We turn on the television and put the news. We observe the images of melting glaciers due to climate change. Then the images of a sea of plastic, of dead animals due to human contamination, etc. appear. In the online newspapers we read about droughts that are ravaging in different parts of the world, as well as storms and natural disasters. While we observe all these facts something in us is activated, we begin to feel anxiety. The eco-anxiety seizes us.
- 1 What is eco-anxiety?
- 2 Eco-anxiety and the destruction of the planet
- 3 How to deal with eco-anxiety
What is eco-anxiety?
The eco-anxiety consists in the anxiety generated by observing and experiencing the deterioration of the planet due to human intervention. The large number of plastics in seas and forests, high levels of pollution, the destruction of natural landscapes, are some of the events that can trigger eco-anxiety. The American Psychological Association (APA) defines the concept of eco-anxiety in an article titled Mental health and our changing climate: impacts, implications and guidance (2017).
The APA defines this type of anxiety as "the chronic fear of an environmental cataclysm". It is a stress caused by "observe the seemingly irrevocable impacts of climate change, and worry about the future of oneself, children and future generations". In the article they affirm that "When people learn and experience the impact of the local climate, their understanding increases."In this way, eco-anxiety not only occurs when observing environmental change, but can also increase when a natural disaster is experienced in the first person.
Eco-anxiety and the destruction of the planet
The adverse events that we observe through the media and those that we can live first hand, seem to indicate that it is the human being himself who is accelerating the destruction of the planet. In this way, it is not difficult to intuit that behind eco-anxiety, apart from sadness, fear hides. Fear is a basic emotion that helps us flee dangerous situations and keep us safe, that is, it is an adaptive emotion. However, a new fear now comes into play: the fear of the deterioration of the planet.
If the planet deteriorates, we too. Thus, observing the destruction of the place where we live and our descendants will live can cause us intense fear. A fear accompanied by impotence to see that our action is important but we can not cover the entire range of action we would like. This helplessness can end in frustration and frustration in anger. So that, In this type of anxiety, anger and anger may be present.
How to deal with eco-anxiety
The APA recommends different guidelines to address this type of anxiety.
Believe in one's own resilience It has been linked to developing fewer symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD) and depression after disasters.
People who can find something positive in the circumstances they face, tend to feel better than those who are less able to regulate their thoughts, emotions and actions. Positively assess personal circumstances, helps to move forward instead of getting caught in a circle of negative emotions.
Cultivate active coping and self-regulation
Active coping involves cognitive dimensions such as continuous search for help and solutions. On the other hand, self-regulation, or the ability to control the most immediate impulses, is considered a characteristic of resilient people.
Find a source of personal significance
Various studies have shown that having a spiritual practice tends to boost the well-being of the individual. This practice can help people manage and find meaning in suffering during significant adversity. Mindfulness, meditation or yoga are examples of practices through which people find greater meaning and meaning in their lives.
Boost personal preparation
In this regard, the APA refers to the both psychological and physical preparation for possible disasters. They claim that mental health can be included in the efforts required in disaster preparedness.
Support in social networks
With social networks, in this case, there is no reference to the online social network, but the social fabric at a physical level that we establish with family, friends and acquaintances. The ability of individuals to withstand trauma increases when they are connected to their support network both personally and online. The connection with others is a core of psychological need and essential for well-being.
During difficult times, people turn to those who are closest, both for emotional and material help. Different studies on resilience point out that social support is a protective resource during adversity. It has been found that higher levels of social support during and after a disaster are associated with lower rates of psychological distress.
Encourage connection with parents, family and other role models
Family support and close connections are especially important for children.. Parents are possibly the most iron and central source of support for children during adversity. Children are at greater risk for long-term physical and mental health if parents suffer from high levels of distress. Thus, parents can provide relief to their children. At this point, other role models come into play, such as teachers, coaches, or anyone who serves as an example to the child to face adversity.
When possible, keep the connection with the place
As climate change alters the landscape, it also forces change on the different cultures most tied to the earth. For example, indigenous communities are experiencing rapid cultural development that changes as the planet warms. This makes many traditional cultural practices increasingly difficult to carry out.
Different research in affected communities indicates that people do not want to leave their homes despite the changes they may experience. Given this, recommend living in a place where you feel connected. In this way, resilience can increase because people are more likely to take adaptive measures, such as preparing for floods.
Maintain relationships with the culture itself
Different investigations indicate the family cohesion, participation in religious traditions and cultural connection, as resources that protect the mental health of people in times of adversity.
Clayton, S., Manning, C., Krysman, K. and Speiser, M. (2017). Mental Health and our changing climate: impacts, implitacions and guidance. American Psychological Association, Climate for Health and EcoAmerica, Building Climate Leadership.