Overcoming Eco-Anxiety: Navigating Climate Concerns and Embracing Positive Change

If your fear and guilt about plastic pollution and climate change are keeping you up at night, you may be suffering from Eco-anxiety. Described as “a chronic fear of environmental doom,” the definition alone is enough to make your chest tight.

flowers, meadow, sunlight

In this comprehensive guide:

  • Coming to terms with climate change anxiety (eco-anxiety)
  • Positive changes that have happened in the last year
  • The benefits of community
  • Tips for coping with climate change anxiety
  • Other ways of coping with anxiety and mental health
  • Nutrients that affect mental health
  • 15 inspiring quotes to help with climate change fear (because who doesn’t love a good motivational quote?)

Always seek the advice of a doctor or mental health expert if you are concerned about your well-being.

forest, path, sunset

Coming to Terms with Eco-anxiety

It might feel like it sometimes, but you’re not alone. The number of people panicking over melting glaciers, plastic in the ocean, and toxic air pollution is increasing. Through heat waves and hurricanes, school strikes and peaceful protests – the lack of government response and action is frustrating.

So feeling like you’re in the minority who are working hard to create a sustainable lifestyle can make you feel small and powerless. It doesn’t help that many people, that are trying their best, are overwhelmed with guilt because they can’t afford plastic-free organic food, or must rely on disposable products for medical reasons. Maybe you’re struggling to give up meat or can’t face using cloth nappies. Whatever it is, it’s okay. You’re only human.

Some positive changes that have happened in the last year:

  • Increased Renewable Energy Adoption: Renewable energy sources such as wind, solar, and hydropower have become increasingly popular and widely adopted around the world. For example, in the United States, renewable energy accounted for 11% of total electricity generation in 2020.
  • Climate Policy Advances: Governments have taken significant steps towards reducing their carbon footprint. For instance, the European Union has set a target to be carbon neutral by 2050 and has introduced the Green Deal to achieve this goal.
  • Corporate Responsibility: Many companies have recognized the need to reduce their environmental impact and have made significant investments in sustainability initiatives. For example, Microsoft has announced that it will be carbon negative by 2030, meaning it will remove more carbon from the atmosphere than it emits.
  • Citizen Engagement: Climate activism has continued to grow, with millions of people around the world taking part in marches, strikes, and other events to raise awareness and push for action on climate change. One notable example is the youth-led movement Fridays for Future, started by Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg.
  • Technological Innovations: New technologies and innovations are helping to tackle climate change. For example, Carbon Clean Solutions, a company based in India, has developed a technology to capture and utilize carbon dioxide from industrial emissions.
  • Investment in Climate Solutions: There has been a significant increase in investment in climate solutions, such as renewable energy and sustainable agriculture. For instance, the Global Environment Facility, a partnership of 183 countries, provides funding for climate and environmental projects around the world.

Tips for Coping with Climate Change Anxiety:

Although I’m not a medical professional, I struggled with feeling scared and hopeless about climate change last year, and I’ve had anxiety my whole life so I thought I would share my tips for overcoming it. I’m going to list my most important point first – what I truly believe will make a difference on a small and (eventually) large scale.

green, field, crops

The Benefits of Community

One of the biggest challenges with sustainable living and our fast-paced society is a feeling of disconnection from each other and from our purchases. Capitalism and consumerism make a huge profit from separating us from the creators of our clothes, our food, our jewelry, and our children’s toys.

These fast food, fast fashion, plastic-producing businesses have too much power, too much waste, and too much money. When I volunteered in rural Africa, the villagers had nothing but they were happy. The community of 5000 people knew each other, looked after their neighbors and all food and business were local.

I say we cut out the rich guys and start connecting again… what do you say?

Tips for supporting your local community:

  • Buy local food (or grow your own).
  • Support small businesses and markets.
  • Swap clothes with your friends instead of buying new.
  • Join a local zero waste or extinction rebellion group (or create one in your area).
  • Get to know your neighbors and chat with local business owners about the environment.
  • Go to town meetings, get involved in your local community issues, and email your MP regularly.
  • Talk to your friends and family about how you feel.
  • Do a weekly or monthly litter pick with your kids and friends – put it on FB and see if anyone else wants to come along.
  • Continue making small lifestyle changes and raise awareness this way (setting a positive example is usually the best way to get more people on board).
  • Join a sustainable living group on Facebook and inspire and support others.
  • Educate yourself on social justice issues as well as environmental ones.
  • Learn how to be anti-racist and raise awareness of how white people are profiting from climate change.
  • Teach your children how important it is to look after the planet in age-appropriate nature-themed activities.
  • Accept people with different beliefs and values. Learn about the privilege attached to sustainable living.

apples, orchard, apple trees

Coping with Climate Change Anxiety:

