Do I have eco-anxiety?

Do you feel overwhelmed with climate change? Maybe you feel alone with your feelings and thoughts? Maybe no one else seems to share your fears or talk about them?

If you have typed these concerns into Google, you will likely have seen articles addressing eco-anxiety. Eco-anxiety is the phrase used for anyone who is deeply aware and troubled by the current climate crisis. But the word anxiety suggests that someone who feels this has something wrong with them or needs to be fixed. I would suggest that eco-anxiety is a very normal and understandable way for a human being to respond to the current climate changes we are experiencing.

As a society, we create a culture of denial and avoidance to continue to function and continue to do what we have always done. We may feel anxious over changes with regards to lifestyles we have become accustomed to, the food we eat, our approach to recycling, or how many flights abroad we take, for example. We are afraid and we don’t allow ourselves to feel the loss of the climate. However, as with any loss, grief is a very important set of feelings and emotions. Grieving is integral to the acceptance of loss and also of restructuring a way forward in a different climate.

If you feel you are grieving the loss of our climate, you may be feeling helplessness, guilt, shame, fear, anger, or any combination of feelings that grief can manifest with.

We may become overwhelmed with apathy – can one person make a difference? Is there any point in trying? It feels climate change is very much out of our control and is something that is happening around us; it can feel as though we have little control over what we are witnessing. Although we may feel we cannot completely halt climate change individually, there are things we can do to help ourselves to cope better and to manage our feelings and thoughts.

Remembering that it is okay to feel your emotions and to grieve is important. Emotions demand to be felt, and you can have some control over how you channel your feelings. Choosing an outlet for your emotions – your anger, your fear, your guilt, or your helplessness – can help provide a sense of purpose or meaning for us during what can feel like a helpless time. Do something creative, attend a local group, become an activist, sign a petition or write a poem – whatever it is that feels good for you can help to get your feelings and emotions out in a constructive way and help stop them becoming inward and destructive.

Limiting time on media channels can help to gain some control. Social media is such a strong force in today’s world, and topics and news can very quickly spiral out of control. What you do have control over is how much time you choose to spend on social media platforms, and what you choose to look into and explore. Social media can be sensationalised, and it is important to remember that it is full of opinions, not facts. Also, you can control how much news you choose to engage with – if you feel like you are absorbing too much, take a step back and do something to look after yourself.

Remembering that the world still holds a lot of beauty, a lot of kindness and hope can help us to regain a sense of perspective on how we approach climate change and avoiding apathy. The human mind will naturally gather information and evidence to feed emotions such as depression, anxiety, and helplessness, sending us on a downward spiral fast. Simple things like going for a walk, observing nature, getting out into the countryside, or offering kindness to another human being can help us feel a sense of connection so that we can still show up for ourselves and others.

When you are feeling the weight of climate change, it is important to remember that although you may not feel you can share this with many others, it is a shared weight that does not all fall on your shoulders. All humans and other sentient beings are housed on this earth together, and changes and impacts will impact us all in some way; you are not alone in this.