Replace eco-anxiety with eco-positivity
By Ashlyn Woods
As an already anxious junior in high school, I am constantly weighed down by the stress of determining what college, environment, and career will be suitable for me to flourish in the future. I have a strong work ethic and a personal high standard and so I feel I must achieve. But with the threat of the climate crisis, future success becomes uncertain. I am pleading to not be burdened by another impending unease. I feel anxious for my future and my children’s future because I want them to live their life to the fullest and admire the beautiful nature that surrounded me in my youth. I believe children should not have to worry about the impending doom of their environment. Adolescents should view their future’s opportunities as limitless.
We, as humans, should not question if our entire existence is going to be strained by the unpredictable hands of the climate crisis. This eco-anxiety may stem from those who are a part of a livelihood that is dependent on the environment to fuel their income, or, simply put, the generations that will have to first handily be induced by the effects of the heightening severity of natural disasters.
Therefore, the interconnectedness between psychological health and climate change must be treated as an urgent matter.
This leads us to the big question of how we can learn to manage and lighten our anxiety.
Since being an advocate for mental health awareness within and outside my school, I believe there are always ways to alleviate stress: it may just require some training to cultivate positivity and coping mechanisms to combat any psychological disturbance.
Firstly, Australian Aboriginal philosophy can serve as guidance for coping with eco-anxiety. The Aboriginal Spirituality acknowledges that everything, including people, animals, plants, and landforms, is interconnected. And so as humans we must be more conscious of our place in the ecosystem and the animistic world. In sum, we must become more aware of how our actions affect our surrounding environment. Using this knowledge will help us recognize and assert precaution to our everyday actions. Whether it be recycling, limiting consumption, or developing sustainable alternatives to your everyday, becoming attuned to the earth’s needs can benefit the environment and weaken disastrous consequences. Moreover, it will shift our focus from ourselves to the bigger picture. If we become too self conscious and focused on our internal anxiety, we will only continue to become increasingly anxious. Thus, by fueling our external awareness, we will enable ourselves to find a possible solution to limit our eco-anxiety.
Secondly, as social creatures with a herd mentality, we can develop connections with each other by forming climate centered affinity groups that could help dismantle our ever so tightening stress. It’s necessary to have these ongoing conversations because it helps strengthen relationships and communities. Moreover, this outlet may assist with developing new solutions, coping mechanisms, or creating a strong support system amongst like-minded individuals. Getting involved in communal events such as river clean ups or even joining a climate justice centered organization can help make individuals aware of their positive impact on the world. This consciousness can help assert an individual's importance and self worth within society.
Lastly, focus on the progress that has been or can be made. Shine positivity on the action being made by yourself and the entirety of the climate movement. As we begin to see a lot more media coverage on the domestic and international organizations such as Zero Hour, Fridays for Future, 350, and many others, it is enlightening to witness the universal action that is taking place.
Although the list of tips that can assist with combating eco-anxiety is ever so lengthy, I believe that those that are listed are crucial to creating a hopeful and less stressful environment.
About the Author
Ashlyn Woods is a 17 year old climate justice and mental health activist who
is currently enrolled as a junior in high school. As a youth activist, she is dedicated to spread awareness of the interconnectedness between mental health and climate change.