Eco-Anxiety: What It Is and 6 Ways To Combat It

eco anxiety
Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / dassel

With news of climate change and global warming, it's easy to worry about the future of our planet. We'll explain what eco-anxiety is and how you can combat it.

Eco-anxiety is the psychological impact that climate change can have on people. As natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornados and tsunamis, and flooding become more frequent, this can make some people extremely worried. As scientists increasingly warn us about the devastating impacts of climate change and urge world leaders that more needs to be done, this can evoke feelings of stress and anxiety.

Eco-anxiety can affect anyone of any age. A recent study from 2021, which surveyed 10,000 young people (aged 16-24) around the world, found that 59 percent of participants were extremely worried about climate change and at least 84 percent were moderately worried. With regard to just the US population, according to Yale’s climate change survey which was conducted between 2019 and 2022, 70 percent of Americans are either very or somewhat worried about climate change and global warming. 

The American Psychology Association (APA) describes eco-anxiety as “the chronic fear of environmental doom”. Symptoms of eco-anxiety include being extremely worried and nervous, as well as unable to sleep. In some cases, it can even cause depression. Some of the environmental factors that cause eco-anxiety include natural disasters becoming more frequent, as some people catastrophize about this. Other environmental factors include worrying about the loss of biodiversity and ecosystems, as well as rising sea levels. 

1. Take Action

Taking part in a climate demonstration is a productive way to combat eco-anxiety.
Taking part in a climate demonstration is a productive way to combat eco-anxiety.
(Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / dmncwndrlch)

Find a way to start making a difference and have a personal impact on tackling climate change by joining climate protests and demonstrations. Turning your anxiety into action can help raise awareness and urge governments to do more to tackle climate change. Taking part in protests and demonstrations can help you to see that you are not alone in being worried about the environment. Realizing that millions of people are active in voicing their concerns about climate change can bring a sense of comfort and community

Volunteering is another good way to take action. This could be as small as taking part in a local litter pick, though you can also volunteer virtually. Doing something productive to help care for the environment can help to change your mindset from catastrophizing. A 2017 study has even found that volunteering can have positive effects on mental health conditions like depression. 

2. Spend Time in Nature

Spending time in nature can help to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety.
Spending time in nature can help to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety.
(Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / jplenio)

Finding green spaces and spending more time in nature can help you to feel more connected to the natural environment. Spending time in green spaces is linked to improved mental health and well-being including lower levels of stress and stress-related illnesses. Parks, forests, and wilderness areas are all places you can go to spend your free time and help reduce feelings of anxiety. Spending time in or near natural bodies of water such as rivers, lakes and the sea is also a good idea for reducing eco-anxiety. A 2022 study has found that wild swimming is linked to improved mental health, as well as physical health benefits such as improved cardiovascular health. Other ideas for spending time in nature include taking part in nature therapy or horticultural therapy.

3. Swith Off Your Phone

Constantly consuming information from the news and the internet can make eco-anxiety worse.
Constantly consuming information from the news and the internet can make eco-anxiety worse.
(Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / JESHOOTS-com)

Constantly consuming information from the news and social media regarding climate change can make you feel like you are trapped in a never-ending cycle of bad news. It is easy to become submerged by the news and feel like you always need to be checking what is going on in the world. Symptoms of eco-anxiety are heightened if you never allow yourself the chance to switch off. Create a nighttime routine by switching your phone as well as all other technology off an hour before you go to bed, and instead do something relaxing like reading a book or journaling. This will allow your mind to relax before you go to sleep and can help you to sleep better. 

4. Talk to Someone

Talking to someone about how you are feeling can help combat eco-anxiety.
Talking to someone about how you are feeling can help combat eco-anxiety.
(Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / vait_mcright)

If you are feeling overwhelmed by feelings of eco-anxiety, talk to someone such as a friend or family member to let them know how you are feeling. Talking to others about how you are feeling can help to remind you that you are not alone. Finding a community of like-minded people who also care about the environment and tackling climate change is another way that you can help to reduce your feelings of eco-anxiety. Finding like-minded people can help encourage you to focus on constructive action rather than catastrophizing and feeling overwhelmed by climate change. 

5. Make Lifestyle Changes

Switching to a vegan diet is a productive way to become more sustainable in your everyday life.
Switching to a vegan diet is a productive way to become more sustainable in your everyday life.
(Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / Engin_Akyurt)

Another way that you can combat feelings of eco-anxiety is to make lifestyle changes that will help you to become more sustainable and environmentally conscious. This could include traveling in a more sustainable way, such as by reducing how much you fly, traveling by bike or using public transport instead of driving a car. Other ways to become more sustainable in your everyday life to reduce your carbon footprint include:

A new study has found that switching to a vegan diet can reduce your carbon footprint by up to 61 percent. Making these changes in your everyday life will help you to live in a way that aligns with your values and this can help you gain a more positive outlook on the climate situation. 

6. Practice Mindfullness

Practising mindfullness is another way to combat eco-anxiety.
Practising mindfullness is another way to combat eco-anxiety.
(Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / kalyanayahaluwo)

Practicing mindfulness-based stress reduction will allow you to slow down and focus on your breathing. Research by the APA shows that mindfulness is linked to improved well-being and mental health including reduced stress, anxiety, and depression, as well as improved physical health. Mindfulness-based practices to try include meditation, yoga, and mindful walking. Taking action in reducing your stress levels can help to give you a more optimistic outlook on the future. 

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