Eco-anxiety or climate anxiety can be defined as the stress that some people feel due to environmental events even though they have not had to deal with them (yet).
Melting glaciers, fires that more and more often happen worldwide, unbelievable heat waves, just to mention some major events, could really cause eco-anxiety.
The dire effects of climate change are hard to miss, and they instil fear in many people who are worried about the future of the Earth and obviously of the human kind.
If these fears sound familiar to you, you are not the only one.
A recent survey, conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of the American Psychological Association (APA), found that over two-thirds of respondents suffer at least some “eco-anxiety” and more than a quarter perceive stress.
Respondents between the ages of 18 and 34, who are likely thinking about what the meaning to inherit the Earth on the brink of environmental collapse, were more likely to say they were concerned about climate change, and actually nearly half said the anxiety affects their life every day.
The online survey, which involved 2,017 adults in the United States, covered ecological anxiety and changing habits to reduce the impact on the climate.
The survey results were weighted to reflect the national adult population, taking into account factors such as age, sex, education, region, family income, and ethnicity. 60% of respondents said they had made changes to their behaviour.
The most popular, adopted by over three-quarters of participants, included reducing waste through reuse and recycling of items. In addition to improving the insulation of your home, limiting the use of services such as water, heat and electricity and consuming less in general.
Not all respondents, however, could change daily transport or eating habits. Only two-thirds said they had or would do things like carpool, walk, cycle, eat less red meat, or become vegetarians or vegans.
People who suffered from ecological anxiety were much more likely to feel motivated to change their behaviour than those who didn’t.
While climate change anxiety may seem demoralizing, there are practical ways to manage this stress. It is especially important to gain control because anxiety can increase psychological distress.
Here are 4 tips on how to deal with eco-anxiety:
Finding concrete ways to make a difference
The APA survey found out that half of adults did not know where to start to combat climate change. While it is true that governments and the private sector have the power to make the most radical changes, every citizen can change their habits. Eating less red meat, for example, can reduce carbon emissions. Participating in strikes and protests, such as those held by Greta Thunberg’s Fridays for Future, draws attention to the issue and helps get others to act. Asking local politicians to do more on climate change is also a good rule of thumb.
Re-framing negative thoughts
Overall, research shows that re-framing negative thoughts can help relieve stress, anxiety, and depression. If apocalyptic thoughts keep creeping into your mind, or even prevent you from making plans, it can be helpful to focus your attention on the present.
Addressing all the stressors
It is important to think about climate change-related stress as part of overall mental health. You may also experience financial, relationship, professional or physical stress, which can alter feelings about climate change and vice versa. It is essential to analyse the other stressors as well and, if necessary, seek the help of a professional, like a coach or a psychologist.
Building your resilience
Greater resilience can help resist eco-anxiety. You could increase your resilience by developing a close network of friends and family. Strong social and emotional support is linked to well-being, material aid during times of adversity, and lower rates of psychological distress following a disaster.