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What is Eco Anxiety?

Have you heard of eco anxiety? Perhaps you know someone who has experienced it, or have yourself? It’s also sometimes called climate anxiety, climate distress or eco distress.

AI generated image of climate anxiety

The Royal College of Psychiatrists defines eco anxiety, or eco distress as it refer to it, as “a way of describing how people feel when they hear bad news about our planet and the environment. This can be things like warmer temperatures around the world, events like floods, fires or droughts or harm to animals and their natural habitats.”

With so much happening in the world around us, like floods, fires and droughts, it’s not surprising that more and more people are feeling worried and anxious about the future, and about our planets. It’s also hard to avoid; news and reports are everywhere, from tv and computer screens to social media.

While many people experience it, it can disproportionately affect children and young people.

It can manifest in many ways. It is often a sense of anxiety about the future of the planet, a strong and persistent fear about environmental doom, and/or nervousness about environmental catastrophes such as floods, fires and droughts. Feelings can range from a sense of sadness and worry, but can also become stronger and more persistent, affecting day-to-day life.

An AI generated image showing a happy young person in a green healthy landscape

It’s normal to feel sad and uncomfortable about what’s happening, but it’s also important to think about how to manage those feelings.

This can be as simple as taking some time to switch off from the news and social media, self care, and spending time with friends and family. It can also really help to take small but meaningful actions, like:

  • Talk to your friends or classmates about the environment.
  • Take steps to reduce your environmental impact like carrying a refillable water bottle or reducing or eliminating your meat intake.
  • Organising a littler pick or planting insect-friendly plants.
  • Spending some time just enjoying and appreciating nature.
  • Stay hopeful. Dr Jane Goodall knows that there are many reasons for hope, and each and every member of the Roots & Shoots community is one. Together, we can make a difference.

If you’re looking for positive ideas and creative ways to be hopeful and positive, why not try:

  1. Use nature as your canvas and art materials – create pictures and sculptures using leaves, twigs, mud, flowers and rocks.
  2. Discover the wildlife in your urban waterways by taking a walk down a local canal.
  3. Reading about reasons for hope from Dr Jane Goodall.

It’s also important to be aware that if these feelings of anxiety become overwhelming, or affect day-to-day life such as making it hard to sleep, it is worth talking to a doctor or seeking advice from a mental health professional.

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