How to manage eco-anxiety and your wellbeing is an exciting post for two reasons:
- It continues the theme of eco-anxiety from my first post.
- It represents my first guest post!
Indeed, with this post l am pleased to introduce Salome Laloum-Gaultier, an inspiring and driven mindset coach intent on helping aspiring changemakers fulfil their potential.
Again read the initial piece first, so you can fully appreciate this one and the get most from this form of an eco-anxiety treatment.
Intro – Understand how to manage eco-anxiety
My take on this is very hopeful and optimistic and can be deemed naive and unrealistic by some.
It is done on purpose.
My job is not to make you aware of the current situation but to help you manage the emotions that come from it.
If you want to gain more context, including an idea of an eco-anxiety definition, read the first part of this series here.
Otherwise, these are my recommendations on how to manage eco-anxiety.
1 Become aware of the story you’re telling yourself and upgrade the narrative.
The stories we tell literally make the world. If you want to change the world, you need to change your story. This truth applies both to individuals and institutions
The story of humanity is the story of tales, of values and beliefs.
But the thing is, beliefs are just that… beliefs. There are no absolute truths.
Nothing ever is.
Things just are, the world just is.
Situations are neutral until we give them meaning.
And every day we have the power to choose the meaning we give to our day, our relationships, our work and everything that happens to us.
The same goes for how we perceive the world and the future in general.
We have the power to choose the meaning we give it. We get to decide if we believe a story of doom and gloom or a story of resilience and new paradigm creation.
It’s this glass half full or half empty again.
All of this wouldn’t matter if our beliefs didn’t have such a tremendous impact on our emotional states.
Indeed, it’s our deep-rooted beliefs that create our thoughts which then provoke certain emotions in our bodies (and that ends up creating our reality, but that’s a lesson for another day).
So the anxiety you are feeling right now comes from the belief that the world is doomed and we’re all going to die.
In a sense, we become our own worst enemy
Who wouldn’t feel anxious believing that?
Manage eco-anxiety by storytelling
The trick is, therefore, to be aware of the stories you’re telling yourself about the world and the future of humankind.
Catch those narratives. Identify those negative and desperate beliefs you hold so dearly (in coaching, we call them limiting beliefs – because true or not, they’re not serving you or the world). And change them.
SO, the first step in dealing with eco-anxiety is to:
- Upgrade your beliefs, essentially by weakening your confidence in them,
- Question and challenge the evidence that backs up your limiting beliefs,
- Look for the generalizations, check to see what is missing – create a doubt in your belief.
These are variations of how to develop an eco-anxiety treatment for oneself.
If your belief is that biodiversity is dying and it’s too late to reverse climate change, can you find instances that challenge this evidence?
Which leads me to my second tip.
2 Feed your brain with alternative stories.
We are anxious about the future because all that we’re shown and fed is how everything is going terribly wrong.
While this is true, it is not the only truth.
The problem is, we’re never made aware of the other side of the story:
- of the social innovations that are solving global issues,
- or the data that proves that the world is actually getting better (extreme poverty and violence have fallen, more people are going to school, child mortality is at an all-time low…).
It’s not our fault that we’re so addicted to bad news.
Our negativity bias was essential for our survival for thousands of years and continues to make us more drawn to horrors and problems than to solutions and optimism.
But in times of crisis, it is as important, to tell the truth, and stay aware than it is to stay optimistic to take action.
Manage eco-anxiety with your thoughts
So train your brain to look for the solutions, for the alternatives.
Make the effort to look for the good news and the things worth fighting for. A good resource and starting point are the Solutions Journalism Network.
They’re working globally to make this solution-oriented news more present in mass media.
For the world to do better and our global issues to be tackled, we would need more of that:
- through more solutions,
- with more policies that support a new paradigm,
- or via more agents of change.
What would this new paradigm look like?
In an ideal scenario, what does the world look like once governments start acting like they care, once social justice is respected and the climate crisis reversed?
Start telling that story. Start envisioning this future world.
It’s a crucial step of any eco-anxiety treatment.
