Eco-Anxiety: What It Is & How To Manage It
Wildfires. Hurricanes. Floods. Heatwaves. Rising sea levels. Melting ice caps. Polar bears.
If reading that stresses you out, don't worry: you're not alone. A 2020 survey published by Yale University discovered that 40% of Americans feel helpless about climate change. Another study done by American Psychological Association (APA) revealed that 67% of Americans are "somewhat or extremely anxious about the impact of climate change."
People are so stressed about climate change that there is a new term to describe it: eco-anxiety. The APA defines eco-anxiety as "A chronic fear of environmental doom." Eco-anxiety is a relatively broad term that encompasses both the direct and indirect experience of climate change.
Direct climate change stress
For some parts of the world, climate change isn't coming—it's arrived.
For example Inuit communities in Labrador, Canada, whose culture and economy revolves around ice, the warming climate has already taken a devastating impact on their livelihoods and mental health. Residents of the Maldives are experiencing a similar existential threat through rising sea levels; it's been reported that the Maldives may be entirely underwater by 2100.
But we don't have to look beyond our own national shores to see the direct impact of climate change. The US experienced the largest fires ever recorded during summer and autumn last year. In the Southwest, the months spanning July through September were the hottest and driest on record. Further, out of the record-breaking 30 named storms last year, a whopping 12 hit US shores, which—you guessed—broke another record.
Directly experiencing a natural disaster like a wildfire or even witnessing ice melting can be a traumatizing event. The American Psychological Association reports that living through a climate change-induced disaster can cause PTSD and feelings of fear, grief, depression, and anxiety.
Indirect climate change stress
People who live in places where the climate crisis is less impactful still experience climate-related stress—it's just indirect.
Movies, shows, and social media make it difficult to avoid news about worsening climate conditions and natural disasters. It probably doesn't come as a surprise that indirectly witnessing the suffering of others and the destruction of our planet is stress-inducing. Eco-anxiety is a normal response to the uncertainty and grief created by climate change.
How to deal with eco-anxiety
To some of this might all seem a little bit obvious. Of course, hurricanes and wildfires are going to stress people out! But it turns out that mental health plays a crucial role in helping combat climate change.
The APA reports that the psychological stress of climate change is causing inaction and preventing solutions from being developed. In other words, people's eco-anxiety is causing them to freeze up and not be a part of the solution.
With that in mind, here are a few ways you can manage your eco-anxiety.
- Take care of your mental health! There are many things that you can do to help better manage emotional stress. Meditation, therapy, and being in nature are three ways our team at CarbonForest help manage eco-anxiety.
- Focus on what you can do to help fight climate change. One simple and great first step is to start offsetting your carbon footprint. We can help you with that!
- Take action. Join environmental groups. Vote. Demand action from your local government.
- Join a support group. Eco-Anxious is an online community that allows people to share their climate change experiences and stories. This group can help you turn your eco-anxieties into meaningful action.
We must acknowledge and recognize the importance of self-care and emotional support in the fight against climate change. We know by now that there is no silver bullet solution and that it will take collective focus and action to make a difference. We must stand together and help hold each other up.
Are you ready to take action? Become a CarbonForest member today.