Climate disruption has become a big news topic after the release of the 2018 reports from Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and National Climate Assessment.
The United States is already experiencing the effects of climate change, as floods, severe storms, droughts, heat waves and wildfires ravage our country. How are these reports and events affecting us?
“Eco-anxiety”, a disorder recently named by the American Psychological Association, is on the rise as climate change continues to unfold. Anger, fear, guilt, depression, hopelessness and despair are some of the emotions climate disruption evokes. These emotions negatively affect our resilience and hinder our ability to find climate solutions.
Eco-anxiety also takes a toll on physical health. It can cause memory loss, sleep disorders, lack of energy, irritability, decreased immunity, loss of appetite and all the health problems stress can cause, such as heart disease, high blood pressure and arthritis.
What you can do
If you are to remain calm through the climate storm bearing down on us, you need to find a way to cope. Here are seven ways to decrease eco-anxiety and increase emotional resilience:
1. Take meaningful action. The number one way to relieve climate anxiety is to take action with others in your community to mitigate climate disruption. Working together in community is especially important in protecting yourself from eco-anxiety. The sense of “we’re all in this together” is uplifting and life-affirming.
2. Turn your anger into a resource. Energy created by anger can be used destructively or positively. Let go of anger toward climate deniers and fossil fuel companies prioritizing short-term profits over environment. Instead of using anger energy to rant, use it to change your lifestyle, take political action or work with environmental action groups.
3. Practice some type of daily self-care. You’ve heard it all before—yoga, meditation, exercise, time in nature, time with friends, adequate sleep. Are you doing any of it? Running yourself ragged won’t help. Give yourself a break by dropping non-essentials to free up some time for yourself. Taking daily time for yourself protects your mental and physical health.
4. Find a support system. Giving and receiving support is a basic human need. Talk to a few close friends or a therapist. Join a support group online or in person. It’s not necessary to struggle in silence. Isolating is harmful to physical, mental and emotional health. Having a support system reduces depression, anxiety and stress.
5. Take a break from negative news and social media. A constant barrage of upsetting climate news contributes to eco-anxiety. Seek out positive news about climate. One of my favorites is Blessed Unrest, a Paul Hawkins video listing organizations for climate mitigation. It is truly amazing and inspiring how many people and organizations are working to reverse climate change.
Check out Global Ecovillage Network, an international organization engaged in building “bridges between policy-makers, governments, NGOs, academics, entrepreneurs, activists, community networks and ecologically-minded individuals across the globe in order to develop strategies for a global transition to resilient communities and cultures.”
6. Join or start a Transition Town. There are 164 Transition Towns in the United States and more than a thousand worldwide. This movement will fire you up like nothing else.
Transition Towns build community resilience by bringing residents together to tackle the challenges of climate change, rising cost of living, social injustice, and living to reduce impact on the planet. The result is a life that is more abundant, fulfilling, equitable and socially connected.
7. Start making lifestyle changes. You’ll be setting a good example for others when you do so. Don’t try to make too many changes at once—that’s a set up for overwhelm. Consider this list. Start with what feels easy for you. Remember, taking action is a sure-fire way to make you feel better.