As someone who tries to live sustainably, I’ve found myself battling anxiety more and more. It started in university, when I was learning about how unsustainable our food system is, and then again when I graduated and started to read about climate change. These days, as you might have noticed from reading the news or even just scrolling through Facebook, it feels like everyone is talking about the impending environmental disaster that’s right around the corner. These conversations can be overwhelming—which is why “sustainability anxiety” has become a popular term over the past few years. For those who don’t know what it means: sustainability anxiety refers to feeling overwhelmed by news stories related to environmental issues such as climate change or water conservation; feeling powerless over these issues; worrying about them constantly; having difficulty focusing on other things because they keep coming back up in your mind; feeling depressed over being unable to take action or make changes; or even having thoughts of suicide related to these issues (which should always be taken seriously).
Start with accepting your feelings. Then, find ways to channel them into hope and action.
When you feel anxious about sustainability, it can be tempting to try to ignore or deny your feelings. But this is a bad idea! The first step in managing your anxiety is accepting that it exists, and then finding ways to channel it into hope and action.
Here are some steps you can take:
- Accept that these concerns are real for many people, including yourself. Don’t let others convince you that caring about the future of humanity isn’t “rational.” The truth is that our natural environment has provided us with so many benefits—and Earth’s capacity for providing those benefits is limited by finite resources like oil, metals and water. This means we must preserve what we have left in order for future generations as well as ourselves to enjoy a healthy planet.
If you feel disempowered, join a group that inspires you.
- Find a group of people who share your values. If you are feeling disempowered and would like to become involved with an organization that is doing good work in your community, don’t worry about where to start. You probably already know of some local organizations working on issues that are important to you.
- Support the people who are doing the work. Support them financially if possible, but also by volunteering and sharing your knowledge and skills with others.
- Get involved with your local government. Become a policy advocate for sustainability by participating in political campaigns and initiatives such as ballot measures or petition drives for new laws or regulations related to sustainability–or just sign up for email updates from advocacy groups like 350 Bay Area!
Focus on the things you want to see happen in the world rather than those you don’t.
This can be a hard thing to do, especially if you feel like the world is going in the opposite direction from where you want it to go. But focus on what you want to see happen and not what YOU can’t do about it.
If you’re truly concerned about sustainability anxiety and how we’re destroying our planet, then start by making sure that everyone else understands the importance of this topic as well. If everyone knows how important taking care of our planet is, then maybe they’ll start caring too!
And don’t forget that there are plenty of ways for individuals to make a difference even if they don’t have much money or power over entire governments or corporations. You have influence over your friends and family members too! So share some ideas with them regarding how they can help out too!
Be more selective about what you read and watch.
In the face of a world full of bad news, it can be tempting to tune out. But if you’re going to engage with the world and learn about what you need to do to make it better for future generations, then tuning out is exactly what will make sustainability anxiety worse.
Instead, be selective about what you read and watch. Avoid media that makes you feel bad about yourself—whether it’s news stories about climate change affecting other people or your Facebook feed full of political drama that seems unrelated to anything you have power over (or even just feels overwhelming). Avoid media that makes you feel powerless—like watching celebrities complain about pollution without doing anything about it themselves or reading articles where experts are quoted saying we should all give up on environmentalism already because everyone else thinks saving the planet isn’t possible anyway. Focus instead on media that inspires you: find articles with solutions that give people hope; watch documentaries like Chasing Coral instead of Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth; read books like The Forest Unseen by David George Haskell or Evicted by Matthew Desmond so they can show us how individuals living in poverty are impacted by environmental issues like climate change and land degradation in their own communities.
Sustainability anxiety is a condition you can manage if you take steps to make it easier for yourself.
Sustainability anxiety is a condition you can manage if you take steps to make it easier for yourself. It’s not a disease, but it can be debilitating if left untreated. If you’re already familiar with the symptoms and want to know how to treat sustainability anxiety, skip ahead to “Treatments” below.
If you’re new to sustainability anxiety, this section will explain what it is and how it affects your life.
Sustainability Anxiety (SA) is an anxiety disorder related to our society’s growing concern about reducing consumption of natural resources and other environmental issues such as climate change or biodiversity loss. In many cases, SA causes intense feelings of distress that interfere with people’s ability to function normally in everyday life—though those who suffer from SA may not even realize they have a problem at first!
As we’ve seen, sustainable living is a complex, emotional issue. When it comes to coping with your anxiety, the most important thing is to be kind to yourself. The good news is that there are many ways to ease your worries and get back on track—and if you have enough motivation, they can be applied in just a few minutes each day. By finding inspiration outside of yourself and focusing on positive outcomes instead of negative ones, you can take control over your own journey toward sustainability. And who knows? Maybe someday soon those feelings will disappear altogether!