I have eco-anxiety, here’s how I cope

Sara Weinreb
Oct 9, 2019 · 5 min read

I didn’t want to go to yoga yesterday. It’s not because I was feeling lazy (okay, maybe a little…). It wasn’t because I was feeling out of shape from not going for a few weeks. And it wasn’t because I couldn’t find a studio to go to. It was because I didn’t want to have to drive there — already feeling guilty from so much driving this weekend and this week to come.

You see, I am struggling with eco-anxiety.

According to Psychology Today, eco-anxiety is an “understandable reaction to ones growing awareness of climate change and the global problems that result from damage to the ecosystem.” It may be an acute reaction after an environmental trauma — like your home being destroyed by a hurricane. For many of us, it’s the dread and fear we wake up with in the morning about the state of the planet, only compounded by the news cycle and a seemingly endless barrage of terrifying statistics and potential outcomes for humankind. Throw on top of that the humanitarian crises that we are facing across the world, and you might not wake up every morning feeling full of love, light, and optimism.

eco-anxiety is an “understandable reaction to ones growing awareness of climate change and the global problems that result from damage to the ecosystem.”

If you’re like me, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with what to even do about the situation. I end up often times paralyzed — not wanting to go to yoga, not buying a food product because I ran out of bags for the bulk section, and feeling like whatever I do is not enough.

And what about the future? I wonder if I should even consider bringing children into this world or if I would be carelessly exposing them to a potentially not-so-favorable ending of the world. Uplifting, right?

I know I’m not alone in this — maybe you feel it too. Heck, Prince Harry can’t even get out of bed on some days because of it. Sometimes it truly feels like the world is beyond repair.

The good and bad news — we’re getting to a point where these issues are no longer “out of sight, out of mind.”

The good and bad news — we’re getting to a point where these issues are no longer “out of sight, out of mind.” I received a text from my sister recently sharing that her husband, a scuba diver, went on a cleanup scuba dive where they took half a ton of garbage out of the sea. “He said he’s no longer using anything that’s disposable,” she shared with me.

While I hate that it has to get to this point for people to change, people are changing. We see the garbage on the shores at the beach and all over our cities. It’s not just impacting the planet — it’s impacting our health, too. Nearly all fish you consume have previously ingested microplastics, meaning you are eating that, too. Our soil is depleted and our food is less nutrient-dense. This list can go on and on. And eco-anxiety has real health implications too, including elevated stress levels which can lead to a whole host of disease and chronic health issues.

Do I want to wait for crisis to make change? No. But does it give me hope that we can make a difference when we deem it necessary? You bet.

Alas, I do have hope. It seems as though people are truly starting to wake up to the reality and severity of the issues we are facing on the planet. I am constantly seeing the news that cities are banning plastic bags and plastic straws. And can we just have a moment of gratitude for all of these teen climate activists?

  • Autumn Pelter, 14 — chief water commissioner for the Ashinaabe-kwe Nation and nominee for the International Children’s Peace Prize
  • Greta Thunberg, 16 — climate activist, nominee for Nobel Peace Prize and one of the organizers of the global School Strikes for Climate
  • Isra Hirsi, 16 — co-founder and executive director of the U.S. Youth Climate Strike
  • Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, 18 — youth director of social justice advocacy organization Earth Gardens. Winner of 2016 Children’s Climate Prize in Sweden

If you ever, ever thought that a few people couldn’t change the world…these teens are proving you dead wrong. Their advocacy and leadership has rallied global support for climate action.

I also often reference Cape Town’s “Day Zero,” where, in early 2018, the people of Cape Town were told they had 90 days before they ran out of water. And what did they do? They rallied. They came up with solutions. And day zero was pushed back multiple times until it was postponed indefinitely. Do I want to wait for crisis to make change? No. But does it give me hope that we can make a difference when we deem it necessary? You bet.

Worrying ourselves into paralysis isn’t beneficial. We can only do our best

Truthfully, eco-anxiety is both helpful and harmful.

Yes, I shouldn’t needlessly drive around and maybe I can combine my drive to yoga with my drive to the supermarket. Perhaps it motivates us to produce less waste or to be more mindful overall. But worrying ourselves into paralysis isn’t beneficial. We can only do our best, and recognize that if everyone tried just a bit harder, we’d make a massive impact on the planet.

Instead of staying inside out of fear, we need to go outside and educate others. Call out the companies that are causing harm. Show that we care. Set an example. That’s how we’ll dig our way out of this hole — not by fearfully staying in it.

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