On Earth Day, we remember to re-focus on our planet. And with that can come a lot of stress and anxiety. Yes, we can join in on initiatives to reduce our carbon footprints, support green legislation, or clean up our parks and streets, but each time we see a new report on the climate crisis, our stress levels spike. The toll of these stories on our mental health is massive, which is why we need to remember to stay on top of managing eco-anxiety.
The majority of Americans (70%) suffer from “Eco-Anxiety,” 51% are left feeling “helpless,” and that toll is even more significant on kids. Plus, climate change can lead to devastating effects on communities hit by natural disasters or pollution–which disproportionately victimize communities of color, spurring on the additional issues of Environmental Justice and Environmental Racism.
Each person responds differently (and is affected differently) by these issues, so we put together a list of recommendations for managing eco-anxiety to help you take care of yourself and your loved ones, while also taking care of our planet. These recommendations are informed by the APA’s Mental Health and Our Changing Climate report.
Psychological resilience is the ability to adapt “in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant sources of stress.” In other words, you will face stress, but you can build that muscle that helps you respond to stressors.
Practicing mindfulness is a proven method for building resilience. It helps you work out that resilience muscle as you take a deep breath and return to the present. It can also help you think about the areas where you can express gratitude. Remembering what you appreciate about the Earth can help you move forward in tackling climate change in your personal life with renewed resolve.
Got a Journey LIVE membership? Check out our series on Resilience in Tough Times here.
Climate change causes many of us to get stuck in a feeling of helplessness. The problem feels so big and we wonder what we can really do that will have an impact. But looking for the positive signs can give us energy to continue the fight!
In this list by the WWF, we learn that the solutions we need for a carbon-zero future already exist and that many global politicians and businesses are committed to making positive change. There is a lot of work still to do, but doing your part and using your voice can have an impact.
Cultivate Coping Skills
Everyone has their own ways of coping. But ultimately what this tip comes down to is self care. What are the things in your life that help you rest and restore when you feel burnt out by bad news? This Earth Day, try some self care that can help you find gratitude for our planet.
- Take a hike in nature, or just a walk around the neighborhood. Pause to touch a tree or smell a blooming flower.
- Soak in the bath. Close your eyes and appreciate your access to clean, warm water.
- Enjoy a great meal. Slow down and savor the flavors that all, in one way or another, come from the Earth.
- Tend to your indoor garden. Revel in the wonder of your growing plant children!
We recently launched this series on Positive Psychology, which can help you reflect on what helps you flourish.
Maintain A Sense of Meaning
When seeking a sense of meaning, many of us like to feel like we are taking action toward a larger purpose or goal. What better motivator than the long-term health of our planet? Here’s a refresher on simple steps that you can take in your everyday life to reduce your carbon footprint–and get one step closer to managing eco-anxiety.
- Drive less! Get a bike, take a walk, or consider mass transit. If you need to drive, make sure your tires are healthy and try to avoid weighing your car down with unnecessary weight.
- Go meatless! Even trying this for one day a week can have an impact. Oh, and while you’re evaluating your grocery habits, work to waste less food in general.
- Practice efficient appliance usage! Lower the heat, raise the temperature on the air conditioner, and–as mom always said–don’t stand in front of the fridge with the door open!
- Recycle properly! And think outside of the box with your reuse and reduce habits. Yes, avoid plastic bags, but also buy used clothes when possible.
- Take action! Join a climate protest and write to your representatives.
For more thorough recommendations, visit this resource by the NY Times.
Trust us: you’ll feel way less anxious if you can garner a sense that you’re not alone in managing eco-anxiety. That said, at a time when we are more isolated than ever, doing this can be tough. Figure out ways to stay connected with loved ones and friends who you can go to when the anxiety feels too big to manage. A regular Zoom check in or socially distant outdoor hang out is a great start.
You can also find communities online. Join that digital happy hour with coworkers, turn your camera on and interact with your fitness instructor and fellow classmates, or you can always connect with expert teachers on Journey LIVE.