Meeting eco-anxiety with positive action

| 23rd March 2020
Anxiety at the state of the natural world are rational. Small changes can help us to regain a sense of positivity and control.

We can’t be perfect but we can try our best, and we can cheerlead others for doing the same.

Anxiety around the state of the living planet is not new; some have been experiencing it for decades. However, it’s only in recent years that we have created a term for it – ‘eco-anxiety’.

Eco-anxiety currently doesn’t have a diagnosis – although some people are campaigning to change this – but it is clearly a useful term to describe chronic fears relating to environmental collapse.

It’s not only adults who are navigating these waters. Recent studies have shown that as many as 20 percent of children are suffering from some form of eco-anxiety, reporting loss of sleep and bad dreams.

Rational

Perhaps children are mirroring the fears and anxieties of adults around them. Or perhaps they are feeling frustration as the world seems to largely carry on as normal, despite the warning signs.

Either way, it’s clear that a whole generation is growing up feeling that their situation is more precarious than that of any in previous years.

The sticking point is that, given the evidence, feelings of anxiety around the state of the planet are completely justified and rational. So what can we do?

Step away from your screen

It’s all too easy to get trapped on the internet, reading more and more distressing news pieces, or scrolling on social media.

While it’s good to be informed, we’re not helping anyone by reading every doom-laden article we can find.

Try limiting your screen-time each day and remember that putting your phone down and getting some fresh air can really help to calm your mind.

Spending time in green spaces - while respecting the government guidelines on safe distancing during the coronavirus crisis - is very good for us and can help us to find a connection with nature that can be so beneficial.

Take positive action

In times of anxiety, one of the best pieces of advice is to focus on what we can change – the small, everyday decisions that can help us to regain a sense of positivity and control.

Perhaps you’ve been thinking about making your diet more planet friendly.

Plant-based diets create 50 percent less greenhouse gas emissions than standard non-vegan diets – so that means that you have the opportunity to make a difference three times a day, while exploring some tasty new recipes.

Couple this with eating locally and seasonally – even growing some of your own fruit and veg – and you’re on to a winner, both in terms of the natural world and looking after your own mental well-being.

Getting children interested in food and growing fruit and veg can be a great way to engage them in environmental issues in a positive way, without giving them too much information, which they could find overwhelming.

Know your limits

We need to recognise that we can’t do everything. We can’t be perfect but we can try our best, and we can cheerlead others for doing the same.

Celebrating every small step forwards is key. If you’re eating with a friend and they follow your lead and try a vegan burger, that’s cause for celebration even if they aren’t changing their whole lifestyle right away.

Supporting small victories will help them to feel positively about their actions and will help you to feel better too. Don’t let perfect get in the way of good.

Find support

In uncertain times, we need each other more than ever. If the people in your life don’t share your concerns or aren’t able to provide the support you need, remember that you can find this community elsewhere, whether that be online or face to face.

Perhaps you’d benefit from joining a group focused on making positive changes in your local community, such as a beach-clean team.

Or maybe instead you’re looking for some environmentally minded friends to chat to over a cup of tea once the coronavirus crisis is over. In the mean time, using Zoom or simply making regular calls with friends and family can be hugely beneficial. 

Professional

Or perhaps you’d like some tips on making your life a bit greener – whether that’s plant-based recipe suggestions or ways to avoid buying plastic.

There are plenty of options out there, whatever your preference. Try local groups on Facebook or Meetup for a start.

Please remember that you are not alone. We’re all in this together, and we can all support each other.

As well as the advice above, there are local and national groups and services you can reach out to if you’re struggling to cope, as well as seeking professional help if you are experiencing severe eco-anxiety.

This author

Elena Orde is communications and campaigns officer at The Vegan Society and editor of The Vegan magazine.

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