Understanding and Coping with Eco Anxiety
What comes to mind when you think about the climate crisis? How does it make you feel?
Extreme weather events. Environmental disasters. Carbon pollution.
Thinking about the climate crisis leaves many of us feeling out of control and overwhelmed by our changing planet.
In 2017, the rise of these negative feelings driven by environmental thoughts led to the American Psychological Association defining a new term to bring awareness to the issue: Eco Anxiety.
“Eco Anxiety refers to a chronic fear of environmental doom.” - American Psychological Association
Signs of Eco or Climate Anxiety
Eco Anxiety, also known as Climate Anxiety, causes similar symptoms to other forms of anxiety like depression, feelings of helplessness, trouble sleeping, and restlessness. Along with “traditional” symptoms of anxiety, those feeling the affects of Eco Anxiety can also have trouble defining personal values, making decisions related to the environment, and regulating their emotions after hearing about environmental issues.
Ecopsychology is a branch of mental health research that studies the impact of the environment on human identity, resiliency, and overall wellness. Recent research has shown the negative impact of environmental changes on mental health, using the terms “Eco Trauma” and “Eco Grief”.
Eco Trauma is the psychological impact of the changes in our relationships with the environment.
Eco Grief is the feeling of loss as a result of the climate crisis.
It's important to recognize that Eco Anxiety and its effects disproportionately impact some more than others. Some communities who are most vulnerable include:
Indigenous, Black, and Persons of Colour communities
Communities with limited resources/ lower socioeconomic status
Those who's employment relies on the environment (ie. fisherman, tourism)
Seniors, children, and youth
Those living with chronic health issues
These feelings can be overwhelming, but by gaining a better understanding of where they come from, we can develop coping skills to manage them. When we start feeling anxious, we can slow the pace using exercises and practices that help us to self-regulate.
Not sure where to start? Explore the coping skill exercises below, which can be used when you're experiencing Eco Anxiety, Eco Grief, or Eco Trauma.
Save or take a screenshot so you'll have them when you need them.
An important step to managing Eco Anxiety is reframing your mindset. Instead of thinking about the things you can't control, focus on what you can control. You don’t have to solve the climate crisis all by yourself, but you can make changes in your own life that will have a positive impact on the present and future of our planet.
Here are 3 actions you can take TODAY to be a Climate Ally:
Get Educated - Eco Anxiety can be triggered by events we see on the news, posts on social media, or conversations. It’s important to listen, but also fact-check the information using reliable sources. The spread of misinformation can contribute to unnecessary stress, be sure to use reliable sources to educate yourself. Helping you weed out the myths from the facts, strengthening your understanding of the issues.
Get Involved - Start volunteering your time, donate to a cause, or join a local group. Whichever avenue you take, getting involved can help spark inspiration within yourself and your community leading to greater, greener change. Have you joined the Green Okanagan Facebook Group yet?
Get Loud - You'll be surprised by how far your voice can travel. Talking to your friends, family, and local government can have a huge impact on the policies, actions, and progress made in your community. Use your voice and encourage others to do the same.
Be intentional with your thoughts, actions, and questions. Focus on small areas you feel passionate about, breaking down simple goals that are achievable.
Here’s a few examples to get you inspired!
Love animals? Try adopting a plant-forward diet. Start by looking up vegan recipes that sound delicious. From there, pick a goal like “Meatless Mondays."
Love running? Give “plogging” a try! Bring gloves and a bag with you next time you’re out and pick up litter you see along your path.
The journey to becoming a Climate Ally is a road best travelled among friends. Find a support system, club, or group of people you feel comfortable with and start the conversation.
Have you joined the Green Okanagan Facebook Group yet? Join in and learn from a community of Climate Allies.
Feelings of Eco Anxiety can be overwhelming. Know you're not alone and small steps like simple breathing exercises and working towards small achievable green goals will go a long way in easing your Eco Anxiety.
Check out this Eco Anxiety Worksheet to get started!
Simply download, print, or fill out online, and take some time to reflect.
This blog was a happy collaboration between Green Okanagan
For mental health resources and online services, visit Bee Positive Counselling's website or Instagram. Their platform offers counselling services accessible from the comfort of your own home or safe space, print-friendly resources, and an online shop curated to spread positivity.