What is eco-anxiety?
We hear the term everywhere and yet, up to this day, there isn’t any official definition for it.
What’s not on Wikipedia isn’t real, right?
Joke aside, Good therapy gives us a good (unofficial) definition for it.
“Eco-anxiety refers to anxiety or worry about the ecological threats facing the earth. Eco-anxiety is not considered to be a mental health concern. Rather, it is seen as a typical reaction to the growing awareness of the problems that can result from climate change and other global threats.”
If you recognize yourself in these lines, rest assure… at least you’re far from being alone.
And solutions exist, you’ll see a few of them further in this post.
Climate Change, Your Mental Health is at Risk
Most of the focus around climate change has been related to its effects on the environment and on people’s physical health.
But studies are revealing that mental health is also at risk here.
That mental health risk can appear at different levels.
It can be direct consequences of a natural disaster, such as PTSD from living a traumatic experience. Or it can be the constant fear of possible natural disasters when living in an area at risk.
It could also be due to longer-term, slower consequences of climate changes and pollution, such as the ones impacting agriculture or the livability of an area. Prolonged drought, food shortage or water contamination are only a few examples of the slow poison that can affect our health.
But there is another danger to our mental health that can reach everybody, even those living in “safe areas”.
This evil (let’s name it as such), is the anxiety linked to our guilt and lack of power when it comes to have an environmentally friendly lifestyle.
Meet “The Green Guilt”
That side of eco-anxiety is what many call “the green guilt”.
The sad thing is that this evil seems to haunt the most eco-friendly individuals amongst us.
The ones that know what we and the earth are facing.
The eco-warriors that actually do something to change the trend and bring humanity back on the right path.
It all goes back to the saying “ignorance is bliss”.
Many agree on the fact that the more intelligent you are, or the more knowledge you have, the more you are prone to anxiety. And that also applies to our environment.
The difference with the environmental situation is that you don’t need to be intelligent to understand what’s coming, or rather what’s already in front of you.
It’s more about denial.
People emotionally disassociate from the suffering they inflict on the environment.
In other words, they deliberately choose to be “ignorant”.
Hence, they have no reason to be anxious. But that’s the easy and coward solution.
Fortunately, many people refuse to take that shortcut and fight for a cleaner world.
Unfortunately, their knowledge of the alarming situation and their individual intents to change it are very likely to make them feel powerless against so much waste, pollution… global indifference.
A Fight Worth Fighting?
The daily life of an eco-conscious person is a real challenge that can feel like a battle lost in advance.
The more you learn and look for eco-solutions, the more you notice pollution is everywhere and the more you feel like you’re drowning…
Obstacles are everywhere:
- You may not be able to afford some eco-friendly alternatives
- You give your best to organize a zero-waste dinner and your friend brings plastic cups
- You order a green alternative you can finally afford and you receive it in 2 layers of plastic packaging
- Some money-driven business or politician just took an unethical decision and you can’t do anything about it
- You forgot your reusable shopping bag at home and beat yourself up because you have no choice but buy a new one at the shop
- Your kid came back from school with plastic waste, again
- Another species of animal just disappeared
- You just learned that that fabric you thought was eco-friendly is actually obtained through chemical manufacturing
- Some friends already see you as the “annoying hippie activist” of the group
So many reasons to feel anxious, overwhelmed, frustrated or even lonely in your fight. And the media are constantly there to remind us how bad the situation is.
Embrance Your Anxiety
Don’t give up. History is full of turnaround success stories.
Take Reddit, a platform used by many to spread the green word. When it launched, it was as empty as a ghost town and the founders had to create fake profiles and discussions to give it a bit of life. Now, it’s one of the most active platforms ever, with more than 550 million active users.
Time and perseverance, it’s what it takes. And changing the lifestyle of the whole world population will need a lot of it.
Would you not like to be a pillar of the greatest comeback story in the history: the recovery of our planet?
As for your eco-anxiety, don’t fear it, don’t let it turn into depression. But embrace it!
A common advice given to anxious people is to embrace the power of their anxiety. Anxiety is not something that goes away, the best one can do is learn how to deal with it and take advantage of it.
For example, a consequence of anxiety is the constant thinking of what will go wrong in the future, preventing you to enjoy the present.
As you tend to live in the future, use it to plan ahead so that you can do the best you can in terms of sustainability.
Another aspect of anxiety is the unnecessary worry about small things that won’t matter in the long run.
Let’s take the example of ordering a so-called green alternative that you finally received packed in two layers of plastic.
How annoying is that right?
But instead of feeling bad about it, contact the provider and tell him about the situation. He might listen to you. If not, spread the word about it.
Your actions may provide thousands of people to fall in the trap.
We have to put an end to that green guilt. If someone should feel guilty, it’s the ones that are not doing anything to improve the situation.
Thereby, to everyone reading these lines, please:
- Don’t stop making small changes in your life.
- See your mistakes and the ones of others as a path to improvement.
- Cheer up with every small win.
- Feeling you can’t reach your green goals? Lower your expectations and progress step by step.
- Surround yourself with like-minded people, offline and online.
- Share your experiences (positive and negative). You will see that you’re really not alone.
- Remember, every small step counts. It’s a journey and you’re contributing to make this world a better place.
Looking for places to share your experiences? You can start by dropping us a comment 😉