How to manage eco-anxiety: Advice from a climate activist
“The moon is following us home again!” My daughter exclaimed as she always does when the line between day and night becomes blurry and we begin to make our way home from the park in the evening. “But why is it red?”
Her question hit me with the weight of the realization that with the moon, the climate crisis, too, is following us home. I explained that there were wildfires burning in Ontario and the smoke was blowing particulate matter through the atmosphere, turning the moon a red hue. “Will they come here?” she inquired, referring to the fires. “No” I said, (not yet, my inner voice added).
This was on the day that Toronto’s air quality clocked in at second worst of any city in the world. And it was one of those moments when the climate crisis crystalized in my mind as an overwhelming reality – the extent of the damage, the monumental task in front of us. The fact that others living in more vulnerable circumstances around the world have already been dealing with the impacts for years – and despite that knowledge, we’ve failed to act with the urgency the situation requires.
As our newsfeeds fill with videos and images of wildfires raging out-of-control and floods that threaten to wipe towns off the map; as news headlines turn dark with stories of animals cooking in place and cherries turning to raisins from record-breaking heat; as more people are directly exposed to the impacts of the crisis – the sense that the task at hand is overwhelming and impossible can lead to feelings of climate anxiety, or ‘Eco-Anxiety.’
These feelings are normal. We’re being confronted with horrible images, videos and stories in our newsfeeds, events which are increasingly being directly tied to climate change through more accurate climate science. More of us are also directly experiencing the impacts first hand. It’s natural to feel grief, despair, anxiety, depression and anger when faced with such suffering – and the infuriating inadequate responses to such events from those in power.
As someone who lives in the flow of information online working as a Digital Campaigner for Greenpeace Canada, I inevitably struggle with these feelings. But over the years I also feel like I’ve learned a thing or two about managing them, moving through them and coming out the other side, transmuting eco-anxiety into action. I’m sharing some of this here in the hopes it might help if you, like me, struggle with feelings of doom in a world that feels increasingly destabilized.
1. Get outside
When I find myself in a pit of climate doom, I make a conscious effort to disconnect from the screen world and spend time in nature. I go for walks, I sit in parks, I swim, I stop by some of the butterfly way projects that are near me and commune with the bees and the butterflies. There is nothing like the calming effects of the natural world – and spending time in it is a reminder that we are deeply intertwined with this world. We are not apart from nature, but a part of it. There is something incredibly healing (and empowering) when you let yourself sit in that knowledge.
Research has also confirmed what we all know intuitively: spending time in nature has positive mental health benefits. This is something more people have discovered since covid lockdowns, and all the more reason that ensuring natural spaces are available to all needs to be a priority for a green and just recovery.