When you think of the effects of climate change, your first thought might be the melting polar ice caps or the increase of plastic waste in the ocean. But, it’s not necessarily the global disasters that are causing a deepening sense of dread among people. We’ve got our own environmental problems right on our doorstep. We often hear how humans harm the earth, but climate change is an enormous problem for some people that have a huge effect on their mental health.
The feeling of being overwhelmed by climate change problems and the uncertainty of the state of the environment has made us feel helpless that makes us see ourselves as just one of the planet’s insignificant people, unable to reverse the crisis. It’s also the feeling that no matter how hard we try, nothing is ever going to suffice. You know the worsening climate is affecting your health but you do not know how you can stop it. To feel powerless against impending doom shoots up stress levels and causes anxiety, according to experts. This is known as eco-anxiety.
Nobody understood this better than my neighbour who faced severe breathing issue during last year stubble burning season in Delhi which made him feel petrified as the doctor prescribed him a nebulizer. He told me he has been feeling anxious since then whenever he witnesses any news relating to air pollution while looking outside his balcony from the 6th floor.
It is not just Delhi, every city in the world faces the wrath of pollution and climate change in one form or other. When climate activist Greta Thunberg said that she does not want adults to be hopeful but to panic, adults are indeed panicking because they are unable to understand the right measures of response to the scale of the challenge.
With the growing awareness of our environment, and the impact we are having on the world around us, more and more people are becoming concerned with our future on Earth.
There has been a drastic shift in the degree of public interest in environmental issues with reports of weather disasters, as well as the popularity of people like Greta Thunberg and the advent of the Extinction Revolt. Citizens expect action and politicians have started to take note of it.
When we’re worried, or feeling overwhelmed, it can seem natural to avoid the source of our anxiety. So, in the case of eco-anxiety, it can be tempting to switch off. However, experts say it’s important to confront the issue of climate change directly and stay informed about environmental issues.
Yet, others believe that reporting and thinking about climate change is unhelpful and wasteful in this way. Yes, we need to take action, but it’s the ‘scaremongering’ that contributes to eco-anxiety (or worsens it). Rather of inspiring people to take action and make changes better, most people feel afraid, powerless or as though their actions would have little effect.
There is currently no known medication or treatment for climate anxiety, but this does not mean that medical assistance is not worth finding. Successful anxiety therapies include cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), as well as hypnotherapy, can teach you how to handle your anxiety with coping mechanisms.
Relaxation activities like yoga and meditation are the best natural solutions for a low stressful life, as well as it is important to make climate change an important and vital factor in our lifestyle behaviours and patterns of consumption.
Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that, while we can’t fight nature, we can work with it. There’s a huge amount we can still do, and it’s very much in our power to protect what’s left and to make a meaningful difference.