How to cope with environmental anxiety

Environmental anxiety or eco anxiety is the response to the destruction we are seeing of nature’s beauty, rising sea-levels and climate change. Such anxiety can begin with experiencing extreme weather or witnessing the reporting of human’s destructive acts, floods and forest fires 

Belief that one’s impact is minuscule can cause feelings of guilt, frustration and overwhelming anxiety from the sense we have no control over environmental problems.

Although solving the environment's crises needs society to wake up and change, governments to make the environment their priority and corporations to own responsibility for their damage, people can still manage their anxiety by the following strategies.

Act

Yes, we do feel doomed as those in power deny scientific predictions spouting: “Plastic in the ocean? Not a problem that I can see", or Greta Turnberg rightly saying “Don’t worry - panic.”

Taking positive action enables you to feel in control of environmental issues and, although there are things outside of our control, there are many things we can control.

We ourselves choose in every small way, to be part of the solution/problem. Consider the following questions:

  • Do you drive a car when you can do otherwise?
  • Are you eating lots of red meat when there is great stuff in disguise?
  • Do you crank up the thermostat when you have a host of eco-choices?

One small action in aggregate with others illustrates which side you stand on - the solution or the problem? You can choose to do something practical for the planet, for example:

  • pick up litter
  • join a green group
  • invest in renewables, not fossil fuels
  • talk about the impact of your choices with your social circle and colleagues
  • demand politicians and companies do the right thing - vote
  • consume less, waste less and enjoy life more

Though we’re not in control we are still influential. Save a drop in the bucket and fill an ocean, that too is our choice. Make climate change a factor in all of your decisions.

Build resilience

You can become more resilient by developing supportive friendships. Set achievable goals and take action. Practise good self-care and build self-esteem. Develop a connection with nature. Ecopsychology shows us how stress levels will drop after we spend time in parks, woods or simply being outdoors!

Be an optimist

Reframe your worrying beliefs to break the negative cycle. Bio-divergence emergence is all bad news, yet 2020 did bring forth hope:

  • Covid shows the government can react when required.
  • We no longer have a climate denier in the White House.
  • Companies are upping their greenwash to a more ambitious commitment.

Remember, we need to achieve a 20% reduction in CO2 emissions, not 100%. Optimism is a force multiplier so, in order to achieve, we need to believe.

Reduce CO2 (as well as stress)

Regular exercise helps alleviate most anxiety, we know this but the only way to personally experience this relief is to actually act. If we choose to run, walk or cycle instead of use fossil fuel for transport the benefits are multiple. 

Educate yourself

Keep yourself informed on these issues with information from reliable and accurate sources. You may find comfort and relief in trustworthy reports.

Disengage when you need to

Overexposing yourself to constant and possibly inaccurate media reports causes high levels of anxiety, which one doesn’t realise until it manifests as a problem. Evaluate your information and unplug at least temporarily to help reduce your environmental anxiety.

Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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Central London SE1 & Muswell Hill N10

Written by Mary Mcilroy - Relationships Counsellor + anxiety specialist Online & in person

Central London SE1 & Muswell Hill N10

I am a registered counsellor with the BACP covering: London Bridge/The City of London and Muswell Hill/London N10. Although I help people mainly with issues of anxiety and depression, I cover many other areas. Throughout your sessions with me, you will be listened to with empathy while you feel and see change happen as anxiety melts away.

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