February 28 2024 – Delikate Rayne

Following climate related news is often depressing: melting ice caps, all-consuming wildfires, heat waves, droughts. With all of the damage happening to the environment, a phenomenon where worrying about the Earth and its life has earned itself a term: Eco-Anxiety. Other related terms include climate anxiety, ecological grief, and eco-trauma, and they generally fall under the larger eco-anxiety umbrella. 
While not yet officially recognized by the American Psychiatric Administration as a mental illness, therapists agree that anxiety, stress, and grief felt towards the Earth is very real and that it will become a key part of mental health. 

In a sense, eco-anxiety is normal. We are supposed to be nervous when faced with a threat, and climate change is a very real, very large threat. The problem comes when the feelings of eco-anxiety become overwhelming, making us feel helpless and maybe even hopeless. 
The feelings and emotions that make up eco-anxiety include fatalistic thinking, anger and/or frustration at the lack of action you or others take to help the environment, dread for the future, guilt towards your own environmental impact, trauma due to the effects of climate change, doom-scrolling, and depression, anxiety, and panic at the state of current environmental issues.  
Climate change is an external problem, unlike many of the mental health issues we deal with, which are internal. Because of its externality, it is especially important to take care of ourselves emotionally so we can combat the issue. When eco-anxiety feels too much, here are some steps to take to manage it: 
  • Take environmental action - Adapting more eco-friendly and sustainable practices into your life can help you live more in line with your environmental values! You can join a volunteer group that works towards environmental issues, or change some of your habits to be more sustainable, such as walking and biking when possible or recycling. 

  • Accept your emotions - Do not invalidate yourself and how you are feeling. Instead, accept what you feel and allow yourself to experience the emotions so you can accept them. You can also talk about your emotions with people you trust, such as your social support system

  • Be mindful of the stories you consume - It is easy to get caught and spiral in seemingly the endless feed of doom-and-gloom stories. Take notice of what news you read and how they make you feel. If it’s sparking worry and depression, it might be best to disengage from those stories. You could also focus on reading some more positive stories on solutions, such as renewable energy, or following what people have done to help the environment to help cultivate a sense of hope. 

  • Foster a connection with nature - Sometimes, eco-anxiety can stem from feeling a disconnect with nature. You can build a connection by venturing outside, doing outdoor activities (that can also help eco-tourism) and spend time in the places that you want to protect. Some people also keep a token from nature, such as a dried flower or a stone, with them, to remind them of their connection to the natural world. 

Climate action must happen on all levels, from international policies to your everyday life. As such, even the small actions you take mean that you are on the front lines of the movement, regardless of how visible your impact seems. Understand that your actions may have positive impacts in places that you might never see, but that does not mean you are not making a positive difference. 

Image sources: Pinterest, Tumblr
Words by: Panisara Jaijongkit