Eco-anxiety: Mental Health Impacts of Climate Change

Eco-anxiety: Mental Health Impacts of Climate Change

Human actions have altered Earth’s climate and the impact of it is becoming increasingly  visible. Coral reefs and other sensitive habitats are already starting to die. Long-term, the  climate effects will be so severe that they might destabilise governments, produce waves of  refugees, cause a mass extinction of plants and animals in the Earth’s history, and melt the  polar ice caps, causing the seas to rise high enough to flood most of the wold’s coastal cities. 

As you are reading this, you might be feeling your chest tightens and a sense of dread washes  over you. You feel anxious, afraid and hopeless. Climate change can affect physical health  through air or water pollution, the spread of disease, and food scarcity, but it can also cause  serious mental health consequence: eco-anxiety. 

What is Eco-Anxiety?  

Eco-Anxiety refer to a fear of environmental damage or ecological disaster. The American  Psychological Association (APA) describes the condition as “a chronic fear of environmental  doom”. This sense of anxiety is largely based on the current and predicted future state of the  environment and human-induced climate change. 

APA found 68% of US adults say they have at least a little eco-anxiety, and about half of  those between the age of 18 and 34 say that their stress surrounding climate change affects  their daily lives. 

The fear and stress can contribute to secondary issues like sleep problems, appetite changes,  difficulty concentrating. Heightened stress can also fuel tension in relationships with friends,  romantic partners, or family, especially if you don’t hold the same views on climate change. 

Climate change is a real threat, however the distant the outcome may seem. It’s possible to  see eco-anxiety as anxiety working as intended. It functions as a motivator for survival, a  unique emotional response propelling humankind to seek out solutions for climate damage.  

Let me remind you that it is not too late to act. We have to learn how to manage anxiety and  response to environmental issues. People may find that taking positive action can help reduce  feelings of anxiety and powerlessness. Helping others also has well-established psychological  benefits. 

Here are some steps you take to manage your anxiety while making a positive impact: 

  1. Stop Blaming Yourself  

You might be feeling guilty because you drove a car to a supermarket today or ate steak for  lunch. The first thing you can do to manage your anxiety and stress is to ditch the shame. Yes,  our daily lives are undoubtedly contributing to climate change. But that’s because the rich  and powerful have constructed the system that makes it nearly impossible to live lightly on  the earth. Our comic systems require most adults to work, and many of us must commute to  work in or to cities and often designed to favour the automobile. Unsustainable food, clothes  and other goods remain cheaper than sustainable alternatives. 

It doesn’t mean that your actions to live a more sustainable lifestyle are pointless. Every little  action you take definitely has an impact, but it is important to acknowledge that no single  person can resolve climate change alone. Taking direct personal action to reduce your carbon  footprint in simple ways can also save you some money. 

  1. Join Effective Groups  

System changes to fight for climate change are complicated and will be hard-won. No simple  person alone can make them happen. Luckily, there are dozens of groups or organisations  dedicated to climate activism worldwide. Some are local and focused on stopping the  particular project, others are national and focused on changing federal policy. And others, like  Greta Thunberg’s Friday for Future, are international and focused on putting moral pressure  on climate change negotiators and governments around the world. 

Climate change is linked to income inequality and injustice, so if your passion is fighting for  racial justice, the rights of the poor, or indigenous rights and sovereignty, that works well as  well. You can also volunteer for a climate -focused local or national political candidates. 

  1. Define Your Role  

The power of these organisations is not simply strength in numbers. They work well by  dividing up the work that needs to be done and giving each task to those best suited to it. This  also makes the fight less daunting for you. Instead of trying to become an expert in  international, national or local regulatory law, global supply chains, atmospheric science and  the art of protest, you can offer the skills and resources you already have. 

If you are a writer like me, you can write articles about climate change to educate others and  hopefully encourage them to like sustainably and take actions. If you are rich, you can donate  money to these organisations. Only you know what and how much you can reasonably do. 

Make sure not to overdo it at first and risk during out. Set an easy level of involvement for  yourself and keep doing it. Working with others for the same goal and finding your place in a  community may well temper your climate anxiety and depression.

  1. Remember What You are Fighting For  

As we keep fighting, it’s important for your mental health and motivation to have an image in  mind of your goal. Having a healthy degree of optimism may help you grow and adjust after  experiencing stress.  

Imagine you live in a city with leafy parks, infrastructure to remove carbon dioxide from the  atmosphere, restaurants that serve fake meat tastes better than the real thing, species  recovering and rewilding the world, fish swimming in the rivers and the skies musical with  flocking birds. 

The future where the economic inequality, racism and colonialism that made decades of  inaction on climate change possible has ended. It is a time of healing. Natural resilience and  thoughtful human assistance are preventing most species from going extinct. The future in  which your children don’t need to wear masks to protect them air pollution on their way to  school because their parents and grandparents took action. Instead, they can go camping and  enjoy nature. 

We can still make that future happen. But it will only come if we learn to deal with the  anxiety well, join together and fight for it. Your actions may be small but they can raise your  own consciousness about the problem and the awareness of the people around you.  Discussing this issue with your friends and family is one of the most meaningful things you  can do. 

And if you’d like to learn what kind of changes you can make in your daily life, check out  our article 

  • 8 New Years Resolutions To Make Your 2021 Sustainable: https://www.movemetica.com/ blogs/news/8-new-years-resolutions-to-make-your-2021-sustainable

If you want to educate yourself on environmental issues, check out this article:  

  • 10 Must Watch Eco-Documentaries: https://www.movemetica.com/blogs/news/10-must watch-eco-documentaries

Here are some more articles below that are explainers and guides on your personal climate  choices. 

  • Think You’re Making Good Climate Choices? Take This Mini-Quiz: https:// www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/08/30/climate/climate-footprint-quiz.html
  • How Big Is Your Environmental Footprint?: https://footprint.wwf.org.uk/#/

 

- About the author -

Miko Takama

"Miko Takama marketing freelancer based in Berlin, specialised in sustainable business strategy and branding & communication strategy, also a Journalist. She is passionate about sustainability in the fashion industry. On her website and Instagram, she is sharing insights on conscious lifestyle and her journey to start a sustainable fashion brand, Public Ecology."

 


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