In a world facing environmental challenges unprecedented in human history, it’s no surprise that eco-anxiety – a pervasive worry about the current and future state of our planet – has become an increasingly prevalent mental health issue.
As people witness the devastating impacts of climate change, deforestation and loss of biodiversity, it’s only natural to feel overwhelmed and disheartened. I happen to live in Phoenix, Arizona, a “heat apocalypse” city with dwindling water supplies, so I have some skin in the game.
But amid doom-and-gloom predictions, there is hope. As a therapist and clinical social work professor, I have seen firsthand how paralyzing eco-anxiety can be, and I’m dedicated to finding solutions. Here are a few evidence-based tips to tackle your climate woes.
Eco-anxiety is a broad term that encompasses dread about environmental issues like pollution and disposal of toxic waste, as well as climate-specific fears, such as increasing rates of extreme weather events and sea-level rise.
Common symptoms of eco-anxiety include worry about future generations, trouble sleeping or concentrating, feelings of frustration and a sense of helplessness. These feelings can range from mild and fleeting concerns to deep despair, panic attacks and obsessive-compulsive behaviors.
Sound like you or someone you know? There are a number of tools that can help people cope with these feelings, summed up with the acronym UPSTREAM.
Be kind to yourself and know that you are not alone in these feelings.
Caring about the world you live in does not make you a “crazy” alarmist. In fact, growing numbers of people across the globe feel the same way, with two-thirds of Americans reporting being at least somewhat worried about climate change in recent polls.
It makes sense that people would feel nervous when basic needs like safety and shelter are threatened. Give yourself grace, because beating yourself up for these very valid feelings will only make you feel worse.
It can be hard to feel empowered when environmental harms are taking a toll on your mental health, but the escalating global crisis still demands urgent attention. Instead of burying your head in the sand, use that mental discomfort as a catalyst for action.