Dealing with eco anxiety

(ENG only) The 15th of March was an important day for all the eco warriors around the world: more than 100 countries decided to join the global movement #FridaysForFuture launched by Greta Thunberg. About 30 weeks ago this 16 year old Swedish activist started striking from school on Fridays to raise awareness on climate change by spending hours in front the parliament in Stockholm, demanding action and solutions for a problem that can no longer be ignored. In a matter of a few weeks, Greta was able to inspire hundreds of thousands of people worldwide with her determination and activism, to the point where she is now nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. She started striking alone and now the entire world is striking with her.

Over the course of the last days, I’ve seen tons of pictures online and on social media of people joining the protest, taking action, talking about it, asking for real changes. Being a sustainability advocate, I felt my heart filled to the brim with joy by seeing so many people getting involved.

However being overexposed to the planet’s current issues makes me feel incredibly overwhelmed sometimes. I might find myself getting anxious about the consequences of human behaviors that are harmful for the environment, when reading or watching something about current environmental issues or when thinking about what has happened, is happening or might/will happen if things won’t change for the better.

Apparently this feeling is called “eco anxiety”, which is the “anxiety or worry about the ecological threats facing the earth. Eco-anxiety is not considered to be a mental health concern. Rather, it is seen as a typical reaction to the growing awareness of the problems that can result from climate change and other global threats.” (Source: goodtherapy.org). So basically eco anxiety is a type of anxiety connected to and triggered by being aware of the current environmental issues affecting the planet. I am currently reading “This changes everything” by Naomi Klein and she talks about how she felt her worries about climate change rise whilst reading her two year old son the book “Looking for a moose” and realizing that, with the current climatic status being an increasing deathly threat for moose in Canada, he might not even be able to see one, ever. And this reminded of me, fantasizing about beautiful travels far away in places that in a not very far future might not even exist anymore.

If and when I am experiencing eco anxiety, some questions might arise and echo in my head, for example: am I a hypocrite for being so passionate about travel and choosing mostly plane as my number 1 way of traveling, considering how bad it is for the environment? Am I too lazy when I decide not to read the news or to choose a less sustainable option because it’s more convenient financially and/or timely? Am I really doing everything that it is in my power to share what I know and educate others?

In my case, this sense of worry also seems to be triggered occasionally by the feeling of “not doing enough or not being able to do more”. For example, knowing that the strike was happening and not being able to join it made me feel like I “wasn’t doing enough for the cause”: I am not activist enough, not fighting enough for a better planet, not doing enough. It might sound silly for some of you reading this, but eco anxiety is a thing. I remember, when taking my first steps in zero waste, how I used to feel bad about each one of my fails, constantly looking at what seemed perfect on social media, incredibly worried that my actions and concerns for the future of our planet weren’t enough, without even realizing the changes and habits I had already introduced successfully in my routine.

If you, like me, experience eco anxiety from time to time, here’s a gentle reminder to be kind to yourself and a few tips to deal with it.

• don’t beat yourself up. As much as certain scenarios or situations sound and actually are scary, try not to worry too much about them and/or the “fails” you make. Always keep in mind that luckily there are plenty of people out there that are trying to make a difference with their everyday actions and choices, plus more and more people are switching to more sustainable habits routines mindsets and actions (the fact the there was a GLOBAL STRIKE for climate change proves it!! 💚).

•  Take a break from social media. If you notice that watching seeing hearing or reading certain types of content is getting discouraging, disconnect for a while and try to reconnect with yourself instead, your actions and who you are.

• Remember that every action has an impact and a consequence, even the small ones. Instead of focusing on what you cannot control, stay focused on and mindful about what you can control. Always do your best and do it with a smile. The world is in need of beautiful caring souls right now. Don’t tell yourself that you are not doing enough. The fact that you care and are already trying to make some changes is already a huge help.

• Surround yourself and connect with like minded people that will keep you inspired, motivated and more importantly hopeful and positive.

• Take action, whatever this means to you. Share your message and make sure your voice and opinion gets heard. Offset. Donate to environmental organizations that are trying to do good. Join groups, movements, strikes. You can be a gentle eco warrior or an activist. There is no right or wrong way of caring about and doing something for the planet. Find what makes you feel good and do it.

• Do something that will reconnect you with nature. Nature has the immense power to calm,heal and energize so make sure to spend some time outside. Take a long walk in the park. Do a beach or park clean up. Meditate or allow yourself to slow down, breathe deeply and feel the vibrant energy of the nature around you. Go hiking, biking, running, kayaking, kite surfing, swimming, exercising…. Give yourself enough time to remind yourself that the world is beautiful and you’re an important part of it.

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