Although solving environmental issues relies on societal change, governmental input, and corporations taking responsibility for their contributions to climate change, people can usually manage their own responses to environmental issues using a range of strategies.
Some tips for handling eco-anxiety include:
People may find that taking positive action can help reduce feelings of anxiety and powerlessness. Helping others has well-established psychological benefits.
Some positive actions may include:
- talking to others about good environmental practices
- volunteering with an environmental group
- making greener choices, including recycling and following a sustainable diet, such as eating less meat and dairy
Mental health professionals can help people identify the problems that concern them the most and develop a plan that allows them to feel more in control of the issues.
Getting accurate information about the environment can empower communities and help them feel prepared and resilient if a crisis occurs.
Relying on inaccurate information or having a lack of information can make it hard to understand and process abstract problems such as climate change.
People may therefore find relief in educating themselves on environmental issues using trustworthy, credible information.
Focusing on resiliency
People who feel positively about their ability to overcome stress and trauma may handle anxiety better than people with less confidence in their resiliency skills.
For example, someone’s belief in their own resiliency may reduce their risk of depression and PTSD following natural disasters.
To boost self-resiliency, the APA recommend:
- fostering caring, trusting relationships that provide support and encouragement
- not viewing problems as unsolvable
- making achievable goals and moving steadily toward them
- looking at problems in a wider context
- practicing good self-care and focusing on a positive self-image
- keeping personal connections with places and cultural ties when possible
- avoiding isolation and trying to connect with like-minded people
Trying to stay optimistic
Having a healthy degree of optimism may help a person grow and adjust after experiencing stressful events such as natural disasters. People who try to reframe things in a positive way may find that this helps them handle anxiety better.
Positive thinking may also help break negative thinking cycles associated with chronic or severe anxiety.
Fostering a stronger connection with nature
Spending more time outdoors or with nature may help alleviate eco-anxiety by encouraging a positive personal connection with the environment.
Some people even recommend keeping a rock, twig, dried flower, or other natural object that they can look at and touch when feeling disconnected or overwhelmed. This may work in a similar way to grounding techniques that some mental health professionals recommend for managing anxiety.
Regular exercise can help reduce most types of anxiety.
Walking, running, or cycling instead of using fossil fuel-based sources of transit, when realistic and safe, encourages frequent exercise and reduces individual greenhouse gas emissions.
People who regularly cycle or walk to work also seem to experience lower levels of commuting stress.
Knowing when to disengage
Without realizing it, people can be very influenced by the information they see each day in the media, politics, advertising, and on social media platforms. Seeing this information over and over again can cause stress, especially if it is inaccurate, biased, or presented in a certain way.
Although people can benefit from educating themselves about environmental issues, being exposed to an overwhelming amount of information or lots of untrustworthy information can create anxiety.
Reevaluating sources of environmental information or cutting back or unplugging from media sources, at least temporarily, may help reduce immediate stress levels.
Seeing a doctor
A growing number of mental health professionals are receiving training in how to help people manage their relationship with nature and cope with modern-day environmental problems.
People with severe eco-anxiety, or anxiety that does not respond to at-home management tips, may need professional help handling their anxiety.
To get professional help for eco-anxiety, a person can talk with a family doctor or other healthcare worker who can provide guidance on how to connect with an appropriate mental health professional.
The Climate Psychology Alliance offer individual and group support to people experiencing eco-anxiety, plus education for therapists and counselors, including three free face-to-face sessions via phone or Skype.
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