Droughts, floods, wild fires, and heat waves are not the only byproducts of climate change. Psychologists have coined the term “eco-anxiety” to describe the syndrome of depression, anxiety and despair that affects those of us suffering along with our ailing planet.
Our New Abnormal
During the two weeks in November, when the entire San Francisco Bay Area was downwind from the devastating Camp Fire in Butte County, the gloom was a thick as the smoke-filled air. People, who could, left town. Many lost their perspective, believing Armageddon had arrived. Governor Brown warned us of the new abnormal: increased risk of fires due to drier, warmer climate. Once the rain came and the air cleared, we did not toss our N95 masks; we will likely need them again.
Denial to Despair
Everyone is in danger of experiencing eco-anxiety. Those directly affected by a storm, fire or extreme heat will suffer physical as well as mental distress; those indirectly affected by the reports of devastation may also suffer along with the victims. Naturally folks prone to depression and anxiety are more at risk of eco-anxiety.
Scientists warned us of the perils of climate change decades ago, yet eco-anxiety only recently surfaced as a recognized malady. Initially we were in collective denial. Some say that our society has been going through the emotional stages of death and dying as we watch our planet suffer. The despair, hopelessness and guilt we now feel over not taking action are to be expected.
Like any form of anxiety, self-care is recommended in treating eco-anxiety. Exercise, meditation and other stress-reducing activities help. Taking action can also relieve the stress. In fact, a new form of therapy, Ecotherapy, has emerged; this treatment involves spending time in nature and getting involved in projects to improve the planet.
The earth is facing a crisis and so are we.Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is increasingly more important; using social media wisely must be part of this strategy.Being barraged by doom and gloom reports is enough to make even the most upbeat among us despondent. Clearly burying our heads in the sand is not the answer, nor is beating those heads against a brick wall.Be kind to yourself… and recycle.