Whilst people are starting to wake up to the drastic problem that we are facing, climate change it is causing a lot of increased stress. With increased reports stating our inevitable doom if we do not do something about it soon. There’s even some articles that say we do not have any time left, that it’s too late to make a change. The negativity and fear is spreading a new form of anxiety, eco-anxiety or climate anxiety.
Susan Clayton, a professor of psychology and environmental studies at the College of Wooster and coauthor of a 2017 report titled “Mental Health and Our Changing Climate: Impacts, Implications, and Guidance,” says there’s evidence that mental health issues tied to the precarious future of our planet are on the rise. “A significant proportion of people are experiencing stress and worry about the potential impacts of climate change”, the fears are ever increasing these days. And while there is not a specific name for this type of preoccupation, several studies have coined it “eco-anxiety,” “climate change distress,” and “ecological grief.” “How it will affect people’s mental health in the long run will depend on how society responds to it.”
However if you’re like me and have had this eco-anxiety for many years, you’ve learnt how to manage it and take steps in our own life to hinder your impacts to climate change as much as possible. I will give you a few ways to mange and cope with your climate anxiety in this article, because having anxiety is a right pain and adding more worry to the mix is not the best. Here are some ways you can mange your climate change distress:
Educate yourself on the issue
Now the average person doesn’t know a lot about climate change and the science behind it. All that they can say is that climate change is really bad or in some cases doesn’t exist. This lack of knowledge and understanding creates the stage for fear and increased panic. The unknown is what is scary, trust me I was terrified of the problem until I did my research (and continue to research today, it’s my dissertation topic, got to research it haha).
Some books that help be helpful in your research include:
- Silent Spring by Rachel Carson
- This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs The Climate by Naomi Klein
- Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st Century Economist by Kate Raworth
- Climate Change: What Everyone Needs to Know by Joseph Romm
- No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference by Greta Thunberg
Go low waste
Reducing your waste can be so impactful on the planet. Less rubbish going to landfill means less gases being sent into the atmosphere, less space being taken up by materials that take years to disappear. You can use reusable water bottles, coffee cups, straws, beeswax wraps, containers instead of buying single use. Go package free with your beauty products, shampoo bars, soaps, toothpastes, even makeup now can be low waste. If you’re a menstruating person then making the switch to reusable products can save a huge about of disposable menstrual products going to landfill. Menstrual cups and reusable sanitary towels are a thing and they are amazing, trust me I use both!
Combat your food waste
Start composting if you aren’t already, useful for food scraps and leftovers if you’re not using them. Around 1.3 billion tonnes of food is wasted globally each year. To tackle this issue, plan your supermarket trips and always use a shopping list so you only buy what you need to avoid excess food being dumped. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) if food waste was a country, it would be the world’s third largest greenhouse gas emitter.
Know that you are not alone
Not to sound like Michael Jackson here. But when it comes to understanding and managing your eco-anxiety, knowing you’re not alone in the fear is somewhat helpful. Sometimes the worry that you’re not doing enough kicks in and you start to think ‘well what’s the point’. But you know the point, the point is too advocate for ethical choices, educate others and ultimately reduce global warming. There are many individuals doing the same thing you are, promoting a more eco-friendly world. Knowing that you aren’t alone in this, can help calm your fears. Even join some local environmental groups, having an offline community can connect you to others in the same headspace.
Share your thoughts and feelings
Related to the point above, if you bottle the fears up it can make it all 10 times worse. Sharing your worries whether that be to someone you know, a local group or even in your own personal journal. All can help, think of it as a form of eco-anxiety therapy treatment. Writing or talking can take the edge off and help calm you down.
Advocate for change
If you’re already taking individual action, there’s still plenty more you can do. Write a letter or better yet visit your local MP/ politician – ask them what they are doing/ plan to do in tackling climate change. Protest, there are many climate strikes happening now go take part (in legal ones). Ask your school/ university/ workplace to become environmentally friendly. Join your local environmental groups; Friends of the Earth, local beach/park cleaning groups, zero waste groups etc. Make your voice heard!
Remember to take a break, we all need some time to relax and step away from the activism. Look after yourself as well, that is very important.