There’s a reason why we call our planet “Mother Earth” – there’s no other planet in our Solar System that can support life and tend to our needs as our planet does. With more natural disasters taking place and species disappearing every day, one can’t help but wonder what the future holds for us. Wondering how things are going to be for us and for future generations can cause worry. With the onset of the Coronavirus pandemic, anxieties have hit the roof and there seems to be a shadow of impending doom perpetually hanging over us. This existential fear, which stems from our concern about the future, is called eco-anxiety.
Am I really down with eco-anxiety?
Let’s look closely at some common signs of eco-anxiety:
- Hopelessness: Looking at some instances of permanent damage done to the environment, animals, and human habitat evokes a sense of uneasiness and despair.
- Existential Dread: You often find yourself asking questions like “what’s the point of finishing this, if we all are going to die anyway?”, “does it matter anymore?”
- Frustration: Constant feeling of anger and frustration towards people who don’t acknowledge climate change.
- Trauma: Post Traumatic Stress after witnessing or experiencing the effects of climate change.
- Guilt: Some people also experience guilt based on their carbon footprint and their choices that harm the environment, like fast fashion and meat consumption.
These feelings could ultimately spill into other aspects of life and cause a strain on personal and professional relationships. While eco-anxiety is a relatively new term used to describe an existing phenomenon, its long-term effects are overwhelming and severe.
#DoItForYourself – How to turn anxiety into action?
“I’d be lying if they said that there wasn’t a lot of time when you think, ‘Why do we bother’? But, when you sit down, chat to other scientists and have a bit of a think about it, you realise that there’s a huge amount that we can still do. Yes, these places are in trouble. But it’s in our power to protect what’s left and make a meaningful difference. And that’s why we do this. That’s why we carry on.”– Tim Gordon, Marine Biologist
As Tim Gordon suggests, there is a lot we CAN still do to prevent doomsday. So, if you recognise signs of eco-anxiety in yourself or in a friend, a great way to begin dealing with it is to start taking action.
Make a switch
Adopt a sustainable approach to life and alter practices that don’t align with your new, eco-centric value system.
- Choose walking or biking over driving. This will not only give you the much-needed endorphins to beat eco-anxiety but also reduce carbon emissions. Yay much?
- Reach out: Connect with organisations working towards climate conservation and climate protection that could help you take more effective steps towards restoring the environment.
- Deny, the denial! It’s easier to deny and mask emotions that you may feel towards climate change and its effects. However, it only gets more intense and challenging if you try shutting it out. Instead, try to acknowledge these feelings and become truly aware of them. If you feel guilty about your actions in the past, forgive yourself and be mindful of the choices you make in the future.
- Reconnect with nature: Spend time taking long walks in parks, and if you have access to hiking trails explore them with adequate social distancing measures. Also, don’t forget to take precautions like wearing masks and using sanitisers. Another great way to reconnect with nature is to grow a green thumb and start your own garden.
- Be compassionate: Charity begins at home – so try to be compassionate towards yourself first. Don’t beat yourself up but try to forgive and move past your mistakes.
- Take baby steps: You may feel the sudden urge to abandon your old lifestyle and transform yourself overnight. The idea always sounds excellent in our heads, but for a long-term success, it’s best to take it one step at a time. If your long-term goal is to be vegan, start by being a vegetarian first. Do this, so your cravings don’t take you back to a place of existential dread which will ultimately result in you losing sight of your goal.
- Educate and stay educated: Stay up to date with good practices that could help the environment. Share your knowledge with your family and friends.
- Do it for yourself: Start by taking care of yourself because through self-care, you can do better for yourself, your family, the cute streeties in your neighbourhood, and even Savita aunty, your nosy second-floor neighbour. It all starts with you and the small little voice inside your head that’s saying – you’re the change!