Are you worried about climate change? Do you feel a lot of stress when you receive information about this? You may be suffering from eco-anxiety. Here is what it consists of.
The climate crisis is a reality. The ice at the poles is melting, species are dying out at breakneck speed, and ecosystems are changing or being destroyed. This gives rise to two problems: humanitarian conflicts over the control of certain resources and concern about their insufficiency. This concern can affect people in different ways. For some people, it gets so deep that it ultimately touches their lives. This is the case with those who suffer from eco-anxiety.
This concept, also known as climate anxiety, arose out of the need to name the chronic fear of environmental destruction. Concern for climate change and the consequences it has on all of nature can add stress to everyday worries.
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Reasons behind Eco-Anxiety
Eco-anxiety can appear for two reasons. On the one hand, because we had to leave our place of origin or, on the other, because we have such a developed environmental awareness that it ends up leading to psychological discomfort.
The Lost Land
According to a report published by the European Union, each year around 26 million people are affected by weather disasters: floods, droughts, fires or storms.
Thus, residents of certain areas are forced to emigrate because of these events. For example, one in ten people living on islands like Tuvalu or Kiribati end up being a climate refugee.
Because of the environmental changes we are experiencing – and causing – we are losing much of our biodiversity. Some places end up losing all their resources.
Therefore, it becomes more and more difficult, if not impossible, to reside in these areas. So much so that the United Nations estimates that around 1,500 million people will have to move in order to survive.
These people who are forced to emigrate suffer from two things: from the change they experience from their place of residence and from the vision of their land, of their environment, which is destroyed. This can generate concern and enormous frustration.
People who have an attachment and awareness of nature are affected by emotional worry. This is also accompanied by a feeling of frustration due to the weak power of individual actions. Some people actually end up suffering from the effects we have on this planet.
One example is the effect this phenomenon has on adolescents and young people. An Oxford clinical psychologist has found that many pre-teens suffer from eco-anxiety.
This is because children are more inclined to understand and accept the idea that human beings are responsible for these climate changes. As a result, they end up feeling emotions like resentment towards the older generations which could have lessened this impact, frustration, fear and grief.
In addition, it is interesting to see how environmental scientists are so widely affected. Joe Duggan thus developed, in 2014, a survey for scientists. They had to explain what this climate change made them feel.
The results determined the same thing: despair, fear and worry. In fact, British scientists recently published a letter in the prestigious journal Science asking for psychological help to better cope with the negative results of their studies.
There are many consequences to be had from climate change, in addition to eco-anxiety. By focusing on the psychological aspects, these variations can give rise to physiological changes. These, in turn, affect the well-being of people. Our most basic physiological processes – like sleeping or eating – are very much influenced by nature.
Sunlight, for example, or temperature, affects circadian rhythms and regulates neurotransmitters that affect our health and mood. Consequently, radical changes in our environment compromise the balance of our organism on all fronts.
Natural disasters and high temperatures are also linked to psychological disorders, such as anxiety or mood disorders. For example, rising temperatures around the world are already showing repercussions on mental health.
For example, a study published by Nature found that this increase could be linked to suicide rates. Another example would be a study of how pessimism increases in the face of particularly high temperatures.
How to Reduce Eco-Anxiety?
In order to reduce the problem as well as our discomfort, we can take three simple actions:
Think about climate change when deciding what to eat, how we travel, and what to buy – and where.
Talk about climate change with our loved ones. Certainly, we may not be able to change the world. However, developing some awareness, even on a small scale, can make a big difference.
Know the measures that are being taken on the political level and know what the parties are planning. By doing this, we will also be able to make decisions at the ballot box.
Faced with this situation, which cannot change if we do not take immediate action, experts recommend developing resilience mechanisms. It is about seeing the problem as a multidimensional element.
Thus, the best measure to reduce eco-anxiety would be to properly inform the population and give them tools. It would be about developing opportunities so that each person can be a part of the solution.