Powerless. That is how I felt when watching glaciers melt before my very eyes. Witnessing these ancient structures fade away into nothing, in yet another sobering documentary. The scale of this was overwhelming. My eyes filled with tears as my heart sank. What have we done?
What is eco anxiety?
Sound familiar? If so, you may have experienced 'eco-anxiety'. This can be defined as 'persistent worries about the future of Earth and the life it shelters'. Symptoms can include feelings of anger, dread, guilt/shame, grief and panic. All in all, its not pleasant.
The desperate state of our earth is becoming more and more apparent. With the help of social media, this information has never been more accessible. My social media feed was flooded (excuse the pun) with viewer's outrage after watching the latest Netflix documentary - 'Seaspiracy'. Yet another example of humanity's devastating impact on our natural world.
What should we do about it?
So, what's the alternative to these feelings of anxiety? Bury my head in the sand? Talk over people trying to communicate this message, with the excuse that I 'can't deal'? Hastily scroll past depressing social media posts? We've all been doing this for far too long. Its no longer an option if we want to save our earth and all the innocent creatures that live alongside us. However, being in a constant state of anxiety is also not an option. We need to be at our strongest for this fight.
Its taken me a while, but I have nurtured some tools that help combat this, which I thought I'd share with you today...
Tool 1 - Be kind to yourself
You need to protect your own mental health. Some days, you will feel overwhelmed with these negative emotions. Let yourself mourn. Let yourself feel angry. The key here is not to wallow in these emotions. On bad days, find moments of joy. Give yourself space to heal by having some go-to activities that always make you feel better. For me, this includes going for a walk in nature, escaping into a beloved book, making nourishing food and spending time with my loved ones. You are no use to anyone if you are a crumpled mess on the floor after all...
Tool 2 - Use knowledge to your advantage
Knowledge really is power. Although it can feel intimidating, it is important to have some understanding about the threats to our natural world. More importantly, it is important to understand what you can do to help.
This doesn't mean reading article after depressing article until you scare yourself off the topic forever. Take the emotion out of it and build your knowledge up slowly. Find your own way of obtaining this knowledge, whether it be watching documentaries/YouTube videos, listening to podcasts or reading books, magazines or blogs. Focus on what changes you can do at an individual level, as understanding these will give you that bit more power. There is a wealth of information out there so get digging!
Tool 3 - Redirect your energy
Channelling your emotions into making a positive change is powerful. For me, this is the most effective tool in my kit. I like to reassess my life on a regular basis to examine whether there is room for improvement. I want to write an entire blog post on this, but here are a few simple ideas to get you started if you want to improve your environmental footprint -
Incorporate some vegan meals into your week
Reduce food waste by composting
Use reusable products, like fabric cleaning cloths and water bottles, to reduce waste
Reduce consumption of fast fashion
Save energy by turning off outlets you are not using
Drive less and walk/cycle instead
This is just a snippet of what we could do. Many of them you have likely heard before but they are all so important. I recommend following some of my favourite bloggers/YouTubers, 'Sustainably Vegan' and 'Madeline Oliva', for some really accessible sustainable inspiration.
Tool 4 - Empower others
Working together is the only way we are going to save our Earth. Anything you can do to inspire others will instantly double your impact. A word of warning here, this can be delicate balance. It can be tempting to shout your views to the world. The more you learn, the more you'll feel the need to shake those around you and try to wake them up to the horrors of this world. In my experience, all this does is put barriers up, as people start to view 'sustainability' with negativity. Heads will bury even further into the sand...
Instead of judging, focus on empowering others. Practise kindness, respect and patience. Living by example can be one of the most effective ways to change the behaviours of others. To my utter surprise and delight, I have noticed changes within people in my own life. My mother, a life long meat-eater, is now fully vegan. My partner and friends are incorporating more plant-based meals and sustainable practises all the time. Why? Because they have watched me thrive. Do not underestimate your power to influence.
Tool 5 - Build a community
One of the biggest perks of starting this blog has been building a community that I can fully relate too. Having a community, whether physical or virtual, means that you have a constant source of inspiration, information and support. It also makes you feel far less alone. Everyone is welcome to join our Hippy Highland Living community, so make sure so sign up as member to my site and join me on social media. Lets keep this movement growing!
I've come to accept that I am never going to 'cure' my eco-anxiety. Its part of who I am. People often say I 'care too much'. They don't understand why I wouldn't take an easier route and look away. But that is not who I am, nor who I want to be. I will continue to feel each animal death, each devastating climate statistic, with the respect it deserves. But now I have the tools to not only cope but thrive. I really hope that this has helped my fellow environmentalists and animal lovers. You are all an inspiration.