The good old eco-anxiety
Eco-anxiety is a term that's been getting a lot of attention lately, especially among millennials and Gen Z. But it is not a new thing. In fact, my own sustainability journey started somehow because of environmental-related fear.
I was 13 or 14 when the news about the hole in the Ozone layer first came out. By then, I had become a nature and animal lover and that news shook me to the core. I had no clue what was going on. It seemed like we were all going to burn alive and the planet was on a path to destruction. I really felt scared and powerless.
But what is eco-anxiety?
Eco-anxiety may not be officially recognized as a mental condition, but it is a very real and serious issue that many people experience. It refers to the distress and anxiety that arise from the deteriorating environmental conditions and the ecological crisis we find ourselves in.
It's all about feeling worried or fearful about environmental issues that directly impact our daily lives. Whether it's the ever-growing problem of plastic pollution or the frequent floods, droughts and forest fires repeating themselves every year, there's no shortage of concerns to keep us up at night. And let's be honest, it can all feel incredibly overwhelming.
With climate change serving as the primary driver of this anxiety, it's clear that the more we harm our planet, the stronger our eco-anxiety becomes.
Climate Change Matters and It Matters a Lot.
One of the biggest causes of eco-anxiety is climate change. It's a severe problem that's threatening our planet and everything on it.
The devastating effects are becoming more real for all of us because they are happening more often and impacting more people. It is no longer stuff happening far away, like polar bears losing their habitat or forests being burned down to the ground at the other end of the world, but now it is really getting close, and millions of people are experiencing these changes on their own flesh, by losing their homes to torrential rains or unstoppable fires or getting health problems related to pollution.
It's no wonder that these consequences leave us feeling frightened and anxious.
The media is crucial in shaping public awareness and understanding of climate change. While media reports on the topic are essential for spreading awareness, they often emphasize the gravity and urgency of the situation, highlighting catastrophic events and alarming statistics.
This constant bombardment of distressing information can overwhelm individuals, leading to eco-anxiety. The intense focus on negative outcomes and helplessness in the face of such a complex issue can contribute to feelings of fear, stress, and despair.
It is important for media outlets to strike a balance by also showcasing positive stories and solutions, and offering actionable steps individuals can take to contribute to a more sustainable future. By doing so, media can alleviate eco-anxiety and empower individuals to be part of the solution rather than just feeling overwhelmed by the problem.
Managing Eco-Anxiety: Taking a Breath, Making a Change
So, how can we cope with eco-anxiety and find some peace of mind? Dealing with eco-anxiety is about finding a balance between staying informed and maintaining a positive outlook. Here are some tips that you can use:
1. Educate yourself and stay informed.
Gain a deeper understanding of the issues by educating yourself about climate change, environmental conservation, and sustainable practices. Knowledge can empower you and provide a sense of control.
Actually, the first thing I did when my eco-fears appeared in my teenage years was to get my hands on all the information I could find, which trust me, nearly 40 years ago, and without the internet, was not an easy task. 😬
Nowadays, there is a lot more information and material on the topic. In fact, I have collected a couple of top-rated books in case you want to get started with some reading. Feel free to share any other good resources you know and I will add them here.
Books in German
Books in English
Books in Spanish
Limit your exposure to negative news, but stay engaged in the issues that matter. Don't let negative news and social media consume you and be mindful of the impact it can have on our mental well-being. Constantly being bombarded with negative news and overwhelming information can take a toll on our mental health.
2. Take positive action against your eco-fears
Channel your anxiety into meaningful action. Engage in easy daily eco-friendly behaviours such as reducing waste, conserving energy, supporting sustainable businesses, and advocating for environmental policies.
Taking small tangible steps can alleviate feelings of helplessness.
A powerful way to ease into and combat the eco-blues is volunteering.
When you volunteer, you surround yourself with amazing, open-minded people who share your passion for the environment and witness the tangible results of your actions.
The satisfaction of knowing that your efforts contribute to something bigger than yourself can be incredibly empowering, reminding you of the positive impact you can have on the world.
