What Is ‘Eco-Anxiety’?
By: Siya Bhatia
Do you burst into tears at the mere mention of the shrinking Aravalli forests?
Does the question, “Paper or plastic?” send you into a mental tailspin?
Have you spent sleepless nights worrying about whether the bleach you poured into your washing machine is going to eventually make its way into your drinking water?
Does air pollution worry you?
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, we have 12 years to stop this catastrophe. The full tragedy of climate change is unravelling before our eyes.
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you may be suffering from Eco Anxiety.
It’s a relatively new term but, given that we’re already a hyper-stressed society faced with panic over climate change which seems to heighten every day, it’s perhaps no surprise that eco-anxiety has risen to prominence
For many, these conflicted feelings are now part of daily life. The American Psychological Association describe this “chronic fear of environmental doom” as Eco-Anxiety.
Eco-Anxiety is a term used to describe the same symptoms of regular anxiety – excessive worry, nervousness, sleeplessness, panic attacks – but it is triggered by a number of factors associated with being environmentally aware.
Eco-anxiety is real, according to some psychologists, and it can really stress you out. It griped an estimated 40 million people in the United States. The eco-anxious are single-minded in their fear: They focus on environmental destruction.
So what can you do to manage ‘eco-anxiety’?
1. Don’t stop making small changes
No matter what anyone else says, small changes can make a difference. Not only that, but your changes in behaviour can rub off on other people. Don’t stop using your reusable coffee cup or bamboo toothbrush – those things are great and if nothing else, you are contributing to normalising this sort of behaviour within society.
2. Focus on the things you can control
If you own your home and can switch to renewable energy – do it. If you live in a rented property and have no control over energy providers – don’t lose sleep over it. If you can take the train to your holiday destination, despite a longer journey time – do it. There will always be things that are somewhat out of your control, and you can’t possibly solve every environmental issue at once.
3. Become an activist
One of the most effective things you can do as an environmentalist is become an activist. Now this doesn’t mean you need to start chaining yourself to trees. It can mean joining a local protest or writing to your local MP regarding an issue you feel passionately about. You can even decide to donate a small amount per month to an organisation that is making real progress on environmental policy and can campaign on your behalf.
4. Back yourself up
It’s useful to come up with a concise but non-judgemental way to convey your passion for this topic. That way, when you are probed about your behaviour (which can happen a lot), you know what to say without getting worked up by comments. It’s important to not let these types of negative comments from others affect you, as this contributes to negative thinking.
If you think you are suffering from Eco Anxiety, comment below.