What Is Eco-Anxiety?
Eco-anxiety, also known as solastalgia, refers to feelings of extreme worry and apprehension about environmental changes that seem irreversible. Think of it as a deep-seated anxiety about the fate of the planet and current environmental issues.
Even though we call this feeling eco-anxiety, people may feel a wide range of emotions about environmental concerns, such as sadness, anger, fear, guilt, and powerlessness. These are known as eco-emotions. You may sometimes feel them very strongly, and less so at other times.
What We Know About Eco-Anxiety
It’s a normal response to a very real problem
Being worried about the environment is not a problem all on its own. In fact, it is a legitimate response to the major issues and challenges facing our planet. A certain level of concern for the environment can help you make changes in your consumption habits, or by engaging with the cause in your own way.
Who is affected?
Scientific data on this quite novel form of anxiety is still somewhat lacking. However, we know that young people are more strongly affected by eco-anxiety, because climate change will have a greater impact on their lives and those of future generations.
Fear for the future
Due to the lack of certainty around the current state of our environment, many young people are worried for their future. Maybe you’ve even doubted the feasibility of your own ambitions, dreams, and future. Remember, your doubts reflect your values, and so you are right to express them. That being said, they may leave you feeling powerless; so don’t be afraid to try out some of our tips below. They may help you cope with your eco-anxiety.
Symptoms of Eco-Anxiety
Eco-anxiety does not have an official diagnosis, and it manifests differently from one person to the next. Here are a few examples of signs that you may notice in your own life:
- Your thoughts about the environment take up a lot of space in your mind and come up often.
- You feel terrible when you learn about potential impacts on the environment.
- You feel despair or distress when you think about the state of the planet.
- You feel guilty or unable to act when you make less eco-responsible choices.
Like other forms of anxiety, eco-anxiety can be felt to varying degrees at different times. You can expect stronger feelings when experiencing major stressors, such as when an ecological disaster has just happened, or a natural disaster, or the publication of an alarming report on the environment.
If your eco-anxiety becomes unmanageable or prevents you from living your day-to-day life, feel free to contact us.
Reducing Your Eco-Anxiety
Limit your intake of distressing information
Climate events are now a part of our daily lives, which has the benefit of increasing collective awareness, however if you are only reading this kind of news, especially if it is making you feel evermore anxious, then it could be doing more harm than good. That’s why it is important to be aware of the effect this kind of news is having on you and on your mood.
Use your worry as a motivating factor to get involved and transform your anxiety into action! This will give you a sense of power over the situation by contributing to the cause through participating in a collective movement. Furthermore, getting socially involved in movements (e.g. awareness campaigns, demonstrations) will help you find other like-minded people who share your concerns, and in that way, you won’t feel alone with your worry.
Live in harmony with your values
Recycling, composting, adopting a zero-waste lifestyle, eating less meat, and other daily actions can help you affirm your values and alleviate the feeling of powerlessness by taking action in response to climate issues.
Learn to deal with uncertainty
Climate issues are so enormous that it’s impossible to feel totally in control of the situation. That is normal, and that is why you need to learn to manage and tolerate uncertainties. How? By focusing on the present moment and on the concrete actions you can take in your own life. Keep in mind that no matter the situation, no one can control the future.
Recognize tough times
Try to analyze the signals your body and mind are sending you. When do you notice that your thoughts about the environment are more intense or more present? By being able to recognize the patterns of these feelings you will be able to identify certain elements or situations that are not helpful for you or for the environment, which you can then eliminate, or at least reduce, from negatively affecting your life. Conversely, you can focus on moments when you feel content, like maybe when you are taking concrete action for the environment.