  • Try to let go of any guilt you are feeling. Nobody is perfect (even if their Instagram appears that way). Focus on what you CAN do instead.
  • Get outside and spend more time in nature. There is research to show that walking in nature three times a week (for 20 mins) benefits your physical and mental health. There is just something so calming about silence, birds singing, feeling the ground under your feet, don’t you think?
  • Does anyone else’s brain switch on when their head hits the pillow (usually for the first time that day)? I find it useful to keep a notepad or journal next to my bed or in my bag for those times when you have an overactive mind. Writing is a great way to release thoughts. You can even go back and deal with them at a more convenient time.
  • Talk to someone about your feelings (a friend, partner, or therapist). It can help you feel supported and less alone. There is no shame in going to a doctor if you need extra support – it’s what they are there for.
  • Make sure you’re getting enough sleep. It seems obvious but it’s so important because sleep deprivation can affect your mood and cause other health problems.
  • Serotonin is made in the brain AND the gut. So eating well and munching on healthy unprocessed foods may improve your state of mind. Don’t starve because everything is covered in plastic (meal planning helps with this).
  • Breathing exercises can be super helpful if you’re feeling overwhelmed or panicking.
  • Studies have shown that mindfulness can help reduce anxiety by helping you focus on the present instead of worrying about the future. Try and find 5-10 minutes twice a day to practice. For more information and some great mindfulness exercises check out this blog.
  • Self-care is so important and many people, especially parents, struggle with this one. Make time for yourself every day – go for a walk, read a book, have lunch with a friend.

heart, leaves, beautiful wallpaper

Nutrients that Affect Mental Health

DID YOU KNOW: Controlled studies have shown that people suffering from clinical anxiety often have low levels of omega-3 fatty acids, and supplementing with omega-3 may reduce symptoms of anxiety.

Are You Getting Enough Fatty Acids?

Omega-3 fatty acids are considered ‘essential’ because the body cannot produce them, so they must be obtained through your diet. The specific fatty acids believed to be most beneficial for individuals with anxiety or depression are EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid).

How Can Omega-3 Fatty Acids Help with Anxiety?

Clinical trials on humans have demonstrated that supplementing with a high dose of omega-3 can alleviate symptoms of anxiety, particularly in those undergoing stressful events.

Food Sources of Omega-3:

The well-known sources of omega-3 are oily fish such as mackerel, salmon, and sardines. However, it’s recommended to consume these fish at least three times a week for optimal benefits.

For individuals following a plant-based diet, options like chia seeds, flaxseeds, and walnuts are often suggested as sources of omega-3. While these foods do contain omega-3 in the form of ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), it’s important to note that they are not rich sources of EPA and DHA.

Balancing Omega-3 and Omega-6:

Maintaining a balanced ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids is crucial. Western diets often contain an excess of omega-6, which also needs to be converted by the body. An imbalance can disrupt bodily functions. If you’re not consuming ample fish, consider reducing the use of oils high in omega-6, especially if you frequently use them for frying.

Personally, I addressed this by replacing olive oil with coconut oil for baking and frying. While I dislike the taste of coconut, I found a cost-effective option that lasts for an extended period due to its concentrated form.

DID YOU KNOW: 46% of plastic in the ocean comes from fishing nets. Since fish consume algae, which is a source of omega-3, opting for a high-quality algae supplement can provide higher-strength DHA and a more sustainable alternative to fish oil. Here are the algae capsules I take, complemented by a diet rich in chia and flax seeds for their numerous health benefits.

Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. If you are on any blood-thinning medication, please consult your doctor before supplementing with omega-3. I hold a BTEC in vitamins/herbal remedies and share information for educational purposes.

15 inspiring quotes to help with climate change fear (because who doesn’t love a good motivational quote?)

“Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying where there seemed to be no hope at all.”

“I alone connot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”

“I survived because the fire inside me burned brighter than the fire around me”

“Don’t ever forget that you’re a citizen of this world and there are things you can do to lift the human spirit.”

“As consumers we have so much power to change the world by just being careful in what we buy.”

“Just because you are struggling doesn’t mean you are failing.”

“Its OKAY to be scared. Being scared means you’re about to do something really, really brave.”

“Our anxiety does not come from thinking about the future, but from wanting to control it.”

“Nothing has ever been achieved by the person who says It can’t be done.”

“Small acts when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world.”

“It’s the little things that citizens do. That’s what will make the difference. My little thing is planting trees.”

“The only way to overcome fear is to have courage. Because you’re not going to get rid of fear. Its not going to go away. But it can overtake you. Or you can overtake it.”

“Incredible change happens in your life when you decide to take control of what you do have power over instead of craving control over what you don’t.”

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

“Fear is not real. The only place that fear can exist is in our thoughts of the future. It is a product of our imagination, causing us to fear things that do not at present and may not ever exist.”

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