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How to Deal with ‘Eco-Anxiety’

To close out this April, being both Stress Awareness Month and Earth Month, we're tackling a topic that sees our Health & Wellness and Green Bag committee's efforts joining forces: eco-anxiety. What is it, where does it come from, and how do you manage it? Keep on reading!

What is 'Eco-Anxiety'?

In 2017, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) defined eco-anxiety as “a chronic fear of environmental doom.” Rooted in the current and predicted future state of our environment, eco-anxiety describes a persistent concern about the future of Earth and the consequences of the ecological damage that humans have left behind.

If the prospect of permanent changes to our temperatures, ecosystems, animal, and human habitats shakes you, you are probably taking on some form or another of eco-anxiety. This can look like an increased sense of hopelessness, aggression towards the world's leaders, trauma and shock responses from never-ending environmental disasters, or even just a shudder every time you throw away a disposable item. We are all vulnerable to this given that we share a home on this Earth, however, it may show up more in some than others.

Wearing this worry 24/7 can be exhaustive. Without the ability to save all of Earth and its inhabitants in one mighty action, it can often feel impossible to ease our eco-anxiety. However, there are ways to dial down your internal alarm system and amp up the feeling that you are contributing to a brighter future.

Ways to Manage 'Eco-Anxiety'

1. Live in Alignment with Your Values

Changing your lifestyle to be more compatible with your values can help with eco-anxiety as a way of holding yourself accountable for the space you take up on this planet. By composting food waste, making sure your home is energy efficient, biking/carpooling/taking public transit when possible, and much more, you can find peace in the fact that you are doing your part for a greener future.

2. Protect and Nurture Local Green Spaces

Getting involved in community environmental projects is not only a way to support the planet, but also a great way to tend to your mental health by tuning into nature. Organize a community garden, set times for a weekly park/neighborhood clean-up, plant local trees and plants, or do whatever it is that will serve yourself and your community. Feeling a sense of closeness with whatever little slice of earth you have access to can be a lot more impactful than you think.

3. Smart Consumption

Recognizing the cyclical nature of consumption, versus the linear straight-to-landfill mentality, is extremely beneficial in changing your lifestyle to be of greater service to the environment. Being an informed consumer and practicing 'reduce, reuse, recycle' right from the onset of consumption, such as purchasing second-hand clothing and furniture, buying local produce and products to reduce travel emissions, and upcycling old and worn down items, helps our ecosystems in too many ways to list!

4. Look at the Bright Side, Once in a While

Even amidst environmental turmoil, there are good people doing good work for the environment, believe it or not. If your eco-anxiety is kicking in strong, take a second to scroll through Happy Eco News for a quick dose of positive change and hold that awareness, alongside your anxiety, that change is actually happening, even if you don't see it all the time.

5. Focus Your Efforts on Changing Systems

No one individual can save the entire planet, no matter how much we wish we could. It is important to know where your personal actions end and where those of the government and big businesses begin. To curb your eco-anxiety in a corporate capitalist world, you can keep yourself educated on local environmental protection laws, call/email your representatives, sign petitions, donate to charities, and more.

Some more resources

Looking for more environmental tips and resources from Brown Bag, check out the links below:

7 Green Tips from Our Green Bag Committee! #EarthDay

Pontification on Pollinators #GreenBag

Make Your Own DIY Seed Pocket #GreenBag #Tutorial

Green Fingers at Brown Bag Films

Rachel Sherman

We Love Animation®

Brown Bag Labs is an exciting online space, brought to you by Brown Bag Films. We share great content for families as well as behind the scenes fun and tutorials from the Brown Bag Films team.