One of the highlights of summer is having an abundance of warm,

sunny days that make spending time outdoors more enjoyable. This particular summer, however, has been met with severe thunderstorms, devastating wildfires, and deadly heatwaves, all on top of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Battling such extreme weather conditions can generate feelings of anxiety and bring about a sense of impending doom. The environmental impacts are well reported, but how ecological emergencies affect our mental health often gets overlooked. Today we want to touch on eco-anxiety and how we can look forward to the future!

Did you know?

There is a link between periods of drought and higher suicide rates among farmers.

Symptoms of eco-anxiety

“Eco-anxiety refers to the persistent worries about the future of the Earth and the life it shelters.”

  • Anger or frustration
  • Fatalistic thinking
  • Existential dread
  • Guilt or shame
  • Post-traumatic stress
  • Feelings of depression, anxiety, or panic
  • Grief and sadness
  • Obsessive thoughts
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Sleeping problems and/or changes to appetite
Did you know?

High temperatures pose a danger to people taking psychiatric medications that affect bodily temperature regulation.

Populations at Greater Risk:

There are certain groups of people who are particularly sensitive to and affected by weather changes, including:

  • Indigenous communities
  • Children, older adults, and people who are pregnant
  • People living with disabilities or chronic health conditions
  • Socioeconomically disadvantaged communities
  • People living in coastal/island regions, dry areas, or other places of geological risk
Wrestling Existential Dread

Make Informed Choices

Being in control of your environmental footprint can counter powerlessness. Help do your part by choosing sustainability over convenience (swap single use materials for reusable, conserve household energy, reduce meat consumption, etc.) but also have compassion for yourself if you are not 100% eco-friendly 100% of the time. There are many larger players who have the power and resources to make responsible changes with significant impact. If you can accept your own actions and recognize the bigger picture, feelings of guilt and shame should alleviate.

Accept professional help

When the experience of anxiety and depression is becoming disruptive to everyday life, it can be helpful to get connected with a mental health professional such as a therapist. Psychotherapists can introduce mindfulness techniques to help cope with intense emotions, change distressing thought patterns though Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and there are specialists who will integrate environmental awareness into their work through focusing on our relationship to the local environment and encouraging activism and time in nature.

give yourself a break

When you are constantly worrying about the environment, it begins to infiltrate your thoughts and influence your perspective. Reading countless articles and relating every activity to our eco-system is exhausting.  It is okay to disconnect and take a break if you feel yourself pre-occupied with staying informed.  Engage in self-care, play an instrument, hang out with your friends, eat your favourite food, and enjoy the simple pleasures in life! 

connect with community

Joining forces with people who care about the same things as you can make you feel like your contributions matter. Being part of a community can have a positive affect on mental health and provides a sense of belonging and connectedness. The internet can be a great place to find like minded people from anywhere in the world whose unique experiences and cultures may offer advice and ideas you would not find within your hometown.

spend time in nature

Appreciate what we have.  Going on a hike, taking a swim, or visiting a park can remind us of what we love and why we care so much about the resources around us.  It presents the liveliness of our environment and offers healing benefits that bring about a sense of peace.  Expressing gratitude for nature makes for a mindful existence and allows us to enjoy it.
Did you know?

Psychological trauma from a natural disaster is 40 times greater than trauma from a physical injury.

Having optimism for the future

celebrate small wins

Achieving big goals cannot be done without celebrating small wins. Support the local café that made the switch to ethically sourced coffee, applaud your friend who invested in a Brita, and be prepared for the next power outage with flashlights and ready to eat food. For every upsetting article you read, find a positive news source! Climate Joy highlights the progress being made which can be an inspiring source to stay motivated.

have honest conversations

Don’t say you are fine if that is not true. Confide in trusted friends to explore and express your thoughts and feelings. It is important to share with people who can sympathize and once you realize you are not alone there is less fear. Surround yourself with individuals who keep a hopeful mindset for the future and can reframe or take control over situations with a more optimistic, productive approach. 

look for purpose

Recognizing a commitment to a goal or cause beyond yourself makes life worth living. Applying your knowledge to action can feel incredibly liberating. Volunteer at an animal shelter, start a blog, or write to local politicians about bills that concern you. Whether it is a hobby, side gig, or full-time career, turn your passion into something tangible!