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Experts are reporting an increase in the number of people suffering from anxiety relating to climate change. Things may feel overwhelming – but don’t worry, you’re not alone.
Does your heartbeat shoot up when you see someone throw a plastic bottle into the bin? Does the sound of an idling engine stop you from sleeping?
Studies suggest that one in four of us have experienced mental health issues in the last year with one in six of us reporting it in any given week.
Susan Clayton, our eco-anxiety guru from the College of Wooster says: “We can say that a significant proportion of people are experiencing stress and worry about the potential impacts of climate change, and that the level of worry is almost certainly increasing.”
Eco-anxiety, stress or mental health?
So what is the difference? Well not very much, they’re all interlinked.
Stress is common, it’s our body’s way of dealing with situations we feel are threatening. We get a release of certain hormones which trigger response from our cardiovascular, respiratory and nervous systems. It makes us hyper-alert, ready to fight – very useful in small doses.
Depression and anxiety
However, elevated stress levels on a longer-term basis can have some really negative consequences on our mental health. It can lead to depression or anxiety. Symptoms include…
Feeling sad, empty, irritable, hopeless, angry, loss of interest in work, your hobbies or your family. You might struggle to concentrate, feeling overwhelmingly tired but struggle to sleep.
If you think you could be suffering from eco-anxiety or that you know someone who might, take a look at our suggestions to help deal with the panic.
1. Recognize the situation and talk about it – Do you see yourself in any of the symptoms we mentioned? Grab a friend and a coffee and get sharing.
2. Reflect on what provides relief and do more of it – It could be taking your reusable tupperware to your favorite cafe, cycling to work or spending the afternoon on the family allotment. Why not organize a woodland clean up or organize a holiday a little closer to home.
3. Connect with a community – It doesn’t even need to be environmental but the curious.earth team are always looking for a good old eco-debate.
4. Put the feeling in its place – Remember, worry is just a feeling and not a fact! Try this…
Rather than saying: “I am hopeless when it comes to climate change.”
Switch it to: “I feel hopeless when it comes to climate change.”
Or even better: “I have noticed I feel hopeless when it comes to climate change.”
Looking after yourself
Put simply, you’re not alone. There are plenty of things that you can do that are good for yourself and good for the planet.
Check out the charity MIND for free help and support
Remember, to look after the planet, you need to first look after yourself.
This article was written by Martyn Lowder and first published by curious.earth