Aaron Rose, a spiritual teacher and transformational coach for changemakers, created a “Future World Meditation” which helps you do this.
3 Self-soothe with mindful practices.
When the anxiety of an apocalyptic future becomes too overwhelming, knowing how to self-soothe is essential.
In these crazy times, we are facing, developing a daily-wellbeing and grounding practice is a question of life or death (I’m barely exaggerating).
What does a wellbeing practice looks like?
The good news is, it’s up to you. Try techniques and exercises and pick the ones that work for you.
I recommend including meditation in a form or another.
Certainly, it will help to manage eco-anxiety.
And no, it’s not just about being more zen. Meditation has been proven to be a key tool in promoting resilience.
Adapting to rapidly changing circumstances sounds like a necessary skill in this new world we are building!
Meditating can be as simple as sitting comfortably and observing your breath.
Here’s a simple one I like to use to calm my nervous system down and get grounded:
Plus, other self-soothing practices include deeper breathwork, yoga, journalling but even more obvious ones like:
- taking a walk in nature
- or cultivating a sense of play.
This idea of play and interaction leads me to point four.
4 Find your tribe.
Humans are meant for community, for interaction, and in times of trouble, there’s no better cure than finding your tribe.
Those people, those groups that naturally blend with.
So your mission should you choose to accept it, is to get out in the world and find like-minded people who are feeling the same way.
This is vital when considering how to manage eco-anxiety. How to find eco-anxiety treatment.
Because you are far from being alone!
Thousands of us are experiencing feelings of eco-anxiety, feelings of dread, of helplessness.
These empathetic and caring changemakers can exist in various walks-of-life, though may when it comes to the environment, hang out in communities like makesense, Extinction Rebellion and all the Impact Hubs of the world.
Indeed, it will benefit the state of your mind as much as the environment, to check them out.
5 Take action to manage eco-anxiety
The best remedy for anxiety is action.
Indeed, anxiety is an uncontrollable and irrational fear of a bad hypothetical future. You are scared of something that hasn’t happened but might happen, which tends to paralyse you.
The best thing you can do is set yourself in motion.
If the future of our planet worries you, start being the change you wish to see.
This is one of the best ways to consider when thinking about an eco-anxiety definition.
Like mentioned above, joining a group of like-minded changemakers is the first step. Taking action alongside them is the best thing you right now.
Also, l, personally, found that what helped me most was to find my purpose:
- get clear on what my unique talents are
- how I can use them to be of service to the world.
I spent some time figuring out what I love doing, what I’m good at and what the world needs most (which cause seems most urgent to me), what the Japanese call the Ikigai:
“The reason why you get up in the morning”.
Creating a life around this made me feel like I was fulfilling the unique mission I was here to accomplish.
Now, l, personally, don’t feel this dreaded anxiety anymore.
I feel empowered.
A feeling like I’m on the good side of history.
Like l can acknowledge the darkness but decides to step into the light and get to work.
And this is what I help my clients do every day.
But it is as applicable to your personal life, as much as to your professional.
6 Seek professional help.
Realising the scope of the issue and that a collapse of our economies and ecosystems might be inevitable can provoke intense and deep grief.
Don’t undermine the impact of such realisations have on your mental health and seek professional help if needed.
There is never any replacement for professional treatment, including finding ones to resemble an eco-anxiety treatment.
Takeaways – Manage eco-anxiety & your wellbeing
And there are Salome’s recommendations on how to manage eco-anxiety.
She is amazing. Plain and simple.
Plus, if we are to not just manage eco-anxiety, but more broadly prevent it from affecting people, we all need to heed such advice.
Be that through how we travel or how we consume products.
Equally, it could include when feeling in this way, by working with others similarly affected to establish an eco-anxiety definition, as it will benefit others.
So again, at least for me, it comes back to choice.
Either way, l think it’s hard to deny the benefits of caring for ourselves and our mental welfare.
Environment-related or not.
But what do you think? Have you tried any of Salomes’ suggestions?
Let us both know with a comment.