February is the month to Show the Love for our incredible nature! To create a future where the things we love are protected from climate change, we need to see action now. We need to keep raising the volume on our call for change.

One of the obstacles we are facing as part of the climate action movement is rising eco-anxiety. In this blog RSPB Scotland’s Erica Mason discusses eco-anxiety and how we can show the love for our nature and ourselves by addressing it.

Show the Love for nature and ease eco-anxiety

I have worries. Lots of them. Some big and some small. I worry about paying my bills and the health of my family. About being late for the bus or failing at work. About forgetting to turn off the stove or missing an episode of a TV show I really like, or that my smart phone is pulling my focus from things that are truly meaningful.

Lately, to all these worries, I’ve noticed the appearance of a new, insidious one. Eco-anxiety is anxiety about ecological disasters and threats to nature. As we become more alert to the climate and nature emergency, eco-anxiety is being discussed more than ever. Unlike general anxiety disorders, eco-anxiety is focused on a single, specific fear: the irretrievable loss of our natural environment.

When we think about rising seas, runaway warming and damaged natural landscapes, the monumental amount we must do to urgently reverse the effects of climate change and save nature can feel overwhelming. Much like anxiety about work or relationships, eco-anxiety can produce worry that our actions are insufficient to stop the worst from happening. As with anxiety about money or health, eco-anxiety can induce feelings of hopelessness and cause visceral, physical and fear-driven responses. In this way, eco-anxiety shows one way in which the climate and nature emergency affects all aspects of life.

And yet, ignoring eco-anxiety merely amplifies its effects. The first, most important steps in dealing with eco- anxiety are acknowledging the very real fear that the climate and nature emergency inspires in people and understanding how that fear affects a person’s ability to function. As with other anxiety disorders, it is important to focus on building resilience, connect with others and finding those activities which help you. Spending time in nature has also been shown to decrease anxiety and increase our ability to cope with fear and stress. It may also be necessary to talk about your feelings with a health professional.

The worst thing about anxiety is that too much of it can make a person feel hopeless. Allowed to go un-tended, eco-anxiety can stop us from taking necessary action to save nature and the climate. Thus, it turns out, that the first step in taking action for the climate may be taking action for ourselves.

 

Find out more about the Show the Love campaign here.

If you would like further information and resources about mental health and wellbeing you can check out the Scottish Association for Mental Health and NHS Inform.

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