I have been struggling with eco-anxiety since I became active on social media at age 12. I am 22 now and still deal with this fear which often translates into apathy rather than action. Eco-anxiety for me has developed into a kind of depression where I internally scold myself when I fail to recycle properly, when I drive in my car, when I make mistakes in my vegetarianism and eat fish and, an array of other activities I deem to be harmful to the environment.
Eco anxiety manifests itself in many ways including feeling an overwhelming sense of existential dread at the difficulty of curbing climate change. However, many of us end up feeling powerless rather than inspired to become the next Greta Thunberg. So how do you bounce back from these negative emotions and turn your fear into action. Because we all know that if something is bothering you, there are only two options: learn to live with it or, change it. Complaining is not an option.
In my own attempt to overcome eco-anxiety I have cleansed my Instagram of negative media and filled it with people who are making leaps and bounds in green technologies all the way to people who are examples of low impact living. I have actually found myself enjoying the process of becoming closer to zero-waste and it has given me a sense of peace and satisfaction. It also requires a mindset shift where you have to focus on the good because if you don’t, you choose to be overwhelmed by the bad. I also listen to an array of podcasts and read books which have helped me find this peace and satisfaction.
Here is a list of things I do to help alleviate my eco anxiety:
- Spend as much time as possible in nature
- Whether you sit outside during your lunch break or can go for a hike outdoors. Our intimate connection to mother nature is therapeutic – don’t underestimate the healing power of being outdoors. I love inviting friends for pic-nics in local Cape Town parks.
- Remember that your contribution doesn’t have to be all or nothing
- Meg Lazaros suggests that you “pinpoint one environmental issue that is especially important to you and develop a personal challenge around it. For example, deforestation is extremely triggering for me, and since a lot of the deforestation of the Amazon is a result of cattle ranching, I challenged myself to go vegan for 30 days. I felt damn good about my small-big accomplishment. Plus, an unexpected side effect: I lost 5 pounds and wound up trying lots of new veggies I never knew I liked!”
- Be a conscious consumer by making smart choices when you shop by asking yourself these questions:
- Do I really need this?
- Can I borrow this from a friend or buy it second hand?
- Is there a plastic free alternative?
- Is it vegan?
- Is it cruelty free?
- Can I buy this product locally or hand made?
- Does this product contain palm oil? If so, is it certified by the RSPO?
- Is there a non-disposable option? If not, is there a refill option?
- Eat less meat
- Many ecopsychologists recommend making simple changes in your home to make you feel as though you are doing your part. Some of these changes can be as simple as:
- switching out your current light bulbs to low energy bulbs
- implementing a home recycling program
- composting old food scraps and paper
- limiting yourself to a 2 minute shower
- This is what the BBC suggests you do: “Firstly, make climate change a factor in the decisions you make around what you eat, how you travel, and what you buy. Secondly, talk about climate change with your friends, family and colleagues. Finally, demand that politicians and companies make it easier and cheaper to do the right thing for the climate.”
- Speak to your friends about how you feel as you may be surprised at how many other people feel this way too.
- Take time off social media or cleanse your feed.
- See a therapist
- I have resorted to this in recent months as I became totally overwhelmed by the state of the planet. This is a drastic step and may not be necessary for you in your journey
[Please let me know if you have any other tips for managing eco anxiety in the comments below]