What is ‘Eco-anxiety’? How can we manage it? by Prakriti Bhardwaj

(Picture by Medness)

Climate change continues to make its presence felt. But this year, it got a little (actually, a lot) too close for comfort.

In the initial months of the year, Australia was going through its harshest bushfire season ever. I woke up to apocalyptic scenes of heavy smoke clouds and smogged streets as bushfires ravaged in suburbs about ten miles away. It got harder to breathe every time you stepped out of the house.

On my return to India, the threats still lurked. India saw a deadly cyclone, another cyclone warning, extreme rainfall events, a locust attack and a heatwave, all in a matter of a few months.

Some of you might dismiss this information as just another weather update. But those who associate such news with a sense of doom and despair, I see you.

‘Eco – anxiety’ is coming up in more and more young adults and children. But so are the ways of dealing with it.

First off, it is very important to know that eco – anxiety is not a pathological or a clinical condition. It is a very healthy and logical response to environmental changes happening around you.

Keeping that in mind, we can take steps towards easing this psychological strain while still being rightly concerned for our mother earth.

  • Communicate

You can start by voicing your worries or fears out loud. Talk to a friend who shares a passion for the environment. Join a support group where such discussions are encouraged. If you cannot find one, don’t be shy to start your own support group. In times where you get too overwhelmed, there is always therapy. The silver lining here is that we are all  in this together.

  • Educate 

We are empowered when we are informed. Instead of relying on sensationalist headlines, find reliable and original sources of information. This can help you get a better understanding of the science behind the issue as well as of the immediate and long term risks it poses. 

Educating yourself also helps one to get rid of irrational fears. It’s easy to get bogged down by scientific language in technical reports. On stumbling upon new and technical information, use internet tools to simplify it. 

Also, make sure to limit your intake of information. We do not need to know everything that is going wrong in the world. Instead, expose yourself to snippets of some cheerful reading. I follow a handful of pages on instagram who only post good news about the environment. There are a number of websites who do the same. This may help you stay positive and look on the brighter side of things. 

  • Act

We all agree that the need of the hour is environmentally conscientious leaders who implement carbon-neutral policies. Having said that, the pandemic has shown the real strength lies in community action, and communities are made up of individuals like us. 

In addition to green-living tips, go a little further. Switch to banks which do not invest in fossil fuel companies. Exercise your right to vote sensibly. Invest in sustainable housing amenities. Explore more avenues to get your voice heard. Donate. Volunteer. 

  • Adapt

Climate change makes us feel vulnerable, frustrated and helpless. We get scared of the unknown. These emotions, while being very real, do more harm than good. Excessive stress and anxiety can cloud your brain and limit your decision-making capabilities. 

It is best to acknowledge such emotions, process them and not let them stay with you. One of the best ways to find your ground amidst mental chaos is through meditation. Breathing exercises and mindfulness help you to take the reigns of your thoughts and direct them better.

We need to keep in mind that we are equipped with the right tools in our fight against climate change. As more leaders embrace clean energy and simultaneously put a price on carbon, we are finding ourselves mapping our way through slowly and steadily. Each one of us needs to expedite this process through our choices. Because remember, one person making a sustainability-oriented decision compels four others to do the same.

Born and raised in Delhi, Prakriti is a budding environmental economist, interested in issues like climate finance, carbon markets and environmental governance.

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