What’s Going On Here?
Experts are reporting an increase in the number of people suffering from anxiety relating to climate change, known as eco-anxiety, with more and more people reporting mental health impacts from the climate crisis. Things may feel overwhelming but don’t worry, you’re not alone!
What Is Eco-Anxiety?
Does your heartbeat shoot up when you see someone throw a plastic bottle into the bin? Does the sound of an idling engine stop you from sleeping? Do you ever miss a meal because of the guilt you feel from the carbon footprint of your ham and cheese sarnie? Studies suggest that 1 in 4 of us have experienced mental health issues in the last year with 1 in 6 of us reporting it in any given week.
Susan Clayton, our eco-anxiety guru from the College of Wooster says: “We can say that a significant proportion of people, including children and young people, are experiencing stress and worry about the potential impacts of climate change, and that the level of worry is almost certainly increasing.”
Definition of Eco-Anxiety
The term eco-anxiety is a chronic fear of environmental disaster, that has psychological impacts on an individual who is concerned about the effects of the global climate emergency.
Is It Eco-Anxiety, Stress or Mental Health?
So what is the difference? Well not very much, they’re all interlinked. Stress is common, it’s our body’s way of dealing with situations we feel are threatening. We get a release of certain hormones which trigger response from our cardiovascular, respiratory and nervous systems. It makes us hyper-alert, ready to fight – very useful in small doses.
However, elevated stress levels on a longer-term basis can have some really negative consequences on our mental health. Eco-anxiety and its complex psychological impact takes its toll on the mental health of many people around the world and can lead to depression or anxiety.
What are the symptoms of eco-anxiety?
The effects of eco-anxiety is now considered a diagnosable condition by health professionals working in climate psychology. Symptoms include:
Feeling sad, empty, irritable, hopeless, angry, loss of interest in work, your hobbies or your family. You might struggle to concentrate, feeling overwhelmingly tired but struggle to sleep.
How do I stop climate anxiety?
If you think you could be suffering from eco-anxiety or that you know someone who might, take a look at our suggestions to help deal with the panic.
- Recognise the situation and talk about it – Do you see yourself in any of the symptoms we mentioned? Grab a friend and a coffee and get sharing! Recognition of eco-anxiety blah blah blah
- Reflect on what provides relief and do more of it – It could be taking your reusable tupperware to your favourite cafe, cycling to work or spending the afternoon on the family allotment. Why not organise a woodland clean up or organise a holiday a little closer to home.
- Connect with a community – It doesn’t even need to be environmental but the curious.earth team are always looking for a good old eco-debate.
- Put the feeling in its place – Remember, worry is just a feeling and not a fact! Try this…
Rather than saying: “I am hopeless when it comes to climate change”
Switch it to: “I feel hopeless when it comes to climate change”
Or even better: “I have noticed I feel hopeless when it comes to climate change”
Put simply, you’re not alone. There are plenty of things that you can do that are good for yourself and good for the planet. Increasing optimism and hope, especially in the eco-anxious young is something that the best and most reliable information on climate mitigation and adaption can help to reduce the feelings of helplessness.
Check out the Mental Health charity MIND for free help and support
Remember, to look after the planet, you need to first look after yourself.