online and connecting with like-minded individuals can be an important step. It can help you feel less overwhelmed to speak with others going through the same thing. If things get really bad, don't be afraid to ask for help. Speak to a qualified mental health professional.
A lot of eco anxiety comes from the sense of helplessness we feel. It is easy, as an individual, to feel overwhelmed by the scale of the problem. Remember – there is plenty you can do as an individual to help. But together, we can really achieve great things. Other people also want to make a difference. Working collaboratively with others can help us lessen our anxiety and feel like we are able to do more.
Build Personal Resilience
But remember, before you can reach out and make a real difference in the world, you have to take care of yourself. Sustainability begins with the self. Building personal resilience (our ability to bounce back from challenges and hardships) is key. So how do we build our ability to cope? Here are a few suggestions:
- Make some screen-free time to escape the news and spend time on things you enjoy.
- Get a good night's sleep.
- Eat good, wholesome, natural, organic produce – healthy body, healthy mind.
- Nature is a wonderful tonic – spend time in beautiful, green spaces outdoors.
- Reflect on your thought patterns. Try to focus on positives, not just negatives all the time. Direct your thoughts to things you can change, and to forging pro-active strategies to change them.
Education is Key - Learn More, Build Skills
Another important part of building personal resilience is moving beyond mental resilience to think of other ways that you can become more resilient in your daily lives. The more we know, and the more we can do for ourselves, the more in control of the situation we can feel.
More than this, building knowledge and skills will also allow us to become more pro-active, and tackle eco anxiety head-on by moving life in a more sustainable direction.
Don't Be Bogged Down By Bad News Stories
When we consume bad news stories on a daily basis, it is easy to become overwhelmed. It is important to accept the realities we face. But equally, it is important not to only look at the bad news. Take some time to seek out good news stories in the environmental arena. There are plenty out there if you look. From conservation success stories, to the greening of deserts and exciting innovations – there is plenty to be hopeful about, and plenty to be thankful for.
Channel Guilt into Productive Action
It is understandable to feel guilt about our environment – and about the impact we have on people and planet. But the problem with guilt is that it can often become dissociative. We feel a generalised sense of guilt but don't translate that guilt to real and positive action in our daily lives. But reshape it a little, and the guilt of our eco anxiety can be useful. It can be a driving force to generate change. Rather than simply feeling guilty, try to zero in on a specific thing you feel bad about. Rather than worrying about it, take small, simple changes to your daily life to make things better.
Take Things One Small Step at a Time
It is very important not to try to change everything all at once. Real and lasting change comes from taking things slow, using small and steady solutions. Try to do it all at once and this can leave you more anxious than ever. Take things one small step at a time.
If At First You Don't Succeed, Try, Try Again
Finally, remember we all make mistakes. Mistakes are inevitable. Don't beat yourself up about every infraction or error. Simply take a step back, then think carefully about what went wrong and try again.