A generation of people have grown up feeling anxiety over the state of the world. This is referred to as eco-anxiety or climate anxiety. The onslaught of shocking statistics and news articles about climate change over the last decade has increased awareness among people. And this is a good thing, right? We should be educated. But should we be panicking?
Climate activist, Greta Thunberg thinks so, “Adults keep saying, we owe it to the young people to give them hope. But I don’t want your hope, I don’t want you to be hopeful, I want you to panic.” Eco-anxiety isn’t necessarily bad in young people and children. It alerts them to the problems and causes them to care for the planet around them- a healthy trait in a child.
However, it is not all good news. Among child and adolescent psychiatrists in England, 57.3% (47 of the 82 who replied) stated that they had seen patients that were struggling with distressing thoughts about the environment and our planet. This majority result is a worrying statistic and suggests that climate change is a growing threat to mental health as well as our planet. Signs of eco-anxiety are similar to any other anxiety disorder— a low mood, helplessness, anger, insomnia, panic and guilt.
These anxious feelings are not specific to children, adults are affected too. It can cause doubts in young couples, as to whether to bring a child into the world. They are unsure of the state of the world in which they are bringing life and may decide not to have children.
But what can be done to ease our minds and the minds of our children?
Focus on actions that can be put in place on an individual basis
Don’t focus on the big ‘doomsday’ picture
Discuss solutions- not problems
Understand that there is only a certain amount you can do as one individual
Build a community group e.g. litter picking group
Take a break away from it all and disconnect from the noise
It is important for everyone to be aware and educated about climate change and make changes (no matter how small) to help curb the ‘climate crisis’. However, we must remind ourselves and others that there is only so much we as individuals can do and to take a break away from the noise whenever is needed.
Head to the NHS for advice on treatments for Anxiety disorders.
Also, check out a wonderful podcast called Me & My Eco Anxiety on BBC sounds.
Mindfulness and meditation can be extremely helpful, head to Soundcloud to listen to a mediation centred specifically around eco-anxiety.