It seems like with each new day there are hundreds of headlines and news stories about how our planet is doomed. We’ve been told that we have just 12 years to limit climate change or all is lost…not very cheerful is it?
And while we must have a sense of urgency when it comes to the climate crisis, that doesn’t mean we need to panic. When we panic we become much more prone to the symptoms of eco-anxiety. Our heart rate rises, adrenaline increases, we may experience shortness of breath, headaches, and a general level of anxiety.
If you’re familiar with the climate crisis it’s likely that you have experienced some form of anxiety surrounding the planet’s future. But like I said, we can have a sense of urgency without being riddled with panic. This will enable us to take action and elicit changes, rather than being paralyzed with fear.
Below are my main tips to help you ease your eco-anxiety and instill a sense of urgency instead:
The first stage, and perhaps the most important, is to have acceptance. Accept the current situation of the planet as well as the emotions that you are experiencing. While the concept itself is simple, that doesn’t necessarily mean that this is an easy task to do. Confronting your anxiety head on may seem daunting at first, but ultimately doing so will help you better understand just where these emotions are coming from.
It is important to also accept that feelings of stress and anxiety are VERY natural human emotions. And given the current state of our planet, it’s no wonder that so many people are feeling these emotions now more than ever.
Once you accept the current situation, as well as the emotions that it brings up for you, you can move on to the next stage.
Ignorance is not bliss…it’s just plain ignorant. That is why educating yourself is so important. Read articles, books, newspapers, listen to podcasts, interviews and get clear on what the climate crisis actually is and how you can help.
It is important to also ensure the validity of the information you are consuming. For every scientifically proven article written, there is one that will blatantly deny climate change…aka deny facts and science. When reading an article, I recommend seeing if you can find who is funding the study and who may have ulterior motives for the piece. Is it an article talking about how heart healthy red meat is? Does it happened to be funding by the beef industry?
Do your due diligence when it comes to research and don’t take everything you read as straight facts.
The next step to help you ease your eco-anxiety is to start taking action! Begin by aligning your actions in accordance with your beliefs and values. If you’re experiencing eco-anxiety in the first place, that means you care about this planet we all share, which I think is pretty rad thing to care about.
Four simple actions you can begin doing to help the planet are:
Eating less meat: The meat and dairy industry is one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gases. Thus, by reducing your consumption of these products, you are helping reduce your personal carbon footprint. Remember it’s about progress NOT perfection. Start by reducing your meat consumption a few times a week and move forward from there.
Fly less: It’s common knowledge that burning jet fuel releases greenhouse gases into the Earth’s atmosphere and oceans. While flying may be necessary at times, you can also look up other means of transportation. Could you take a train? Maybe carpool? Sometimes flying is necessary and that’s okay. Heck, I’ve flown from Seattle to Hawaii many times to spend time with my boyfriend’s family; a trip that I can’t take a train for. Make conscious decisions each day about your transportation and if you do need to fly, know that you should not feel guilty about it when it is necessary.
Reduce single-use plastic: Plastic has made its way into almost every aspect of our daily lives and the thought of cutting all of it out may seem impossible to begin with. Remember to strive for progress not perfection. Purchase your produce without plastic bags or buy reusable mesh ones. A simple swap can be just that...simple.
Get involved: Find a group in your local community that is helping to make positive changes in the environment. Surround yourself with like-minded people that you can learn from and together take collective action. Remember that together we can help make an even bigger impact.
When it comes to taking action focus on what you can do today. If you’re able to go full vegan, never fly, become zero waste and start a community garden overnight, then props to you my friend! However, if the mere thought of doing EVERYTHING gives you even more anxiety, remember that it is quite alright to start small and let your actions build from there!
Lastly, the final step to helping you ease your eco-anxiety is to make time for self-care. You may feel like self-care is a luxury during these urgent times, but it is now more than ever that these practices should remain a priority.
Nurture your relationships with loved ones: Make time to be with friends and family either in person or on the phone. It can also be helpful to take time to chat with those in our lives about something other than the climate crisis. Ask for help when you need it and don’t close off from those who care about you.
Exercise regularly: Exercise can be immensely helpful when it comes to managing your anxiety. I have found that exercising in nature has been extremely beneficial in the past few years. Not only does it provide a release for these emotions, but it also allows you to be in nature and connect with that which we are trying so hard to protect!
UNPLUG EVERY SINGLE DAY: Take time to be off of your phone and computer. This is the single most important tip I can give you when it comes to helping reduce your feelings of anxiety. I recommend taking time each morning and night to not be on your phone. If you can, don’t look at your phone or consume media for the first 30 minutes you wake up and an hour before you go to bed. If you’re going for a walk, maybe put your phone on Do Not Disturb. Whatever ways you choose to unplug, I suggest you make it a priority! Taking time away from the climate crisis will help you ease your anxiety and leave you feeling that much more motivated to take action.
Remember that it is okay to feeling anxious and worried, in fact it is quite natural if you are feeling this way. Remember to accept, educate, take action, and prioritize self-care. It’s important to strive for progress and focus on the small actions you can take each and every day. Talk to loved ones, share your journey with others, and don’t hesitate to reach out to a for help when you feel these emotions arising.
Together united, we can ease feelings of panic and begin taking actions that elicit long term changes.