Have you ever felt overwhelmed by thoughts of permanent changes to weather and temperature and the effects of climate change and global warming? These feelings are perfectly reasonable and researchers have coined a term for it – Eco anxiety. According to the American Psychiatric Association, eco-anxiety is “a chronic fear of environmental doom”. For some people, the impending environmental crisis is frustrating and scary and a source of constant or debilitating anxiety.
Eco-anxiety can show up in many ways. An increased sense of hopelessness about the planet’s future is just one. Other symptoms of eco-anxiety include sadness and grief over lost species and surroundings, obsessive thoughts about the climate and its changes and existential dread. People in these situations tend to get obsessed with their carbon footprint and feel stressed and shameful about their environmental impact. A feeling of anguish washes over them and they often feel angry and frustrated at previous generations for their negligence towards the environment.
Considering the large amounts of news we come across about the declining health of our planet, these feelings are valid and normal. However, these feelings need to be dealt with appropriately. The fear and frustration can often seep into our relationships with others, especially if we hold contradicting views on climate change. We also try to distract ourselves from these thoughts, often not in very healthy ways. This makes it all the more important to recognize and acknowledge these feelings and work through them productively.
Climate change is scary and unpredictable. The actions of one person cannot solve it and this increases our feelings of helplessness. We tend to question our efforts towards fighting climate change and our actions seem like a small drop in a huge ocean. This sense of powerlessness plays a significant role in eco-anxiety. However, this does not mean that there aren’t steps that we can take to help the climate and our feelings of anxiety. Understanding that it’s the little things that count is an important part of dealing with the feelings of eco-anxiety. Reading up on eco-friendly alternatives to daily use products and making small and controlled changes is a good start. Calculating your carbon footprint and finding ways to reduce it, like using more sustainable modes of transport, can also help. Volunteering for organisations working towards the environmental crises will not only ease the feeling of helplessness but also help you meet like-minded people who can relate to and understand your feelings.
Quite understandably, eco-anxiety may seem like an insignificant problem when compared to the serious issues people face in their day-to-day life. However, it is still essential to take notice of these feelings and deal with them instead of blocking them out. Because as Eckart Tolle said, “Awareness is the greatest agent for change”.
There are several organisations working for the betterment of the environment in India. These are some organisations that you can volunteer at, donate to or sign petitions for:
- Greenpeace India
- The Wildlife Protection Society of India
Talking to someone about your feeling of anxiousness can also help and there are many websites, like Therapize India and Better Help, that provide one-one online counselling sessions.