Do you have sleepless nights pondering about the daily implications of climate change? Are you sick and tired of guessing what the planet might look like in fifty years?

Do you feel incredibly guilty about your carbon footprints? If the answers are an absolute yes, you might have eco-anxiety!

Today, the mental state of children and young adults is deteriorating due to the changing climates, and implications brought about by global warming. 

The climatic condition of the entire planet is changing, winters are getting colder, and summers are getting dryer by the year. 

This anxiousness originates mainly from the actual and projected quality of the planet and human-caused climate change.

And though eco-anxiety and the associated complicated emotional reaction are not yet officially recognized as a diagnosable condition, awareness of eco-anxiety and its irregular implication on youngsters, children, and societies with the fewest resources to combat the harmful effects of the ecological crisis is growing.

Mental health workers prefer to use the notion of “eco-anxiety” within the field of ecopsychology. 

This component concerns individuals’ psychological interactions with the environment and their character, wellness, and health.

For some people, the upsurge in environmental crises is frustrating, frightening, shocking, and a source of ever-lasting or debilitating anxiety. 

Individuals frequently feel guilty or anxious about their generation’s impact on the environment and its implications for future generations.

Environmental degradation and consequences of climate change are frequently covered in the daily media, and proof of human’s harmful footprint on the earth is growing. 

Severe weather occurrences have sparked sectarian violence, and mass demonstrations have wreaked havoc on people’s homes and entire ecosystems.

Evidence of Eco-anxiety

Greta Thunberg, a Swedish climate activist, has an uplifting picture of an adolescent interacting with the environmental catastrophe. 

Still, it is worth noting that her tale commenced during a devastating phase of mental health problems brought on as she began understanding the crisis.

Eco-anxiety is described as “the generalized sense that the ecological foundations of existence are in the process of collapse” or “a chronic fear of environmental doom” as per the American Psychological Association (APA). 

As per a national survey conducted in 2018, about 70% of Americans are worried about climate change, with about 51% feeling “helpless.”

Nervousness about climate change can originate from personal experience or being at risk of climate-related severe weather patterns, such as tornadoes, plagues, wildfires, floods, and earthquakes.

People are beginning to experience intense or prolonged worry due to their belief that they might never address environmental concerns, particularly climate change. 

Youngsters believe that the systems are way too broken to create any significant global change.

The following categories of people are more inclined to be concerned about the environment and the severe implications of environmental degradation:

  • Forced migration and displaced persons,
  • People who have a history of mental or physical illness,
  • People from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, including children and young adults, and older folks.

Impacts of Eco-Anxiety

Girl with poster house on fire - eco-anxiety
Illustrating rise of eco-anxiety on young people| Photo by Huffington Post

Climate change has a variety of mental and emotional consequences for those who live on the planet. Emotional reactions such as eco-anxiety, eco-grief, and eco-anger are a few examples. 

While such undesired feelings are usually harmless and can be sensible reactions to environmental damage encouraging adaptive action, this is not true for all sufferers.

However, additional side effects, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), are potentially more harmful.

According to the American Psychological Association, a changing environment can have a variety of effects on mental health, including:

  • Shock and trauma
  • PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) 
  • Depression and obsessiveness 
  • Aggressions and anxiety
  • Sleep problems
  • Appetite changes
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Substance abuse
  • Sentiments of powerlessness and helplessness
  • Irregular patterns of fear and chronic stress
  • Heart disease and high blood pressure

Difference between Anxiety and Eco-anxiety

Sometimes people have a tough time telling the difference between eco-anxiety and anxiety. 

And, numerous times, people confuse one with another. Although both of these conditions have look-alike symptoms, these are very distinct. 

Below you will find a clear difference between Anxiety and Eco-anxiety effortlessly and realistically.

BasisEco- AnxietyAnxiety
DescriptionIt is a psychological phenomenon followed by fear and worry. Anxiety is a continuous and overpowering symptom of a spectrum of mental diseases.
CausesChanging climate and an upsurge in ecological catastrophes are to blame, which can be felt firsthand or through media stories. GAD, commonly known as generalized anxiety disorder, is difficult to attribute to a single factor.
SymptomsThe symptoms are terror and shock, panic attacks, nervousness, despair, powerlessness, guilt, fury, etc. Nervousness, agitation, stress episodes, high heart rate, hyperventilation, exhaustion, and other symptoms can occur.
ImplicationsIt is a reaction to the climate problem attributed to constructive environmental lifestyle adjustments.It may have a significant impact on your physique. Long-term anxiety can raise the chances of developing chronic health problems.
SolutionEarly intervention and embracing more eco-friendly healthy behaviors, re-evaluating or momentarily disconnecting from ecological information sources. Remind oneself that we are trying our best or attempting to do our best.Medicines, counseling, and support groups are all options for treatment. Regular exercise and meditation are two examples of lifestyle improvements.

