“The first step towards change is awareness. The second step is acceptance.” - Nathaniel Brandon
We all accept that the most important step towards a lifestyle change begins with knowledge. Knowledge is empowering and it helps us make the right choices. Time and again, the greatest philosophers and guides have stressed on the fact that the path to awareness is built outside your comfort zone. This is probably why sometimes knowledge brings fearful realisations, anxiety and a sense of guilt.
The road to sustainability is paved entirely on the primary pillar of awareness. Before the world gained insight into the planet’s needs, we lived in a sense of comfortable oblivion.
Eco-consciousness changed the way we think to put forth the Earth’s best interests over our own. This enlightening awareness has brought about a wave of self-incriminating guilt in many of us - A mental state of distress called ‘Eco-anxiety’.
What really is eco-anxiety?
Eco-anxiety refers to a state of anxiousness based on awareness, leading to fear of environmental damage or disaster. This sense of worry is mostly based on the current state of the planet and possible negative future conditions owing to environmental damage & climate change by human activities. It also brings about a state of ‘helplessness’ in some.
Eco-Anxiety is a chronic fear of environmental doom.
In fact, The American Psychiatric Association (APA) described eco-anxiety as “a chronic fear of environmental doom.”
Where does eco-anxiety stem from?
The root cause of eco-anxiety is different for different people. For some, it may stem from a deeply personal and first-hand experience with an eco-disaster & its effects, while for others it may be the result of information saturation.
While its magnitude may vary per individual, we can all relate to a time or two when we’ve felt the same way. Some of us might even be experiencing it right now.
What we need to realise, is that we’re not alone, and our feelings are never isolated. There is always help to be found.
So, how can we deal with eco-anxiety, within ourselves and our peers?
1. Accept & Forgive:
The first step to all realization is acceptance. Accept that sustainability is a slow process, and while there may be times you want to see big change unfold faster, years of damage cannot be fixed in a day. That being said, you also need to believe that every small step counts towards a collective big step.
All efforts you make, no matter how small, are significant. On your sustainability journey, you may often make mistakes. Most importantly, you need to allow yourself to forgive and let go. For every setback, calm the anxiety by replacing the ‘Oh-No!’ guilt with a ‘How can I fix this?’ approach instead.
2. Stay Connected with Nature:
When you worry about a friend, family member, or a colleague’s wellbeing, what is the first thing we do? We talk to them, connect and check up on them. Do the same, every time you find yourself in a state of eco-anxiety.
Take time out daily to step outdoors & reconnect with your surroundings. Whether a walk in your local park, a cup of tea in your home garden or balcony, or even a complete total digital detox, can help you ground your thoughts and gain more perspective.
3. Community Participation:
No man is an island and no change is singular. If you truly want to be actionable, participate in community cleaning & waste-management drives, join NGOs and groups that work towards initiatives you believe in, and even strive to mobilise peer groups around you into taking collective responsibility.
Slowly and steadily, you will be reassured as you watch your actions make a change.
4. Pay It Back:
The best thing you can do for your planet is returning its infinite favours and selfless gifts. One such practise is adopting sustainable practices in all your daily activities.
Ensure that you find time to recycle, upcycle, engage in earth-friendly charities and plantation drives and find more innovative ways to show your love to the planet. You can also gift a tree to your friends & family to celebrate occasions like birthdays, anniversaries, etc.
5. Shop Responsibly:
Another way to curb the guilt of our fast-paced consumerist lives is to consciously invest in goods, and services that are ethical, sustainable and earth-friendly.
Be it slow fashion, plastic-free and ocean-friendly daily essentials or organic foods from local farms, the simple mindful act of shopping responsibly, automatically increases your contribution towards a greener Earth.
Identify brands that align with your ideologies, read about biodegradable materials and most importantly, always remember to be minimal.
6. Engage in Productive Conversation:
As we stressed, the power of information is undefeated. For each piece of anxiety-causing & worrisome discovery you make, it is crucial that you follow it up with a productive conversation.
Worrying about the future, without looking for a solution-oriented change will be nothing more than a toxic mental cycle.
Read industry articles, follow changemakers in the news, participate in community discussions - online and offline, attend and host webinars with similar peer groups that share your ideology and also look for solutions within your private circles.
You will be surprised to learn how much of a calming and productive role, effective conversation can play.
Currently, eco-anxiety is not yet identified as a medically diagnosed psychological illness. That being said, it still exists and can affect your daily wellbeing and mental health.
It is crucial that while you look for productive ways to channel your eco-fears, you also stay alert in identifying if your symptoms amount to an underlying clinical anxiety disorder.
The bravest person is one who asks for help.
Allow yourself to be vulnerable. It is absolutely okay, rather advisable that one seeks professional help if needed. We know, that climate change is real and your worries are not unfounded. But we also know, that together we stand strong.
Visit the Brown Journal or reach out to us on our social media pages for all your doubts and queries, impactful conversation, informative posts and influencer discussions with hands-on changemakers.
We want you to know, that you are not alone. We see you; we hear you and we are with you.