The world is a huge place with complex problems we often feel powerless to solve. Sometimes it feels like the planet is being asset stripped by maniacs with no long term thinking about the harm this will cause to all life. I don’t need to list the reasons why it is easy to have eco anxiety, because if you care about the environment they are obvious. Anxiety around any issue can have a massive impact on people’s lives and with scientists and the media reporting on climate catastrophe it is very easy to understand why eco anxiety is becoming more common.
When mine flares up I do the following things:
- Go for a walk
Do it, as soon as you can. Ideally try and get in near some trees. Changing your environment and moving your body is good for any type of anxiety. We are not all blessed to live among rolling fields and idyllic scenes, but even as someone who lives in Manchester city centre there are always things of beauty to find. Living in Ancoats I walk along the canal. Just making the effort to find a bit of nature is really rewarding, at the moment there are little goslings in the canal and I love spotting them while I’m out.
- Start small
Part of the reason I personally find the environmental crisis so anxiety-inducing is the sheer size and scale of the problem, and the feelings of helplessness this brings up in me. It feels like there is nothing I can do to help. The thing is, that isn’t true. When I start to feel this way I try and go back to basics and do small manageable tasks that are quick to complete that I know have a good effect on the environment. Whether this is sowing seeds to grow my own vegetables, swapping plants with neighbours or helping out in a community garden. If you can’t get outside or have mobility issues you can help by finding local community gardening groups and supporting them on social media with likes and shares. If you don’t have a garden you can try some guerilla gardening, you can start as small as scattering wildflower seeds in unused areas.
- Reach out
There are a lot of people who feel this way, and by reaching out and being open about your uncomfortable feelings you can find support. A lot of the time with anxieties it comes in waves. I have days where I feel incredibly positive and strong, and at those points I can be there for people who aren’t doing as well. I also have days where I feel like the planet is doomed and I worry about my baby but on those days I try to speak to others. Often just the act of framing language around my anxiety makes it go away and if that doesn’t work just knowing I am surrounded by like minded people really helps.
If your head is proving a dangerous place to be, try and get out of it! There are books around climate change that are hopeful, I enjoyed Scatter, Adapt and Remember by Annalee Newitz. One of the big issues with climate change is that it is an existential threat on a gigantic scale, the likes the world has never seen. Although we don’t have a solution to this level of threat, we do have a tonic to existentialism which is absurdism. I find reading The Stranger by Camus to realign me. In general just getting away from a screen and from social media, and giving your brain something else to focus on and engage with is very calming.
These are things that help my mental health around eco anxiety. Gardening has always been a massive boost to my overall mental health, so it is particularly good for this problem. People are innovative and feel a deep connection to the earth, with enough of us on the same page there is a lot we can do to help nature.