I’m often asked how I cope with eco anxiety and I find it can be a tricky one to answer because we all have different coping mechanisms, don’t we? There’s no “one answer fits all” when it comes to mental health but there are some steps that you can take to help to ease those feelings of anxiety, worry, depression and helplessness. Here are 7 ways to cope with eco-anxiety…
Eco-Anxiety Definition: “extreme worry about current and future harm to the environment caused by human activity and climate change.”
If the news and social media are bringing you down it is perfectly ok to just switch everything off for a while. I know that can be hard when you feel guilty for the way things are going, when you want to learn and absorb information and share what you can but honestly, when that eco-anxiety gets too much to handle it is ok to give yourself permission to just stop. Stop watching the news and checking in with climate change updates and instead, take some time to enjoy nature’s beauty, read or watch something else, and tune back into what makes you happy.
Reconnect with Nature
Now you have switched those screens off, get outside and reconnect with why you love our planet. There is a reason you are so passionate and a reason why you are now feeling this burnout so get out there and remind yourself by taking in all of those local wonders. Whether you love the beach, the woods, countryside walks or love looking for wildlife in your city, just take some time to enjoy that.
Make Time for Self-Care
When we focus so much on one area and it begins to consume our lives, it can be easy to completely forget about our own needs. All of that energy going onto something good for the environment is of course amazing BUT… If you become ill, exhausted, and your mental health starts working against you, well, you aren’t going to be any good to any cause or to yourself. So, now that you have stepped back a little, you have taken time to get out, to clear your mind, it is time to make yourself a little happier by looking at your own needs. Ok, ok, I know this is hard for you (because you are like me) and doing things for yourself seems too selfish especially when you can see these atrocities going on in the world and going out to say get your hair done just doesn’t sit quite right but believe me, you do still have to live. There is no point in devoting your time to helping this planet you love if you aren’t going to reward yourself and enjoy your own life. Your life has to go on. If what makes you feel good is having nice hair or nails, going for a relaxing massage, going to the cinema (to watch a film not at all related to the climate crisis!), going to the pub, singing some karaoke, laughing with friends, then go and do it! Give yourself that break, no, wait, give yourself permission to have that break because this has to be guilt-free.
Counselling may sound like a bit much to help you to cope with eco-anxiety but having had counselling myself in the past I can honestly say that I think everybody should see one when they have issues that they can’t find their way past. Eco-anxiety is a real mental health problem, one that is on the increase and if a counsellor can help you to cope through your fears, worries and distress then please do take a look for one in your area.
Focus Your Activism
We can often associate eco-anxiety with feeling as though we are not being productive enough but even the smallest activism can make a difference. You really don’t have to be out on the streets protesting to help to make a change. Signing petitions or writing to your MP, meeting up with a local climate change group and making small positive changes at home are great ways of tackling eco issues. Do not overlook the smaller, sustainable things you do, these ARE important.
Look at What You Have Achieved
At times when I am feeling completely overwhelmed and questioning if I am “doing enough” (how many times do we all do that, eh?!) I take a step back and look at how much we have changed in our lives, at all the reusables we have swapped to, how many petitions I have signed and how far we have come as a family. Documenting my eco journey on my website and Instagram really helps too because it gives me a place to go to where I can visually see all I have done. If you have social media accounts it is definitely worth looking through your own or maybe you could start journaling your progress and achievements?
When you take time to step away, to re-evaluate and to heal it often leaves you with that feeling of needing to look at the next moves you can make. This can be another great tool for coping with eco-anxiety as it takes your mind off of the doom and gloom and gives you something to really focus on. You may have already made a lot of eco swaps around your home but if there are more you want to make but don’t want to feel overwhelmed you could look at a handy eco home audit checklist to help you out.
If your next plan is to take more physical action by joining local groups or protesting then take a look online and see who is available to join forces with. Climate Action have some great lists and dates to save here.
If the climate crisis is causing you to worry, please know that you are not alone and by taking the appropriate steps to cope with eco-anxiety you will be able to still care and take action but in a more healthy way.
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