By: Stephanie Camins, LPC
It’s hard not to feel overwhelmed and full of fear when faced with the increasingly frequent news about climate change and the crises that seem to be ever looming. From pandemics to fires, to water shortages to super weather events, the dire state of the environment is constantly in front of us.
Uncertainty about the future of the planet has created a whole new level of anxiety. The American Psychology Association (APA) describes eco-anxiety as “the chronic fear of environmental cataclysm that comes from observing the seemingly irrevocable impact of climate change and the associated concern for one’s future and that of next generations”.
Uncertainty is a normal part of our everyday lives. Life has and always will be unpredictable. The capacity to tolerate uncertainty is an important determinant of a person’s ability to impact change in the face of challenge. To be a change-maker, channel anxieties into activities that are helpful.
Steps to balance anxiety and take action:
- Harness hope – “Proceed as if it’s possible to make a difference.” Hope is allowed. Hope inspires creative solutions. Beware of hope killers such as ruminating on the negative, doom-scrolling, and anger.
- Accept your feelings – Denying or ignoring them is exhausting and ineffective.
- Get outside – Nature is the best medicine. It’s everywhere, enjoy it, soak it in, appreciate it.
- Be grateful – Notice all you have that is always at your fingertips from the air you breathe to the flowers you smell.
- Be social – Share ideas, share feelings and you will realize that you are not alone.
- Ask for help – you don’t have to face anxiety and fear alone.
- Be accepting – of the good and the bad, of your strengths and your weaknesses, of that which you can control and that which you can’t.
- Learn to be still – Practice mindfulness to stay in the present moment
- Get grounded – When you start to feel overwhelmed or get sucked into the negative, get yourself back to the present moment by focusing on your 5 senses.
- Stay present – “Don’t get lost in the future, here is where we can get stuff done”
- Increase your self-awareness – Know your strengths and weaknesses, understand your moods and thoughts, and have a flexible attitude with yourself and others.
- Be your own best friend – Ask yourself, “would I say that to my best friend?”
- Take good news seriously – And seek it out. “It can be easy to focus entirely on the things that are going wrong and to forget about the stuff that’s going right. But the good news is important because it demonstrates that there is a point in trying and that it’s possible to get good ideas off the ground.”
- Take breaks – It’s ok to practice “functional denial” from time to time. File away the negative, overwhelming information and deal with it in chunks rather than constantly letting it weigh on you.
- Be open-minded – Who knows what lies ahead.
Reference: A Guide to Eco-Anxiety: How to Protect the Planet and Your Mental Health, Anouchka Grose