Updated: Aug 28
Eco-anxiety is the feeling of worry, guilt or dread one experiences in response to the intractable eco-crisis. Even if you are not a climate change denier there is much to fear: sea levels rising, species extinction, ecosystem restructuring and disruption, worsening poverty and inequality. It's easy for us to be paralyzed with eco-anxiety because we can't solve all these problems at once. We have to take responsibility for the way we live today, and then we have to find ways to change our behavior, building new infrastructure in an age of dwindling resources.
Eco-anxiety is a consequence of one of these problems - climate change. To make matters worse, it's not just our own society that's experiencing eco-anxiety - every country on Earth is struggling with the problems caused by global warming. And yet this feeling is not as widespread as it should be, even in places that are fighting climate change themselves. It's hard to feel bad about being ignorant when you know you're being lied to. If you're being told that climate change is a hoax and other countries are doing nothing, it's easy to think that it's not your problem and you can still go on leading your comfortable life.
Here are 8 ways to cope with eco-anxiety:
1. Admit that you're feeling it and move past it.
Stop saying climate change isn't real. That's actually the most powerful way to reinforce denial and fear, because the more we deny what is right in front of our faces, the more we stay stuck in denial. If you want to understand why people are so attached to denial and fear, it's because they're trying to avoid confronting their own selfishness. We all know that if you continue down this path, your dreams will be ruined through relentless anxiety - but few realize that you can still be selfish without being reckless, for instance by conserving energy or using public transportation instead of the private mode of transport that governments have spent generations getting us addicted to.
2. Take action - as much as you can.
Action is one of the best ways to go from denial to courage and seeing that a better world is possible. The more you realize that you are powerless over something, the more you will put yourself in situations where you have power over it and make better choices about how to solve problems. Look for material changes you can make in your life and take them seriously, even when they're small - for instance try to sit down at least once a day, instead of spending all day on your laptop or on your phone, or taking public transport instead of driving.
3. Seek out communities of likeminded people.
The only way to change a society is to force the majority to act differently - and the only way to do that is with critical mass. It's one thing to have friends who are interested in the same things, but it's another thing entirely when they have influence over millions of other people. If you can find a community of likeminded people (for instance on social media), you will be far less likely to feel isolated in your own eco-anxiety, and more likely to spread ideas about how we can create a better world.
4. Stop caring about what others think of you.
You know that eco-anxiety is causing you a lot of grief and you know that not caring about it is unhealthy, yet it's hard because we are constantly bombarded with choices about what to do and how to live our lives. In a time when people have so much power over everyone else, this very powerlessness can feel unbearable. But as long as we're so dependent on other people's thinking, acting or doing things that they want us to do, we will always feel powerless and will never be in charge of our lives.
5. Work on your spiritual development - get in touch with your true self.
Your true self is the deeper aspect of who you are - your soul, or whatever you want to call it. The ideal thing isn't to live in complete harmony with your true self, because that would be no fun at all. Instead, we all have a tendency to live as if we are separate from everything else and possibly even separate from our own selves. And when we dwell in this state of mind, our actions follow suit and we continue to perpetuate the problems that brought us to the point where we feel so powerless.
6. Learn to love.
Love is the most powerful emotion, and sharing it with others is the best way to let go of your insecurities and feel more at one with every aspect of life. If you've been hiding from your friends, family and community because you're afraid that they'll reject you, you can start by expressing your love for them instead of yourself. Instead of telling them how they're failing you or not doing enough, tell them how much they mean to you and show this in action by doing things for them rather than expecting them to do things for you.
7. Let go of negative cycles.
If you think you've got the ideal "job" and your boss treats you like crap, it's easy to get stuck in an endless loop of resentment. But as soon as you stop blaming others for your problems, you're able to work on what is really causing them. The minute we stop being angry at others for not being better - or even for existing at all - we can start cleaning up our emotional house instead of putting up walls and projecting negativity onto the world.
8. Tell the truth to yourself first.
We usually think that it's far more powerful to lie to ourselves than to tell the truth, but if we're honest with ourselves, we can stop lying to ourselves and start working on our self-esteem instead. When we're not trusting or loving ourselves, everything else - including our ability to cope with stress - becomes a problem.
Humans have always tried to attain goals and find meaning in life, and this urge has remained strong even after we learned that our materialistic desires are only temporary. But there are so many negative alternatives available to us - fear of the future, fear of death, fear of uncertainty - that it's easy to make the mistake of not trusting ourselves enough to take action. Don't give up on that part of your life just because you think you might end up dissatisfied with a few results along the way. There is nothing but disappointment when we don't trust ourselves long enough to take action.
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