Eco Anxiety: What is it and how to cope.

Eco anxiety refers to the mental health issues experienced by an individual as a direct result of their increased awareness of the climate crisis.

Most people are aware, to some extent, that climate change can impact their physical health with air pollution, food poverty and disease all being associated with climate change.

However, eco anxiety is a rather new mental health phenomenon that, like most mental health issues, isn’t being spoken about.

Addressing eco anxiety goes hand in hand with addressing the climate crisis. Anxiety is how the body response to perceived threats and we all now know that climate change is real.  

The recent IPCC report has left many with the feeling of existential dread and hopelessness but, despite being a pandora’s box of worst-case scenarios and hard to digest realities, it gave us hope.

So, like its cause, eco anxiety requires action and participation from the individual to overcome it. And positive action, whether on an individual level or as part of a larger group is the best way to combat it.

Simply look at the impact Greta Thunberg has. Her School Strike for Climate has inspired a global movement. Irish based charity, Flossie and the Beach Cleaners are an excellent example of how one person’s passion to make a difference can spur others into positive action.

The world over there are grassroots movements and groups who have all started small, inspiring others along the way to join them and, in the process, have grown into the registered charities, organisations and lobbying groups they are today.

The Climate Craic festival is just one example of a group of people coming together to actively address their individual eco anxiety, creating something positive to raise awareness around climate change on a local level.

Being part of a collective or group within the climate movement is one of the best ways to tackle that feeling of hopelessness. Getting involved in an action or event that aims to address climate change, even at a local level is a great way to negate eco anxiety and connect with other like-minded people whilst fighting for our futures.

But like any anxiety disorder it’s important to look after yourself. You can’t pour from an empty cup, and you can’t save a burning planet if you yourself are burnt out.

There are so many ways to get involved in the global climate movement if physical actions aren’t for you and it is important to pair active participation with active rest.

Take time away from technology. Switch off the news, log out of Twitter and Instagram and any other social media platform where you find yourself doom-scrolling for hours. Mainstream media have a poor track record of reporting on climate change and, when they do, it’s all very doom and gloom.

There is good climate news out there to be found and shared. Soulful Seeds and Climate Good News are excellent sources of the good news. And each month there are news stories of innovative, inventive, climate concerned individuals find green solutions and eco-friendly alternatives to everyday problems and products.

Focus on what you can do. The temptation to jump in headfirst and do something grand is something every climate concerned individual experiences, and for some it works, but for most of us we need to do what we can, where we can, with what we have.

We must go back to basics, to the reduce and reuse mindset. Ditching single-use plastics is a good place to start. Whether you invest in reusable canvas tote bags for your groceries, reusing a single-use water bottle for as long as possible or, ditch it for a metal or glass one, or you reduce your weekly meat or dairy intake, and buy loose fruit and veg where possible, it all adds up. The less you put into your home recycling the better.

Recycling isn’t a perfect system after all, so while it’s still important to do it, its crucial we recycle smarter when we do. Personal responsibility matters. Afterall, we don’t need a handful of people doing zero waster perfectly, we need millions of people doing it imperfectly.

Despite the doom and gloom the mainstream media is putting out there daily, Climate scientists and activists have made it abundantly clear that we have the time and the resources to advert climate disaster.

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