What is meant by eco-anxiety?

What is meant by eco-anxiety

The climate crisis is affecting people in a multitude of different ways. In recent years, experts have become concerned with the toll it has taken on the mental health of children and young people. A 2020 survey of child psychiatrists in England revealed that over half (57 percent) are seeing youths and children distressed about the environmental emergency and the state of the planet. 

Other research has also found a correlation between climate change and poor mental health in young people. As young people become increasingly worried about the future of their planet and humanity, eco-anxiety is on the rise. Keep reading to learn more about eco-anxiety and how businesses can address it in their corporate sustainability strategies

What is eco-anxiety?

The American Psychology Association (APA) refers to eco-anxiety as “the chronic fear of environmental cataclysm that comes from observing the seemingly irrevocable impact of climate change and the associated concern for one’s future and that of next generations”. 

With that in mind, eco-anxiety is based on emotions like anger, worry, fear, and stress but also feelings of hopelessness about the future due to the impacts of the climate crisis and powerlessness. Eco-anxiety is not a mental health disorder; it is a sense of constant worry about the Earth’s future. It arises from uncertainty about climate change and a sense that the individual has no control over the impacts and outcomes.

Eco-anxiety symptoms

Eco-anxiety can present a wide array of different symptoms that are very similar to other kinds of anxiety. Some of these include overthinking, sleep issues, appetite changes, panic, physical symptoms, and difficulty concentrating. Physical symptoms can include rapid breathing, headaches, tension, and increased heart rate. 

In saying that, there are also lots of symptoms that are specifically associated with eco-anxiety. For instance, shame or guilt surrounding your ecological footprint, sadness or grief due to the loss of natural environments or wildlife populations, and dread about the future of humanity and the planet.

Eco-anxiety symptoms can also include feelings of hopelessness and powerlessness, anger towards those who do not take climate change seriously, and being overwhelmed by the significance of the climate crisis and its potential consequences. It is based on very real concerns as climate change’s impacts are scientifically proven.

How to cope with eco-anxiety

While eco-anxiety illustrates more and more people are starting to care about the planet, it is also detrimental to the health of those dealing with it. Eco-anxiety can also be a barrier to climate action since some will feel strong emotions like hopelessness and powerlessness. In other words, they may fear their efforts will make no difference or that their voice will never be heard.

Therefore, it is vital that those suffering learn how to deal with eco-anxiety. There are several things people can do to reduce eco-anxiety. For one thing, they can just focus on what is within their control. This will help them create a more proactive and positive mindset and feel a sense of empowerment.

Additionally, they can transform these negative emotions into climate action. This means they will stop dwelling on the sizeable problem that is climate change and get involved in solutions instead. It is also important to remember to not be hard on yourself and to only do what you can. 

Spending time in nature can also help those suffering from eco-anxiety to feel grounded and relaxed. Limiting media intake can also be a positive step if you are struggling with eco-anxiety. Whilst it is important to know what is going on in the world, too much negative news content can fuel overthinking and feelings of hopelessness.

Summary

Eco-anxiety is an issue affecting many and surrounds constant fear and worry about the future of the planet due to the environmental crisis. Whilst eco-anxiety is not an easy problem to manage, you can learn to cope with it and transform these negative emotions into climate action. If you operate a business and struggle with climate anxiety, start your sustainability journey today with our Diploma in Business Sustainability course. This course gives you all the knowledge, insights, and tools you need to build a more responsible business.

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