Eco anxiety – what is it and how you can stop it?
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the existential challenge of climate change, you’re not alone.
Earlier this month, the United Nations Development Programme‘s (UNDP) announced the results of the “Peoples’ Climate Vote“, the largest survey of public opinion on climate change so far. It surveyed over half the world’s population! 64% percent of people believe climate change is a global emergency, despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
In 2019, at the age of 16, Greta Thunberg said: “Adults keep saying, we owe it to the young people to give them hope. But I don’t want your hope, I don’t want you to be hopeful, I want you to panic.” And, it seems, some people are indeed panicking.
We know we’re in climate emergency. Extreme weather events have become common place. Climate and environmental issues now feature daily in the papers and across social media. However, the shear magnitude of the issue means that as just one person, on a planet of billions, many feel powerless.
This has created ‘eco anxiety’ described by Psychology Today as “a fairly recent psychological disorder afflicting an increasing number of individuals who worry about the environmental crisis”.
Over 70% of 18 to 24-year-olds are experiencing eco anxiety on a regular basis, a national YouGov poll, commissioned by Friends of the Earth, has found.
What are the signs and symptoms of eco anxiety?
As you would expect, the physical and mental signs and symptoms are the same as other anxiety conditions.
Mental symptoms can include: excessive worrying, insomnia, feeling scared and over thinking.
Physical symptoms can manifest themselves in different ways, including: changes in body temperature/sweating, elevated heart rate, chest pain, fatigue and needing the toilet more often.
You can fin out more about the physical and mental signs here.
What can you do if you think you have eco anxiety?
If you suspect you may have eco anxiety, there are a few simple steps you can take. I’m not a doctor and would always suggest talking with a medical professional for advice on physical and mental health issues. These are simply suggestions from my perspective and those that the couples I have worked with have found helpful.
Talk to your partner, family or friends – We know that talking about our thoughts and feelings can great way to ease the pressure. We know it’s not always the case, but very often a problem shared is a problem halved. Try to speak to someone you’re comfortable with and will understand your concerns.
Talk to your GP – Book an appointment and tell them how you’re felling, the may be able to offer you counselling or refer you to the appropriate service.
Contact a mental health charity – There are quite a few mental health charities that help people with their mental health so we would suggest searching for one local to you. Anxiety UK is probably the best place to start.
Read a book – There are a few books available on the subject, personally I liked ‘A Guide to Eco-Anxiety How to Protect the Planet and Your Mental Health‘ by Anouchka Grose. It’s both theoretical and practical, with effective steps to reduce your personal carbon footprint.
What are the top three actions I can take to make my lifestyle more environmentally friendly?
When it comes to making an impact, both in an ethical and environment way, the top three things you can do are:
Move your money
Top of the list is to ensure you’re banking with an ethical bank. Ethical banking is a way of managing your money, whilst making sure you’re not unwittingly supporting unsavoury industries in the process. Read more about ethical banking and what the options are here.
Switch your energy provider
What % of your energy is coming from sustainable, renewable sources? If it’s not 100% then switch – there are plenty of providers and companies out there and switching is really simple. Have a look at Uswitch’s comparison site.
Eat less meat, more plants and waste less
Eating a more plant based diet will significantly reduce your carbon footprint. A major report on land use and climate change says the West’s high consumption of meat and dairy produce is fuelling global warming. Try to minimise your food waste too. Meal plan to make sure you only buy what you need, make meals from leftovers and compost scraps. If you have unused food in your cupboards consider giving it away, I like Olio because it’s easy to use and lots of people local to me use it.
“The most powerful thing we can do to combat climate change is to talk about it and act collectively.” Anouchka Grose