Because I am not a medical professional, I’ll only be speaking about my personal experience here, but feel free to find trusted medical sources if you want to know more about this form of anxiety. Here and here might be good places to start as they list a lot of other resources to dive into.
When I was twelve, I came home from school one day and couldn’t stop crying. We had just learned that polar bears were going to go extinct in a matter of decades because of this thing called global warming.
This was my first taste of eco-anxiety. I didn’t understand it then and at the time nobody around me seemed to know much about sustainability, let alone eco-anxiety. Now I know that it describes that persistent worry and despair we feel about the future of life here on Earth. This is a reasonable thing to feel dread about because it’s a real and overwhelming threat.
Almost twenty years later, I’m ready to finally confront my eco-anxiety, because I’m starting to recognize a pattern that I don’t like. First, this pattern is triggered by news articles, documentaries, and random instances of people littering out their car windows or that old lady double bagging her groceries in plastic for no real reason. These events spark a bubbling anger deep within and I soon get lost in the accompanying wave of hopelessness.
Sure, I'd like to heal that anxiety because those feelings aren't great, but the real problem is my natural reaction to this eco-anxiety, which is to remove myself from the source and to avoid thinking about the threat. If I’m trying to learn about an issue, my growth comes to a screeching halt and I oftentimes never return to the learning. I avoid it and just rely on what I’m already doing in my life to be “enough”.
In so many ways, I've let this stunt my growth, and doing "enough" no longer aligns with my values. I’m ready to confront this eco-anxiety so I can learn more, do more, and share more about the issues I deeply care about.
Won’t you come along with me?
Some Ways to Confront Eco-Anxiety
1. Get Professional Help
If eco-anxiety interferes with your everyday life, seek professional help. Therapists are trained and ready to help you with real coping strategies and skills. Therapy has the power to dramatically improve your quality of life, and I’d recommend it to everyone!
2. Find a Community
I signed up for the Good Grief Network’s 10-Steps to Personal Resilience & Empowerment in a Chaotic Climate: https://www.goodgriefnetwork.org/ Maybe you'll benefit from it too? I'm really looking forward to being part of a community and learning more.
3. Lean Into Real Self-Care
Let's throw away everything the self care industry is trying to sell us and discover what real self care is. The answer is completely based on the individual. For me, self care is learning a new skill, spending a couple hours cleaning or rearranging furniture, taking a nap, doing a yoga or Qigong routine, or playing with my little birds. What is self care for you?
4. Proceed Slowly & Consistently
I need to break the pattern. I know I can do this by taking a pause when the eco-anxiety rears its’ ugly head, recognize the feelings, sit with them until they pass, and push on when the storm has calmed. The trick will be to get back into the game as soon as I'm feeling grounded again.
5. Connect More With Nature
The beauty of this thing we’re trying to save is that it has incredible healing powers. Hiking, walking, sitting, and sketching in nature are powerful ways to dissipate negative feelings.
Part of the great lie of our existence here is that we have no control over the world around us. In a certain way, that can be true. While I hold that truth in one hand, I also hold the belief that our every movement sends massive ripple effects out into the world. Yes, one person can’t stop global warming, but if you’re doing your part, then your efforts aren't isolated to what you can see. The ripple effects of your decisions and actions are more powerful than any of us could know.
So, what’s next? If you're interested in learning more about what I’m learning, watch this space or sign up for my newsletter. I’ll be sharing new blog posts on subjects that revolve around my journey becoming a more sustainable person and a more sustainable artist.