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How to deal with eco-anxiety

Climate change is very real despite what your grandpa or local sceptic might say, and unfortunately, so is climate anxiety.

Studies in the United States have demonstrated how Gen Z is the most stressed generation, and much of this might be down to the impending doom of climate change.

Many of us have watched documentaries such as Cowspiracy (you can watch the trailer here), The True Cost, or An Inconvenient Truth, which may have left you with an uncontrollable sense of worry, anxiety, or extreme sadness. It sure is hard to stay hopeful about a situation we, as young adults, have had little to do with.

Moreover, it’s even more daunting to imagine that governments and large, polluting multinationals place upon us, average individual consumers, the responsibility of reversing climate change by using trendy reusable totes and bamboo toothbrushes over plastic.

A BBC survey concludes that three in four young people are worried about the current state of the planet. These numbers should not be ignored. Not only do they demonstrate that climate change is a generational issue – in the sense that younger people are more likely to care about and combat climate change – but also that it is affecting this generation’s mental health.

Yet, fear not, dear reader, for you are not here to get bombarded by the scary facts that haunt your dreams, but to find new ways of countering them!

Films are your friends

It only took me one documentary to decide to adopt a plant-based diet: once I had seen one animal being tortured, I wasn’t interested in seeing any more. If you’ve got the hard part of facing the reality of climate change behind you, it is time to look at more uplifting narratives.

Raya and the Last Dragon is the most recent animation film by Disney+. (You can watch its official trailer here.) While watching it on a particularly gloomy evening, I found that the film had a (not so) secret subtext relating to climate change. As Raya journeys through the fragmented, plagued and dry world of Kumandra, she seeks the help of a long-lost dragon who, in this fantastical world, gets their power from and thrives on nature.

To the distracted viewer, the film might seem like just another Disney story about the importance of friendship. But look a little closer and you will find that it is about cooperation, nature, and sustainability. The best part? There is a happy ending to this climate change subtext, and we can have one too, if we work closely and cohesively with larger powers.

Take Action

For many people, feeling like you’re in control or that you have some power over a situation may help cope with anxiety. If this is the case, there are many ways that you can feel connected with the environment, and simultaneously, play a part in combating climate change.

Photo: Pexels @Pixabay

Aside from volunteering, shopping locally and up-cycling clothes, you can contribute to a greener climate by subscribing to reforestation projects. Mossy Earth and Tree Nation are two examples. With yearly subscriptions, or one-time tree planting opportunities, there are many ways you can make a difference and feel better about our future on earth.

Connect with nature

Whether you’re a city person or a ‘cottagecore’ fanatic, at the end of the day, our world wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for nature. Sometimes it’s important to remind ourselves that we are just one of around 8.7 million species, and that other creatures and forms of life deserve a safe environment as much as we do.

Maybe you’re living out in the countryside, and maybe you feel like you’re getting a little too much nature for your liking. But there is always something new to learn. Try finding out more about your local wildlife, what animals and insects scurry about near you, what’s the name of the tree in your garden, or the bushes around the corner. You can also try starting a nature diary and note down all the discoveries you make.

If you’re stuck in a stuffy city with skyscrapers, there’s something you can do too. If you can’t be in nature, try to emulate it at home using ASMR nature sounds, or even music that inspires natural imagery. I suggest Taylor Swift’s two lockdown albums, Folklore and Evermore, or an old classic, like Bon Iver’s For Emma, Forever ago.

Fight your fears with dystopian fiction

This is a bit of a weird one but bear with me. Dystopian fiction is based on an imaginative creation of a future world: one that is governed and organised in a different way than ours is. Take the likes of The Hunger Games, The Handmaid’s Tale and Divergent. Most dystopian worlds are normally much, much worse than ours. Could they function as counteractive therapy?

You might find that immersing yourself in a world that is so much worse than ours makes things seem a little better, or you might actually realise that reading dystopian fiction inspires you to find creative solutions to fight climate change. After all, although dystopia might seem fantastical, many times they are just exaggerated imaginations of real modern issues.

Find help & support

Although these remedies might help temporarily, if you do feel like you’re suffering from anxiety, depression, or any other condition, it is essential to get help and support. Reach out to your friends and family or seek professional counselling.

Don’t forget that the University, Student’s Union and Manchester Nightline can help you with this.

Tags: Climate change, eco-anxiety, Mental Health, nature, Relaxation, therapy

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