Eco-Anxiety - is it eating you?

Adults keep saying, we owe it to the young people to give them hope. But I don’t want your hope, I don’t want you to be hopeful, I want you to panic.
— Greta Thunberg, 16 year old Swedish Climate Change Activist.

Do her words make you panic? Eco anxiety is the feeling of being completely overwhelmed by the magnitude of our climate problem and feeling powerless to help the situation regardless of the small changes that we can each make. A report by the the American Psychological Association in 2017 made reference to the term ‘eco-anxiety’ and in the glossary described it as "a chronic fear of environmental doom".

The report went on to describe it as a source of stress caused by “watching the slow and seemingly irrevocable impacts of climate change unfold, and worrying about the future for oneself, children, and later generations”. The report later added that some people “are deeply affected by feelings of loss, helplessness and frustration due to their inability to feel like they are making a difference in stopping climate change.

When you go to sleep, but you start thinking about everything - the state of the planet, really, and the potential future of it - and knowing that there’s only so much you can do as one person. I think that’s the anxiety - because you just feel a bit powerless in it all.
— Sam Johnson, BBC Documentary on Eco-Anxiety.

They shared in their documentary that It can even affect professionals working in the field. For Tim Gordon, a marine biologist at the University of Exeter, his trips that he embarks on that many would dream of: studying life in incredible settings like the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, or the middle of the Arctic Ocean are tinged with sadness, because "what we find is that we're documenting the rapid decline of these places. A lot of the time, you're kind of numb to it." He continued in his interview with BBC Radio 1: "You've spent so many months doing it and you just get on with it - you know, you've got a job to do. But then occasionally, for no particularly good reason, it'll strike - you just float into the middle of the water, look around you and think: ‘Wow, it's all dying’.

There’s been times that you cry into your mask because you look around and realise how tragic it is.
— Tim gordon. Marine Biologist.

For Sam, the anxiety manifests itself in physical ways. “Recently, I'm struggling to fall asleep naturally,” he says. “I probably get a bout of heart palpitations - like, once a year.”

It’s not surprising that eco-anxiety is on the rise (although no official stats have yet been published experts have reported an increase in public anxiety around climate change) but what can we do to prevent this anxiety from stopping us do our best to help stop climate change?

It’s still the about small changes, refuse single use plastic, fly less, drive less, eat less meat….(the whole less is more theme here is basically it) lobby your MP’s, sign those petitions and disrupt the big businesses who need to make the big changes.

If you are suffering from eco anxiety, the NHS offers advice on treatments for Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD), including Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and medication.

But do not be disheartened, we should not feel hopeless, we should do what we can and remember that every choice that we make has an impact.

We set out to make a change, it might be a small one - but it’s our change, and we want you to be a part of it….


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