No matter how much we worry, it won’t change a thing.
It’s late and almost time for bed but before going to sleep you decide to take one more look at your phone to see if you might have missed any big news during the day. You read:
And your heart drops. A sudden wave of fear enters your body and panic takes over. If you ever had that terrible feeling, you might have experienced eco-anxiety, which is the chronic existential fear of environmental catastrophe.
Take comfort in the fact that you’re not alone. Millions of people all around the world are feeling the same way you do. The American Psychological Association has even addressed this newfound stress on a persons’ body and mental health. In 2021, 10,000 people across 10 countries, aged 16-25, were surveyed by Avaaz surrounding their feelings about climate change and concluded that more than 50% felt very worried and almost 75% of them thought that the future was frightening.
But seriously, how can you not be alarmed after reading those headlines?
The best thing you can do is acknowledge your feelings because it’s a normal part of the human experience. It’s healthy to be angry or upset because our current reality deserves that emotional response. The Earth will never be the same and will not go back to “normal”. Climate change will not come to a halt and the thought of that is really uncomfortable. But, we need to accept what has happened so far and the reality of it all, and we need to do so in an honest way that prioritizes mental health first.
Staying informed about what is going on in the world is great but make sure that you also take time to disconnect from the news and social media. Be intentional with your news sources because news outlets love to fearmonger to make you want to continue reading. Try to find more positive environmental news headlines that offer solutions and ways to help. It might even motivate you to join your local government, incorporate a plant-based diet, or even pick up someone else’s trash in the parking lot.
There is a lot of focus on the Earth, especially during April. However, we must not forget that our mental health is just as important. Although we can all make changes as individuals to better the environment, we should not put the sole responsibility or blame for climate change on our shoulders. The key is to think globally and act locally by focusing on what we can do rather than what we cannot. We need realistic solutions that can mitigate the effects of climate change. This means we need to do what we can, as individuals, and work together to drive businesses, corporations, and government entities to adopt sustainable practices. These are the actions we can take to move us in the right direction. Things will not change overnight and that’s okay, but we must have compassion for ourselves.