Eco-anxiety, or ‘a chronic fear of environmental doom’ is an affliction that is affecting an increasing number of people across the world, with extensive studies proving that climate change is not only impacting our planet, but also our mental health.
So, we decided to look into our data to see if it supports the external research, and unsurprisingly, it does. We discovered that demand for eco-anxiety counselling has increased by 48% in the last year, with 29% of requests being made on behalf of children.
In response to these startling findings, we’ve worked with some of our counsellors to produce a guide on how to manage eco-anxiety.
Find a Support System
You’re never alone. There are thousands of people that feel just like you do. Speak to friends and family members who empathise with your anxious feelings, or join a community online to speak to other like-minded people.
Being involved in a community is proven to help fight the feeling of isolation and loneliness, especially if people in your current circles can’t relate to how you’re feeling.
A problem shared is a problem halved and joining the right community will at least empower you to share how you’re feeling.
Make a Change
If sharing how you feel isn’t enough, then perhaps it’s time to take action.
You can partake in some form of activism, and feel comforted in the thought that you are making a difference, be it big or small.
Popular options include reducing the amount of mass produced food you eat, and instead buying more local seasonal produce, and switching from fast to sustainable fashion. Doing things like buying reusable water bottles and coffee cups are easy wins to start making a difference. Switching to glass, aluminium or other products that are infinitely recyclable can also help to ease some of the guilt associated with modern life.
If that isn’t enough, or you’re already doing all you can at home, being vocal about your cause or even joining in with organised (peaceful) protests can help you feel like you’re gaining some control back of your emotions.
Anxiety can take its toll on you. Make sure that you are taking time out for yourself in whichever way you feel is most appropriate.
A sense of escapism is often useful when feeling overwhelmed or anxious, so getting lost in a good book or film are effective ways to ‘zone out’ and relax.
Curate the Content You Consume
With a culture of 24/7 news and social media, it’s really easy to get bogged down with all of the information we’re exposed to on a daily basis. Try and switch off the news every once and a while and when it comes to your social media, try to follow positive accounts that align with your values or inspire you.
The symptoms of eco-anxiety can overlap with symptoms of general anxiety disorders and as such can be treated in a similar fashion. If your eco-anxiety is becoming so detrimental that it’s becoming difficult to perform everyday home or work life tasks then asking a professional for help should be your next step. Ecopsychology is a method of therapy where a professional can help you explore your own wellbeing, feel more connected to the planet and your relationship with it.
Try to Protect Green Spaces
There are several community groups all over the UK that allow for like-minded people to come together and maintain green spaces. Well-kept green spaces are a fantastic way to help protect the environment, because they act as flood protection, help to absorb carbon dioxide and provide habitats for wildlife. By volunteering your time to maintain these spaces, you’re having a direct impact on your local environment, and not only that, regular exposure to green spaces can improve general well-being and is even used as a treatment for mild depression.
Don’t Feel Ashamed
Some things just cannot be helped and that is okay. The world needs millions of people doing a little bit than a handful of people living the perfect zero waste life. If you are doing all that you can, and feel as though you cannot do any more, then you have done enough – try not to feel guilty about what you can’t change. Just keep living in line with your values and spread your message where you deem it appropriate.
It can feel overwhelming having a child who is struggling with anxiety, but all of the above tips can be applied to them as well. Many children feel anxiety because they feel out of control, so empowering them to make the changes they are passionate about will go a long way to easing the symptoms of eco-anxiety.
A few simple things that can be incorporated into their everyday life include:
– Getting them involved in the house recycling
– Join a wildlife trust where they can get involved with the conservation of green spaces
– Grow food and herbs in an allotment or your garden
– Teach them to knit or sew so they can make their own clothes/accessories
– Help them be more energy efficient at home, like turning plugs and appliances off when not in use
– Help them up-cycle furniture and encourage them to donate old toys to charity
– Instead of travelling by car, walk, cycle or get public transport with them
It’s important to explain why all of the above actions are helping them make a positive change, if they don’t understand the purpose of an activity, it’s unlikely to have a positive impact on their eco-anxiety. Also be mindful to be sensitive and calm when talking to your child about the environment.
If you or your child needs support; why not reach out to one of our on-site counsellors here.
Kai Feller, co-founder of Bark.com, said,
“While the science around Climate Change cannot be denied, the growing trend of eco-anxiety is something that can and should be managed, particularly when it comes to children. It’s important that those who are suffering from any form of anxiety are taking the time to look after themselves and get the support they require to allow them to live their lives as best as they can during challenging times.
“At Bark.com, we pride ourselves on being able to offer the services people need,when they need them, and our wide network of counsellors and therapists have helped countless Bark.com customers over the years.”