A growing number of people feel nervous about climate change and the fate of our planet. Although it isn’t a recognized mental health condition, this feeling has been given a name: eco-anxiety.
When this fear of our planet’s alleged impending doom can no longer be countered through rational thinking, many turn to therapists for help.
If you feel anxious about our environment’s current state, consider these ways to take charge of your emotions and effect change in a positive way.
1. Focus on systems
Move your thinking away from your own actions and life, and instead, focus on bigger systems at play. This will help you visualize solutions that can have a major and lasting impact on the climate and society.
Some positive actions you can take that may impact the greater good are organizing rallies to raise awareness, contacting your representatives, and encouraging businesses to adopt more eco-conscious practices. These allow your actions to go beyond you as an individual person and instead can help change the actions of many.
2. Align your lifestyle choices with your values
Have a deep and personal soul-searching session with yourself. Determine exactly what your values are, and how those may impact the environment or contribute to climate change.
Once you know where you stand, make the effort to align your choices with those beliefs.
3. Avoid guilt and blame
Once you understand your choices and their impact, avoid feeling guilty about decisions you make. It doesn’t help anyone and certainly won’t improve the climate situation.
If you decide to fly for business or pleasure, don’t let the emissions ruin your trip. Purchase a carbon offset to allay your fears and misgivings if you must. It will help fund carbon dioxide reduction projects to improve the environment.
Finger pointing and blame aren’t very useful tools, either. Individuals, businesses, and governments will make choices that align with their principles and values, and that they feel offer the best benefit. If their values do not align with yours, you cannot force them to change.
Inspiring change by setting a positive example is a better option. Provide information and educate those around you about how little changes can have a big impact, new technologies that may help improve environmental outcomes, or whatever it is that you are passionate about.
4. Make small lifestyle changes
Speaking of small changes, here is where you can shine. Changing your own behavior can help you regain a feeling of control over the environmental crisis. So, start carrying a refillable water bottle, avoid Styrofoam, and remember your totes whenever you head to the store.
These little changes will empower you and just may give you the confidence to tackle larger projects, like that community garden you’ve been thinking about.
5. Seek support among friends
There is strength in numbers. Share your feelings with others who are also concerned about the environment. Maybe you can get together regularly to write letters, start petitions, or work on greening up a local park.
According to BetterHelp, an e-counseling platform that offers access to licensed, trained, experienced, and accredited psychologists, therapy can help people cope with and mental health issues and traumatic experiences. Online support can therefore be found if you have no one close at hand to connect with. To learn more about Betterhelp, visit their website and if you’re a licensed counselor — they’re hiring.
Keep in mind that, while it is important to find a solid support system, you also want to keep an open mind and consider the views of others. Closing yourself off from different viewpoints and lifestyles only makes the problems worse, and often leads to blame instead of tangible action.
6. Share your successes
Social media is ubiquitous in our lives. Instead of letting it control your thinking or breed fear, use it to share your successes and ideas for improvement. As others see your positive results and healthy approach to tackling eco-anxiety, they may be inspired to take action themselves.
Don’t let fear and worry about climate change take over your life. Instead, use your eco-anxiety as a tool to effect change on a local, national, or even global level by taking small steps that allow you to take back control of your feelings and your destiny.