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Eco anxiety - what is it and how can we manage it?

Younity blog | Oct 2022

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Climate Crisis and people's concerns

With talks of a climate crisis all around us, it’s no surprise that it is having a detrimental effect on the mental health of people across the world, especially children, young people and those being directly affected.

A 2019 survey by environmental charity Global Action Plan revealed one in three teachers is seeing high levels of climate anxiety in students, with just over three quarters (77%) of students say that thinking about climate change makes them anxious. The 2022 summer of heatwaves can only exacerbate these anxieties.

What is eco-anxiety?

Eco-anxiety is a term to describe the feelings that arise when we learn about or experience the impacts of the climate crisis including habitat destruction, pollution, and biodiversity loss. Eco-anxiety refers to a fear of environmental damage or ecological disaster. Feelings include fear, sadness, anger, panic, and anxiety.

What causes eco-anxiety?

Eco-anxiety can stem from you and your loved ones being at risk or experiencing environmental issues such as extreme weather. Anxiety and stress arise due to the lack of control or feeling helpless in solving or dealing with environmental problems.

Climate emergencies, extreme weather and environmental destruction shown in the media can often heighten emotions and often be overwhelming to many people.

How do I know if I have eco-anxiety?

Feelings of sadness, anger, frustration, or helplessness are normal when thinking or talking about a topic such as the environment. If you feel like your worries about the environment are affecting your everyday life, your ability to work or look after yourself then talking to a medical professional may help ease these feelings.

Eco-anxiety is not currently a medical diagnosis. However, mental health professionals agree that it can have a detrimental effect on people’s lives and overall mental health.

How to control or ease feelings of eco-anxiety?

Even though you may feel helpless or out of control when thinking about the environment, there are things that you can do to help ease your worry or anxiety about the environment.

Take action- Doing things to help the environment have been found to positively help reduce feelings of anxiety and helplessness. Some things you can do are:

  • Research, learn and share your knowledge with others about how to help the environment and be greener.
  • Make greener choices yourself, including buying local produce, recycling, choosing greener energy solutions etc.
  • Join a community of like-minded people.
  • Write to your local MP who can put pressure on those in power to make changes, or write to businesses you think aren’t pulling their weight when it comes to their eco responsibilities.
  • Volunteering with environmental groups or getting involved in things such as *community renewable energy projects, beach clean-up or litter picking.

Educate yourself - Researching and educating yourself using credible sources can often help relieve some anxiety. With news outlets and the media often sharing negative news surrounding the environment, it can seem like it is all doom and gloom. Keeping up-to-date on positive things surrounding the environment like renewable energy success stories and other positive initiatives can often help relieve anxiety.

Learn to switch off - With unlimited access to social media and the internet, it is easier than ever to be constantly exposed and see negative news reports. Knowing when to switch off is crucial. Unfollow any accounts or news outlets that make you feel anxious and limit the amount of news you see. Get out in the fresh air and switch your phone off, it’s the best medicine.

Look after your general health - Being active and engaging in regular exercise can often help reduce most types of anxiety. If possible, choosing to walk or bike to your destination can not only help you increase your daily exercise but can also help you reduce your carbon footprint, reducing your levels of eco anxiety in more ways than one.

See a professional - If you think you have severe eco-anxiety or nothing else helps ease your anxiety; make sure to get in contact with a medical professional that can help you handle your anxiety. To get help, you can visit your GP who will put you in contact with the appropriate professional. You never have to deal with the mental health impact alone.

What is community energy and how does it help the environment?

Community energy is energy that is created by and runs for the benefit of local level communities. It creates energy that is sustainable and better for the planet, as it comes from renewable energy sources, while also providing money to invest back into the community.

If you’d like to find out more about community energy read our blog on everything you need to know about community energy or our blog on the history of community energy to find out where it all started. Or if you would like to find out about the work we do at Younity, then please get in touch.