Eco-anxiety refers to anxiety or worry about the ecological threats facing the earth.
Eco-anxiety became a term in order to reflect the increasing anxiety and concern many people are currently experiencing in relation to environmental changes and the outcome of these changes on humanity and the world.
Many people around the world are suffering from varying degrees of eco-anxiety, either due to a personal loss of homeland, property and loved ones, or because of the unknown impact we are facing as a planet is overwhelming to say the least. This can lead to a variety of symptoms and "these responses are keeping us, and our nation, from properly addressing the core causes of and solutions for our changing climate and from building and supporting psychological resiliency.”
When we are in a state of fear, numbness, helplessness, or anxiety, it is hard to know how to take action, how to help ourselves and others. If we run from the truth of what is occurring, avoiding painful feelings, we find ourselves more and more paralyzed or frightened.
Usually when we’re afraid, it sets off a chain reaction. We go inward and start to armor ourselves, trying to protect ourselves from whatever we think is going to hurt us. But our attempts to protect ourselves do not lessen the fear. Quite the opposite—the fear is actually escalating. Rather than becoming free from fear, we become hardened.
There are, however, many things we can do! In the face of this unknown threat there are ways to support ourselves, each other, and our planet. Here are some simple steps you can take.
1. Seek Balance
Scientists all around the world are delivering more information every day about climate change and its impact on life and the planet. Some news is hopeful, some is devastating and frightening. It is great to be informed, but is keeping up with the news every single day, helping or hurting? When it leads to more anxiety or fear, consider turning off the radio, putting down the paper, turning off the tv and reaching for something that brings you inspiration! Turn to articles/books/poems/podcasts about things that bring you comfort and help hopelessness transform into hope. Wendell Berry, Mary Oliver, Tara Brach, Joanna Macy, and Thich Nhat Hanh are some of our favorite resources to remember the bigger picture and find nourishment.
2.Work with Strong Feelings
When we avoid looking at our anxiety, grief or fear, they tend to fester and grow. In other words, what we resist, persists. We recommend finding a safe container such as an ally, therapist, counselor, coach, friend, or mentor who can hold space for you to feel your feelings. When we examine what is true for us, we can contact the tenderness beneath the fear, and we can learn tools to support our resiliency. Climate change is the ultimate unknown, but if we feel grounded and strong within ourselves, we will be of great support to the world.
Too often we feel helpless and hopeless, as though climate change is too big for us to tackle, and only the corporations, leaders and politicians can make an impact. But, never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.
Whether you choose to call your representatives, sign petitions, donate money, join Indivisible Groups, plant trees, etc...taking action gives us a sense of purpose.
Spending time in nature and doing projects to improve the planet’s outcome, to the extent of one’s ability, may also provide significant benefit. Starting recycling projects in the home or community, learning how to compost or make worm gardens, and picking up trash in the neighborhood could all become coping methods for many people.
4.Live your Ethics
What are the changes you and your family/community/neighbors could make that empower you?
Lifestyle choices such as biking, bussing, carpooling or walking to work/school, and bringing your own reusable containers, travel cups and bags with you every time you shop, are a great way to make a dent! Pay attention to where you shop, do they use sustainable, fair trade practices? How far do the goods you buy have to travel? Can you cut down on animal protein, fossil fuel use, plastics, etc.? There are many small and large ways to feel more aligned with yourself and the planet!
5. Community, community, community.
Our fears and anxieties grow in the face of isolation. When we spend time focusing on climate change together, our fears and feelings are normalized, and the effectiveness of our actions are multiplied. In order to gracefully lean into the challenges that we face as a planet, community is critical. When we come together, anything is possible! Whether it is a nourishing yoga or movement class, a caucus on politics, a support group, a community action such as cleaning up a neighborhood or attending a climate march, we are always stronger together!
At the Strength in Motion wellness community, we believe in a mind-body-soul approach towards finding and sustaining balance. We feel honored to be on your path in some way and are here to support you in living to your greatest potential. Click here to find out more information about who we are and how we may be a support to you.