Solutions to Eco-anxiety 

little girl drawing earth - Eco-Anxiety
A little girl drawing earth picture; helps to lessen Eco-Anxiety| Photo by Jamie Grill

As we have seen, environmental worry could have a significant adverse effect on mental and psychosocial health. 

Although our outrage concerning climate change could motivate us to take action, it is unclear whether staying eco-angry is appropriate or beneficial. 

Whenever it comes to patient care, psychologists suggest that taking action, whether by changing your lifestyle to cut pollution or becoming immersed in outreach campaigns, can help relieve the discomfort by reinstating a perception of connection.

Thus, how can one strike an equilibrium between keeping a healthy degree of mindfulness for the world while preventing the contemporary international mental health emergency from worsening?

First, it is pertinent to remember that modest degrees of environmental worry is a perfectly reasonable reaction to the present crisis. And secondly, make sure you follow the steps mentioned below.

1. Conscious breathing

Trying to slow the respiration to a slower rhythm with the abdomen (popularly referred to as belly breathing) helps overcome the biological rush of adrenaline in our bloodstream until it is gradually used.

So, if you are feeling stressed, go ahead and try belly breathing until you start feeling better. 

Train yourself to inhale and exhale consciously rather than gasping the air inwards hastily at times of stress.

2. Fact-check

Updating oneself about ecological issues from trustworthy resources, rather than focusing on social media or breaking headlines, can give us a degree of stability. 

Furthermore, it encourages people and societies to be equipped in the event of a disaster.

3. Examine your lifestyle behaviors

Embracing “eco-friendly” lifestyle choices can frequently help you grow your sense of identity by allowing you to live more in accord with your ideas and beliefs. 

Furthermore, adopting climate-friendly actions may inspire others to follow the same. We can achieve this lifestyle in a mixture of simple steps, including:

  • Evaluating your carbon footprint will help you see where you can make changes to lessen your harmful contributions.
  • Adopting active mobility, such as cycling or jogging over flying and riding, can enhance your physical and emotional health while lowering carbon pollution.
  • Individuals can participate in more profound policy initiatives to tackle climate change by connecting with local and international organizations striving to safeguard the environment.

4. Nurture yourself and develop resiliency

Strengthening one’s endurance and tolerability is crucial in combating climate change fear. 

Individuals who feel competent and confident in their ability to deal with climate change-related stressors could also cope better with anxiousness. 

Exercise, yoga, music, meditation, practice appreciation, and positive thinking are a few self-love steps to help with mental health issues.

5. Increase your visits to greenspaces

It is not necessary to take concentrated steps to reduce nervousness and stress. Stress levels and psychological functioning can be influenced by where and how you devote your leisure time. 

Time spent in eco-friendly places and nature has reduced anxiety levels and stress-related disorders. 

Green spaces are open areas that are partially or entirely covered in natural green components such as greenery, flowers, or forests. 

Gardens, woods, wilderness regions, and meadows all satisfy the definition, and certain cities have been purposely built to accommodate urban inhabitants who might not otherwise experience them.

6. Get in touch with individuals or communities with similar interest

As you get active in a campaign, you will encounter others who share your ideas and worries. 

However, your company does not have to be solely an activist. Expressing your troubles, answers, and lightheartedness may energize and heal the mind. 

Assemble your companions for a ramble in the wilderness or a hearty supper to unwind and discuss your feelings. 

You may be shocked by the outcome. It is incredibly beneficial to have pals, relatives, or mutual interest clubs to talk and share.

7. Take a break from the headlines

This step is one of the most significant contributors to eco-Anxiety concerning the regular flood of depressing media headlines. 

Once in a while, make sure to turn off the laptop and television and go for a stroll or do something that calms and energizes you.

When traveling and a sad climate chapter unfolds, change the radio to something upbeat and rock. Just make sure to stay away from mellow! 

Reassure yourself that you already grasp everything you need to understand and that you don’t have to ponder about it all the time. 

This process of self-assurance can effectively aid in the reduction of eco-Anxiety.

To Wrap Up

When the necessity of psychological and mental health talks is at an all-time maximum, climate change discourse becomes unavoidable.

Understandably, individuals feel upset, angered, irritated, or powerless about events out of their grasp, and negative headlines concerning the environment might be excessively discouraging.

At present, an increasing number of experts and mental health professionals are obtaining expertise on proper diagnosis and handling of environmental and climate-related anxieties.

Eco-anxiety can significantly impact your daily psychological health or signal a more serious neurological condition. 

Therefore, if you are feeling overwhelmed, make sure to get expert assistance and give that undivided peace your mind deserves. 

Shradha Bhatta holds a Bachelors’s Degree in Social Work along with a Post-graduate degree in Project Management from Georgian College in Canada. Shradha enjoys writing on a variety of topics and takes pleasure in discovering new ideas. She likes traveling and spending time with nature. She is a very people-person who loves talking about climate change and alerting people to go green!