Are You Suffering From Eco-Anxiety?

Jemma Finch, co-founder of Stories Behind Things, shares solution-led insights to help flip eco anxiety on its head, so we can all get on with saving the planet.

Have you ever watched someone throw away a plastic bottle and visualised the fact that it will be in landfill forever? Or wondered if we could see the pollution in our cities, what that would look like? Or even contemplated not having children because you don’t know what the planet is going to be like in 50 years? 

From our hourly dose of social media, to the daily global news headlines, we are constantly being reminded that we are edging closer and closer towards the deadly tipping point – the point at which the earth has gotten so warm that we lose control of being able to reverse damage. It’s understandable that being bombarded with this overpowering news, with no ‘easy guide’ solution, is likely to make many individuals overwhelmed by the magnitude of the issue. Say hello to the new term taking the social landscape by storm: ‘eco anxiety’ – the anxiety associated with fear of harming the environment. Do you have it?

Although it doesn’t have an official definition, Psychology Today refers to this as “a fairly recent psychological disorder affecting an increasing number of individuals who worry about the environmental crisis.”  Eco-anxiety is not a recognised mental illness, but is becoming a common language to define the understanding regarding the issues we face from things like global warming, the health of our oceans, extinction of animals and other threats to the future of our planet.

As we all know as wonderful as life is, sometimes it’s hard enough keeping your own life on track let alone single handedly attempting to do your bit to save the planet’s future. I’m here to offer you some peaceful insights into how you can turn this anxiety you may be feeling into a positive desire of inspired action. Because let’s be honest – we all need to take action collectively to implement global change – and fast. 

Engage with solutions not statistics. We all need to know the facts we read on the headlines. However, I personally don’t believe these daunting numbers will influence the average individual to make positive incremental changes in their everyday life to create a better world. Engaging with online communities and friends that want to make positive change can be a great place to begin. For example, organising a beach or park clean up on the weekend or attending a clothes switch. By starting to arrange sustainable trips with your friends, it’s likely you’ll feel inspired to take on more.

  1. Understand that it’s not all or nothing. You don’t have to take on the whole issue of solving climate change on behalf of everyone on the planet, even though it may seem like it. Remember you are one person and you can make positive change with the way you live your life, just in your lifetime, through small adjustments in your daily life.  Choose an issue that matters most to you, whether its female empowerment, plastic pollution, animal welfare, worker’s rights, etc. and focus your efforts on making choices that impact that area. 
  2. Re-frame your influence. Whether you engage with Instagram or not, use your voice/channel/following to challenge and educate friends on what’s currently going on in our climate landscape. Influence doesn’t have to take place just online, try having conversations about issues that are important to you within climate change and sustainability, not only will you learn something but you will be spreading your awareness. 
  3. Practice blind optimism. No matter what bad news is being reported in the media, always believe that there is a way to fix it. Try to visualise a healthier planet, and always go back to that image when you’re feeling overwhelmed. 
  4. Know that everything is interconnected. For me, the importance lies in re connecting to the material things we have around us and developing an understanding on where and how things are made. This act in itself allows us to understand the importance of how everything is interconnected. Once we have a grasp on the world’s interconnectedness – and only then – can we understand how individual meaningful change can create a whole force for good.