3. Seek Community and support
I find it very helpful to connect with like-minded individuals who are going through the same struggles. Also joining environmental organizations can help you by engaging in collective efforts and sharing experiences that provide support, camaraderie, and a sense of hope.
When searching for an environmental organization, consider your personal interests and the causes that resonate with you the most. Are you passionate about protecting wildlife and preserving natural habitats? Or do you find yourself drawn to the urgency of climate change advocacy? Perhaps sustainable agriculture and food systems ignite a spark within you. Whatever the case may be, there are countless organizations working tirelessly across the globe.
By joining forces with a group that shares your concerns, you'll create a supportive community that fosters personal growth, learning, and collaboration.
4. Practice self-love & self-care
Self-care is not selfish, it is absolutely necessary! - Lola Fernandez
By nurturing ourselves physically, emotionally, and mentally, we can be better equipped to address the challenges of our planet and create a more sustainable future for all. So, take a moment every day to prioritize self-care in your daily routine:
- Set aside dedicated time for yourself, whether it's for exercise, meditation, or even a quick nap. Remember, you are responsible for your own mental well-being, so make sure to carve out space for self-care.
- Exercise is a fantastic way to take care of yourself, benefiting both your physical and mental health. It's been proven to reduce stress and anxiety, boost your mood, and increase your energy levels. Even a short walk around the neighbourhood can get your blood flowing and clear your mind.
- Meditation is another powerful tool for nurturing your mental health. It helps you find inner calm and balance, reduces stress, and enhances your ability to concentrate and focus. Taking a few minutes each day to meditate can bring about a sense of centeredness and tranquillity.
- Focus on the positive. Celebrate and amplify positive environmental stories and initiatives. Recognise the progress being made and the inspiring individuals and organizations dedicated to sustainability. Also, don't forget your own little victories because shifting the focus to positive change can alleviate anxiety and inspire hope.
5. Spend time in nature to beat eco-anxiety
Being in nature is also an essential aspect of self-care, but in the context of eco-anxiety I believe it plays several other important roles, so let's dedicate a bit more time to this topic.
Nature's green hue symbolizes rejuvenation, growth, and new beginnings. Spending time outdoors can refresh your spirit and boost your energy. Any nature-filled activities, from taking a walk in a park to embarking on an exhilarating hike with friends, has a profound impact on your mental and physical well-being.
I often go walking in the forest. The smell of green and the natural sounds of birds or the wind rustling through the trees, act like magic on my stressed mind. Embrace the transformative power of nature to alleviate eco-anxiety and enhance your overall health.
But there is more. Time in nature sparks a deep appreciation for our planet's beauty, as I personally can attest to. As a child, I was fortunate to grow up between the sea and the mountains, and I spend lots of time outdoors. Years of witnessing awe-inspiring landscapes and intricate ecosystems, made me want to protect and preserve them. Nature reminds us of what we stand to lose and fuels our desire to take action.
So, make it a priority to carve out some time for nature in your busy schedule. Allow yourself to immerse in its calming embrace fully, let the sights, sounds, and scents wash over you, and feel the stress and worries melt away. Let nature inspire you to make positive changes for the future, both in your personal choices and in advocating for a more sustainable world.
6. Seek professional help if needed
If eco-anxiety significantly impacts your daily life and well-being, consider seeking support from a mental health professional or participate in some eco-anxiety coaching program. Experts can provide guidance, coping strategies, and support tailored to your specific needs.
We recently had a chat with expert on the topic. Nadja Hirsch, a Climate Psychologist and founder of the Climate Psychology Institute in Munich explained to us in detail how eco-anxiety affects us, what role media and politicians play and most importantly, how to deal with it. You can also watch the interview here.
Remember, it's normal to feel concerned about the environment, but it's essential to find a balance between staying informed and taking care of your mental well-being. By taking action, seeking support, and practising self-care, you can cope with eco-anxiety and find peace of mind.
Lola is the founder of Green Cloud Nine. Nature lover and environmental activist since she was a teenager, Lola has always been a great fan of homesteading and she is continuously experimenting and finding her own way to be more self-sufficient and sustainable.