We must do what we can to stay positive in times of difficulty. Writes Annie Button. The future of the planet is why so many of us now are rolling our sleeves up and implementing sustainable changes in our lives to make a difference. However, the changes we are beginning to see in the ways we purchase and recycle, from individuals to industry-wide behaviour, will have to continue and accelerate for climate change to be lessened.
The UK government has pledged to produce net zero emissions by 2050 but it can still seem like a long way off. That is naturally a cause for concern among those of us who are trying our best to reduce our impact now, almost 30 years before this deadline. This can lead to frustrations and negative feelings but we are taking a closer look at the ways we can cope with eco-anxiety in today’s world.
What is eco-anxiety?
While the term ‘eco-anxiety’ isn’t something that can yet be diagnosed by a medical professional, it is used to describe feelings of distress, fear and anxiety that people may feel when thinking about climate change.
This form of anxiety may manifest itself in mild feelings of distress that can come and go, or more severely where the sufferer is consumed by their fear for the planet. Thankfully, help is at hand and these techniques can help alleviate any sensations of anxiety you may be feeling about the environment.
Spending time in and connecting with nature
A great place to start trying to reduce your eco-anxiety is in nature itself. Nature is therapeutic for us and has been proven to reduce feelings of anxiety and depression while generating positive emotions such as joy and calmness.
Simply going for a walk can make a positive impact on your mental health but if you would like to strengthen your connection with nature then consider doing some gardening or planting a tree. You can also use your energy to help restore local green areas through rubbish collection to ensure wildlife can thrive and they remain a pleasant place for us all to visit.
Living in alignment with your values
We can make a difference to climate change through the actions we take so it’s important to help ease feelings of eco-anxiety by living in alignment with your values. Look inside and decide if there is more you can do in your life to lower your impact.
If you feel you are doing enough, which is totally acceptable, then it’s important to own that decision and absolve yourself of guilt. There is only so much within our own control and learning to accept that is an important step in easing your climate change anxiety. You can also use those feelings of anxiety to help you take action against climate change.
Anxiety can be closely linked to feelings of a lack of control but that negative energy can be translated into something positive if channelled in the right way. This could be finding a new cause to champion or volunteering some of your time to work closely with an environmental charity or organisation. By taking positive action when feelings of eco-anxiety enter your mind you can take that negativity and use it constructively.
Not suppressing your emotions
Commonly, the fears brought about by anxiety are greater than the actual threat but, given the size of the planet, the same argument is harder to make for anyone suffering from eco-anxiety. As such, trying to suppress your feelings of fear about the environment is unlikely to succeed but a more appropriate approach would be to engage in some mindfulness activities.
Mindfulness is a practice that encourages the practitioner to accept the feelings they have and wake up to what is happening in the present moment without judging it. It is about accepting what you are feeling and finding a way within yourself to positively move forwards. However, it can still be a bit intense so de-stressing mindfulness activities that can help you reduce anxiety and take your mind off what is troubling you are also time well spent.
Simple de-stressing mindfulness activities to reduce anxiety include:
- Drawing and colouring
- Going for a walk
- Guided meditation
- Take time for a cup of tea
- Digital detoxing
- Keeping a journal
Seeking professional help if overwhelmed
If you find that your feelings of anxiety are persistent or overwhelming, then anxiety counselling can help you. Visiting a medical professional for anxiety counselling can reduce the fatigue you may feel from worrying and stressing about the environment. Anxiety counselling can also help build a reliable tool kit to manage current and future stress situations effectively and confidently.
From learning what the triggers are to your feelings of anxiety to developing an understanding of how to get yourself out of certain situations, counselling can make a difference. The act of speaking and opening up about your feelings of anxiety can help you to deal with them better as you release the tension rather than keeping everything bottled up inside.
Finding like-minded people
A community of like-minded people can reinvigorate your desire to continue creating effective climate change. Being able to share techniques and advice about living sustainably, such as foraging tips, can help you to feel like there is positive change happening in the world. Getting involved with groups of like-minded people not only helps to reduce feelings of loneliness but also allows you to share your concerns and anxieties with them.
It’s important to note that you are not alone, and others feel the same way as you do. Finding and connecting with like-minded people can help you to find friends with the same values, share how you feel and celebrate your climate change success stories. From groups passionate about recycling, reusing and reducing to online communities sharing their adventures from around the world, feeling part of a social group can help you to take control back in your day-to-day life.