Do you often find yourself feeling stressed and overwhelmed at the thought of our planet and the uncertainty of its future? If so, then there is one thing you can feel sure about – you are not alone.
Conversations on climate change, environmental damage and our individual responsibilities have become commonplace in our day-to-day lives, which at times can feel like a heavy weight to carry. These conversations are, of course, instrumental to raising awareness and creating change, but for many, the fear and uncertainty can be damaging to mental wellness – or lead to eco-anxiety.
With that being said, we wanted to take a moment to outline our top tips to reduce eco-anxiety, so you continue caring for the planet while also nurturing and protecting your mental wellness.
But, first things first, what exactly is eco-anxiety?
What Is Eco-Anxiety?
Eco-anxiety, also known as climate anxiety, is a modern form of anxiety resulting from a fear of environmental damage or disaster. The American Psychological Association first defined eco-anxiety in 2017 as “the chronic fear of environmental doom.” In 2019, it was something that over a third of people in the UK experienced.
Every day, we face countless news headlines and a stream of content on social media on environmental degradation and future implications. This has inspired many people to develop more sustainable daily routines, but we are all human, and sometimes we slip up. When you do, the eco-guilt can be overpowering, leading to an even more intense feeling of eco-anxiety.
We all experience anxiety – it’s your body’s natural response to stress, and in certain situations, it can be helpful. In the case of eco-anxiety, if it encourages you to adopt more sustainable habits in your life, then it may just be a good thing. However, if you feel that your eco-anxiety is becoming detrimental to your mental wellbeing, then here are a few tips that may help.
How Can You Reduce Eco-Anxiety?
If you are feeling overwhelmed by your eco-anxiety, there are a number of strategies that you can use to help.
1. Reduce your carbon footprint
According to the Committee on Climate Change, 40% of UK carbon emissions come from households. Therefore, we can all play our part in reducing our individual carbon footprint by making changes within our home. Plus, when you are experiencing eco-anxiety you can feel reassured by knowing that you are doing your part by reducing your carbon footprint.
There are a number of ways that you can reduce your carbon footprint, many of which we are sure you know already such as switching to energy-efficient lighting or walking/cycling instead of driving if you are able to do so. However, there are many other small changes that many people might not realise.
One big thing you can do to reduce your household’s carbon footprint is to reduce food waste by meal prepping or freezing leftovers. If food waste were a country, it would be the 3rd largest emitter of greenhouse gas emissions in the world! As most food waste occurs in the home, it’s a huge area of opportunity for us all to improve to reduce our footprint.
2. Vote with your wallet and make sustainable swaps
Have you ever experienced the heart-sinking feeling when unboxing a new purchase to discover layer upon layer of single-use plastic packaging? The sad truth is, for many brands sustainable practices just aren’t high up on the agenda. Making every purchase a sustainable one can be an overwhelming task, but thanks to a rise in sustainable brands it is getting easier to find more ethical and eco-friendly alternatives.
When you shop from businesses that hold sustainability as a core value, you will be ‘voting with your wallet’ for a more sustainable future by supporting products or services that are creating a positive impact. Plus, you can leave that eco-guilt behind you!
3. Stay informed, but don’t be afraid to switch off when you need it
We consume so much media every day without even realising it. Although it’s important to stay in the loop and up-to-date with the news, it’s equally as important to switch off sometimes – especially if you have a tendency for endless scrolling!
There are a number of ways you can prompt yourself to cut back on screen time. Our number one choice is to set time limits for particularly time-sucking apps (we are looking at you, Instagram!), or to set ‘downtime’ on your phone so it blocks you from using apps during certain times of the day.
4. Practice mindfulness with meditation and journaling
Meditation and journaling can both be great practices to adopt for anxiety relief. Factoring either, or both, into your daily routine, can help you clear your mind, focus on the things you can control and help you cope better when you are feeling burdened by intense eco-anxiety. If you are new to meditation, apps like Calm and Headspace provide easy-to-follow, guided meditations to help you get started so you can give it a go and see if it’s for you.
5. Spend time in nature within your community
If you are experiencing eco-anxiety, you are clearly a fan of nature – so get out and enjoy it!
We spend so much of our time indoors, especially over the last year. Spending time outside in the fresh air is incredibly beneficial to your mental health and overall wellbeing. Whether it’s a walk through your local park or a stroll through a forest, spending time outdoors can help reduce stress, lower blood pressure and boost your energy levels.
So, when you are feeling the weight of eco-anxiety, one of the best things you can do is get up and out into the fresh air – you definitely won’t regret it.
While these tips may help you when experiencing eco-anxiety, if you feel it is impacting your day-to-day mental health make sure you seek professional help. If you are looking for mental health support, charities such as Mind and the Mental Health Foundation have a wealth of resources and information accessible to anyone in need.