Whether or not you believe in climate change, there is a very real cost to the natural disasters that you increasingly witness in today’s world. The range of negative emotions is wide and large.
At the time of this writing, people in the state of California (and maybe all over the country) are horrifically fascinated by the wild fires happening in Southern California. Those who live in the area or have family and friends there are in a state of anxiety wondering if they’ll be affected. They’re riveted to the news to see if evacuation is necessary. I live farther south, in San Diego, and have evacuated twice myself. I understand that anxiety well. One of my feelings, however, is that of confusion. Why are the Santa Ana winds blowing so late in the year? Fire season is October. Then I remember that there was a second season in April last year. What is going on? The confusion also leads to anxiety in the sense that now I have to worry that “fire season” may become an all-year thing. For people with severe anxiety disorders, it can become too much.
Eco-anxiety is the term that describes what we feel in these uncertain times both from the perspectives of how human actions are negatively affecting our earth environment and, from the opposite viewpoint, the stress and anxiety disorders we get from living through these natural disasters.
(You can learn more about eco-anxiety at https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/psychpedia/eco-anxiety)
At Earth Connect, one of our mission goals is to help people heal from this sort of anxiety by reconnecting to nature. But, the paradox here is that Nature is the threat. So, how do we deal with this?
Three Ways to Deal with Eco-Anxiety
1. Be Pro-Active
Lessen future anxiety by preparing for any foreseeable natural disasters in your areas. In California, that could mean earthquakes and wildfires. Check with your local and state government to see what they recommend you do to prepare. And, get in touch with local community and your friends to create a plan of action in case one of you should be in need.
Being pro-active can also mean taking steps to help heal your local natural environment by volunteering in your local environment-based organizations. If you consider yourself an activist, you can help in a state or national level by helping with legislative efforts. Do what feels right, interesting, and fun to you that makes you feel you and contributing and have control.
2. Educate Yourself
What’s in your local, natural environment? Find out what the indigenous natural world is in your local community to learn and understand how all the natural world, including you, is connected and dependent upon each other. How your local, natural world is affected will also affect you. And, you may also learn that certain natural events, like wildfires, are cyclical and natural in your locale. You might also learn how things are changing and what you can do about it.
With constant exposure to your local environment, you can come to understand and know the changes of weather that will, also, help you better prepare, mentally and physically, for upcoming environmental phenomena.
3. Using Self-care and Self-soothing Techniques
Self-care is key to managing anxiety of any sort. It can start with basic healthy habits like getting enough sleep, eating well, and exercising. You can take it a step farther by incorporating self-soothing habits like meditation. Bringing this back to the natural world, a quiet, nature walk is a wonderful way to reconnect with earth and calm nerves. Studies have shown that even 20 minutes walking in nature decreases levels of anxiety. You can combine meditation with nature by doing a walking meditation in a natural setting, engaging all your senses to create an internal feeling of expansiveness and calmness.
So, though it might be counter-intuitive to go into nature to help yourself heal from eco-anxiety, becoming involved in and connecting with the natural world is one of the best remedies for dealing with all types of anxiety. Many studies have shown the healing effects – psychological, emotional, physical, and mental -- of Nature. You can find listings of some of them on the Earth Connect website.