Written by DiveThru Team
Reviewed by Natalie Asayag MSW, LCSW
8 Ways To Cope With Eco-Anxiety And Climate Change
Published Feb 8th, 2021 & updated on Mar 19th, 2021
It feels like the end of the world a LOT of the time, doesn’t it? If you’ve grown up on the internet (which so many of us have), it’s safe to say you’ve seen your fair share of climate crisis news. The ice caps are melting. The coral reefs are dying. Species are going extinct. The impacts of climate change are becoming more and more visible, and scientists have been trying for years to call on government action. For so many of us, the fear and hopelessness we feel surrounding climate change, otherwise known as eco-anxiety, can be totally overwhelming.
There’s something we need to talk about more, and it’s how our mental health is impacted by climate change. Basically, eco-anxiety is the intense fear we feel when reading about climate change or the future of our planet. Even though you care deeply about climate change and do your best to reduce your carbon footprint, you probably are aware that climate change can’t be solved by one individual alone. That can be a scary and devastating realization for so many. How are we supposed to save the Earth when big corporations and our governments don’t seem to give a damn?!
We may not have all of the answers, but we do know this: your feelings are valid. Your feelings matter. And we wanna help you work through your climate anxiety with some tips that you can apply to your everyday life!
How Eco-Anxiety Affects Our Wellbeing
First, it’s important to recognize the signs of eco-anxiety. It’s like regular anxiety, only wrapped in single-use-non-recyclable materials! (Bad joke, sorry.) But really though, recognizing the signs of your environmental anxiety can be really helpful. The sooner you notice the patterns, the easier it will become to manage your eco-anxiety!
Here are some common mental symptoms of eco-anxiety:
– Depression and anxiety
– Existential dread
– Fatalistic thinking
– Obsessive thoughts about climate change
– Anger or frustration (especially towards groups who don’t care about climate change)
– Guilt or shame about your carbon footprint or lack of effort in the past
– Feelings of grief or sadness about irreversible damage to the environment or extinct species
– Post-traumatic stress from experiencing the effects of climate change
Feeling a ton of eco-anxiety can also be harmful to your physical health. You might struggle to get enough sleep, or have changes in appetite. Headaches, stomach aches, and chest pain are also common symptoms of anxiety. If you experience these symptoms, both mentally and physically, for a long period of time, it can be beneficial to speak to a licensed therapist. You don’t have to deal with this alone.
How To Manage Your Eco-Anxiety
Okay, so you’re feeling anxious about climate change. We don’t blame you! But even though your concerns are coming from a good place, worrying constantly about the fate of the planet is a lot of weight to put on those shoulders of yours. Here are some simple ways to manage your eco-anxiety, ‘cause your mental health should always be a top priority!
1. Recognize Your Efforts
When you see others contributing to waste, like throwing recyclable items in the garbage, it’s easy to get discouraged. Sometimes, it can feel like you’re the only one who gives a shit about the environment. Have all of your thoughtful choices been for nothing?! The answer is NO!
Each of your simple lifestyle changes DO make a difference, no matter how small they might be. Maybe you bike to work instead of commuting by car. You might shop for items that use less packaging, or eliminate single use plastics from your daily life. Perhaps you’ve gotten really into thrifting clothes rather than purchasing fast fashion that will be out of style soon anyway. All of your efforts have made a positive impact, and you should feel proud of yourself!
While your contribution matters, don’t expect yourself to take on too much. You don’t have to make up for lost time or pick up anyone else’s slack. Your conscious effort is enough.
2. Get Educated
If this is something you’ve already been doing, that’s great! The exciting thing is that there’s always more to learn. Try attending some environmental lectures at your school or take an online course. Read up on some great literature or browse YouTube videos. There’s tons of great resources out there, and lots of them are free! Learning about your passion in ways that are fun can make it all the more exciting, not just anxiety inducing.
3. Find Like-Minded People
Sometimes it feels like other people are gaslighting how you feel by saying climate change isn’t that big of a deal, or that you’re overreacting. But you’re not alone: there are other people out there who are just as concerned about climate change as you are! Following eco pages on social media or joining online groups can be a great starting point. Make sure these are positive, motivational accounts that share helpful tips. These pages are more likely to reduce your eco-anxiety, not cause more of it!
Another way to meet like-minded people is by teaming up with in-person environmental clubs, like at your school or where you live. And if there’s no clubs that you can find, you can always start one! Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. There are more people who care than you might think!
4. Encourage Others To Make Changes
Not everyone in your life will be on the same page as you, but that’s okay. We all have to start somewhere! Maybe they’re not as informed about climate change as you are. But seeing how much you care about the environment can encourage them to start making more of an effort, even in small ways!
Show them the best way to sort their recyclables. Introduce them to eco-friendly brands or show them everyday alternatives, like metal straws instead of plastic. Setting an example in an encouraging way, not a hostile one, is the best route to get your message across! This will help manage you eco-anxiety because you’ll see how your actions make a difference to the people around you.
5. Know Your Limits
If doom scrolling is also an anxious habit of yours, it’s probably best to limit your screen time (especially any environmental news you’ve been obsessively following). It’s tempting to fall down that dark rabbit whole, but it’s obviously not the safest option for your mental wellbeing.
Try setting a time limit on your phone for how long you want to consume climate change related content, and don’t go over that limit! Staying informed doesn’t mean you have to subject yourself to endless scrolling which only heightens your eco-anxiety. Be kind to yourself.
6. Connect With Nature
Getting lost in the noise of climate news can be so draining. Taking a step back and finding time to get outdoors to enjoy the beauty of nature can make all the difference! So get some fresh air and go for a walk in the park, take a hike, rock climb, swim in a lake, or ski down a mountain. Whatever activity you enjoy that makes you feel closer to nature, do that! It’ll make you feel more connected to what you’re striving to save: the planet.
7. Volunteer In Your Community
If you’re constantly feeling like you wanna do more but aren’t sure how, don’t stress! There’s lots of ways to get involved in your community. You can volunteer at the recycling centre, start a composting system at school or work, organize a roadside trash pick up, and work to protect any national parks in your area. Making a positive impact on your community can help reduce eco-anxiety since your actions will have a butterfly effect: you’ll set an example for your peers who will start to follow your lead!
8. Stay Hopeful
Easier said than done, we know. Buuut showing concern for the environment doesn’t always have to weigh you down. Instead, take notice of all of the positive outcomes that activism has made in regards to climate change! Read up on successful stories, like new technological advances or law changes that are working towards saving the planet. There’s a lot of bad news out there, but also a ton of good. Take notice of these good news stories so that you don’t resort to complete hopelessness. There IS hope!
Climate change is an issue that’s so much bigger than us. But the good news is that we’re not alone; we’re in this together! Managing eco-anxiety can be really tough, but we hope these tips can help you as you navigate this feeling. And can we just say: we’re so proud of you!