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I’m worried about the environment

It’s normal to be worried about the environment and the things you see on the news. Let’s look at ‘eco-anxiety’ and how to cope with it.

Teen girl with hands behind her head, laying on the round surrounded by a puzzle, gaming console, ipad and notebook

What is ‘eco-anxiety’?

Eco-anxiety is a term some people are using to describe feeling overwhelmed by future environmental challenges the planet faces, like climate change or pollution. 

People experiencing anxiety related to the environment might be concerned about different things, such as the impact on wildlife, or the future habitability of the planet. 

Anxiety might also affect people differently, e.g. stress, feeling depressed, feelings of grief, or even anger.

Kids Helpline has a ‘Green Team’, a group of counsellors and staff who are dedicated to making Kids Helpline a more environmentally friendly service. If you have suggestions for us, you can send them through here

You told us what you felt about the environment

We asked young people on Instagram about your environmental thoughts and fears. Here’s what you said:

  • 89% of you were worried about the environment
  • 86% of you were worried that environmental issues might impact on your future
  • 79% of you are unhappy with the adult response to the climate crisis
  • 89% of you said the impact on your mental health was moderate to significant
  • 71% of you intend to vote with the climate crisis in mind
  • 81% of you have made lifestyle changes to help the environment
  • 59% of you would rather know about environmental issues than not know

Choose some practical strategies that are right for you

  • Reduce, reuse, recycle. Recycle what you can. Return soft plastics to the recycling bin in your local supermarket. Compost food scraps rather than throw them in the bin.
  • Save energy. Hang clothes on a clothes line, rather than using the dryer. Turn off lights when you leave a room.
  • Advocacy or activism. This can look like lots of different things. You might write to your favourite companies to ask them to reduce single-use plastic wrapping on their products. You might volunteer to pick up rubbish or join in your local Landcare activities. You might research different political parties’ standpoints on renewable energy and use this to inform voting. Some people join groups to protest; while you have a right to freedom of speech and protest, be mindful that in certain circumstances some forms of protest can be illegal. 
  • Travel less or differently. You might ride a bike or catch public transport instead of driving, where possible. Or you might choose to holiday local to reduce carbon emissions from flying. Or, you might take an ‘eco-tourism’ vacation to support communities who are protecting the environment.
  • Make informed food choices. In general, animal agriculture has a bigger impact on the environment than producing plant foods. Eating more fruits and vegetables is good for the environment, animals, your health and reduces the chances of future pandemics! Plus, eating local and in-season foods reduces the amount food transport pollution.
  • Be a mindful consumer. This means spending money consciously. This might mean avoiding fast fashion, or trying to buy only from companies that are environmentally responsible. If you have superannuation, you might choose to invest in companies that are environmentally friendly.

Coping strategies

Coping strategies are all about regulating your thoughts and feelings, so you can better manage your own behaviours. Here are some things that might help:

Find ways to manage stress/anxiety. Anxiety can be overwhelming. It can make you feel hopeless or lead to inaction. Managing your stress and anxiety isn’t just good for you – it’s also good for the environment, because you are better able to take action if you look after your own wellbeing. 

Get inspired. If you are feeling down, it can sometimes help to find out about many of the amazing initiatives that are happening around the world. You might follow a start-up that is finding ways to remove carbon from the atmosphere, or make a donation to a company that is bringing solar energy to developing nations.

Look after yourself. It’s hard to look after the planet if you are tired or rundown. Making self-care a priority can reduce stress/anxiety levels too. 

Focus on what you can control. It can be easy to feel overwhelmed about things beyond your control. The good news is that if everyone focuses on a few things they can do to make a difference, it all adds up.

Find purpose. Trying to make a difference and feeling like it’s not working can be really disempowering. But real, positive change in often hard-won. One way to stay resilient is to focus on the end goal, or the ‘why’ of any action you take.

Be a role model. You can’t control others and it can be upsetting to see family, friends, companies or even governments take action you disagree with. Changing attitudes is all about leading by example. The more people who do it, the more it will become the ‘norm’.

Be prepared for setbacks. Permanent change isn’t just progress. It also includes setbacks. The only time setbacks are permanent is if we accept them and give up. It’s ok to feel frustrated or upset about setbacks, but remember that it’s the comeback that counts!

Manage media exposure. We all need a mental break sometimes. If you are feeling overwhelmed, it’s ok to reduce your exposure to media or do something that distracts you/takes your mind off it to de-stress.

If you’re feeling anxious about the environment, talking with someone can really help

You’re not alone – support is always available.

If you want to learn more about anxiety and how to deal with it, give us a call, start a WebChat or send us an email anytime, for any reason.

This content was last reviewed 19/06/2020

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