Ecoanxiety: Accumulation, Navigation, Confrontation, and Liberation
Ecoanxiety, like many terms in the time of large-scale climate change awareness and social action, is a rather new term that has been widely penned by activists, scientists, authors, and everyday people alike. If you are unaware of what this term means, it can be simply defined as: a chronic fear of ecological and environmental disaster, but it is not a clinically recognized disorder, it is rather more of a common experience.
As Dr. Susie Burke, a senior psychologist from the Australian Psychology Society, emphasizes in the ABC article “News about climate change can be distressing. Here's how to cope with ‘ecoanxiety,’” “there's plenty of research which has looked into climate change being a trigger for mental health issues like anxiety and depression [before].” So, although it isn’t categorized as an official mental illness, ecoanxiety is recognized as the occurrence of anxiety, or mental distress of any sort that is triggered by climate and environmental concerns.
If you, like many others, have been experiencing ecoanxiety, you may be wondering what is the best course of action moving forward; not only for the planet, but also for you. So, in addition to actions you can take to help the planet, here are also some coping mechanisms provided by ABC and the Country Living website.
- Find a community, and share your concerns.
As Dr. Burke expressed in the ABC article, “One of the more dangerous things you can do is push the feelings away and ignore the problem and then not do anything about it.” The worst thing that you can do, especially in a time of crisis, is neglect what is happening; this is true of worldwide issues, as well as personal experiences such as ecoanxiety. By expressing your feelings and experiences regarding it, you can find a supportive community, and get inspired to take further action, and alleviate your own anxieties in doing so.
- Talk to others around you.
Similar to the previous point, when you begin talking to others about your concerns, you’ll soon find others who share your thoughts and understand how you're feeling, and from there you can start to help save the planet, as Muna Suleiman, campaigner at Friends of the Earth, shared with Country Living.
- Take individual action.
This can come in many forms, including joining climate crisis clubs, groups, and political organizations. Reducing your own carbon footprint. Raising awareness through fashion statements (buying sustainability, wearing your voice, expression through fashion, etc.). Starting your own garden. The possibilities are endless.
When all is said and done, each and every person’s experience with ecoanxiety is different and relevant in all their own ways, and should be acknowledged as such. My hope is that as we navigate this crisis, we also take the time to care for ourselves and out mental health.