How to deal with eco-anxiety in the face of environmental crisis
As we all become more aware of the environmental crisis we’re facing, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. ‘Eco-anxiety’ is a new term that describes this feeling of panic many of us have for the environment. Eco-anxiety is described as chronic worrying about climate change, which can even prevent us from doing the one thing that’s needed – taking action.
“If you read all of the scientific reports then you’ll know that the announcement that we are in a climate and environmental emergency is very real,” Dan Reynolds of @trashcandanofficial, and founder of Pure Clean Earth tells Georganics. This real danger is what makes our fears around climate change completely justified. Ruth Allen (@whitepeak_ruth), an outdoor therapist and founder of White Peak Wellbeing explains that eco-anxiety “is natural to feel when we care about something, and important if we are going to be motivated to make changes”. It’s important to realise you are not alone in feeling this way, and talking about it can help.
“Why am I not running around screaming at the top of my voice, pulling my hair out, and feeling extremely anxious about this news? Well, I am worried and I have experienced ‘eco-anxiety’, but I realised very early on that if I am going to create change and more importantly, inspire and encourage others to do the same, then a worried, anxious-looking, screaming man who hasn’t slept in weeks, probably won’t help people maintain focus and will probably make people feel even worse”, says Dan. Taking a moment to prioritise what’s important is key. Kay Ska (@kay_ska), a self-love and mindset coach and mental health blogger says that “I think we often forget to actually take better care of ourselves first before trying to “fix” everything and everyone else around us, and with doing that we often experience a lot of anxiety and burnout.”
So how exactly do we go about easing ourselves when we feel an overwhelming fear that our home is in crisis?
We asked these mental health and positivity experts for their advice and considered what can be done when you’re feeling anxious.
“I try and carry the worry and anxiety about what is happening to our planet alongside an attitude of fundamental hopefulness. When we feel overwhelmed in the face of any sort of anxiety, the task for us is always to bring ourselves back to the present and focus on what we can do in the here and now. We can breathe, we can feel gratitude for what is in front of us and we can slow down long enough to make better, more intention and informed choices”, Ruth tells us. We understand that it’s difficult to feel in the present when you feel like your home is under threat, and slowing down is key to this. “A big thing for me when I feel overwhelmed by the news or statistics around the climate crisis we’re facing - I try to switch off from it for a while until I feel more grounded again. For me social media breaks are a huuuge part of me taking care of myself and my mental health and as a result, I’m able to be more present and make more conscious choices in my day to day life“, says Kay.
“As we focus on making changes in our own lives, we need to develop new habits, which take time to learn, practice, and improve. But how can we build new habits when our mind is so unstable? We cannot”, says Dan. “This is why I put strong emphasis into encouraging people to follow these steps:
- Identify one thing in your life that you want to change.
- Set an achievable time frame to change this.
- Create a reward that you receive when you achieve your goal.
- Repeat steps 1 - 3.
The reason that I believe this is the best way to tackle the environmental crisis while not feeling overwhelmed, is because each habitual change that you make in your life, literally creates ripples of change in the world”.
You may find it helps to involve your friends or family in these steps for extra support. Focusing on individual areas one at a time, like setting up a local beach clean or creating a zero-waste kitchen or bathroom. “Fundamentally, I believe that every act of care and compassion to the planet however small, counts in the long-term. It builds to real, collective movement. You don't have to do everything, you just need to show up and do your best.” Ruth tells us. “And of course remember, that nature teaches us about impermanents, cycles and seasons. Your overwhelm will pass if you let it, and you can step into a period of action and positivity.”
Ultimately, our actions are what will save our planet.
“By setting achievable goals and rewarding yourself for reaching your goals, you will feel great, excited to do more, comfortable and motivated, knowing that your consistent and persistent changes are being a positive service to the planet and your own state of mind”, explains Dan, who reminds us of his current favourite quote by Anne-Marie Bonneau (@ZeroWasteChef): “We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly, we need millions of people doing it imperfectly”.
Whether you’re currently feeling motivated or fearful of our planets future, it is these simple things that can make a big difference. Ruth reminds us that “you can also go outside right now and see that beautiful nature is still living and breathing, it's never too late. Life finds a way”.
Follow Dr Ruth Allen on Instagram @whitepeak_ruth or on her website