6 Simple Steps for Managing Eco-Anxiety + Living Sustainably
While it’s incredibly inspiring to watch the world turning into a more eco-conscious place, becoming aware of the damage we’re doing to our environment can instill a droning level of anxiety about our future that’s hard to ignore and it takes its toll on our mental health. To make sure we don’t burn out or swing too far to the other end and choose the “ignorance is bliss” route, we can be intentional and purposeful about our sustainability practices to make sure we stay on track with our activism while keeping our spirits lifted.
Here’s our round-up of 6 simple, actionable tips for leading a sustainable lifestyle while managing your eco-anxiety.
FOCUS ON THE GOOD
Easier said than done, we know. But the more we focus on the positive, the more of it we see, and the more inspired we are to get out of bed and do our part instead of curling up into an existential ball.
One way to ensure you don’t get overwhelmed by negative news is to be incredibly intentional about your consumption so that you still feel up to date without getting dragged down. It is important to stay aware of the issues facing our planet and our people, but you don’t need to be bombarded by them all the time. If you notice that your instagram feed is, like, 80% fear mongering and depressing climate crisis statistics, it might be time to unfollow some of those accounts, especially if there's no real actionable advice.
Alternatively, choose one or two times a day where you’ll check the news, or check in on those instagram accounts that share climate updates and keep them muted the rest of the time. That way, you know you’ve got the latest on what’s going on out there but it doesn’t bleed into every aspect of your life. It’s important to keep some things sacred and to give your brain some time to enjoy the present moment without always worrying about the future. Restore and recharge so you can power forward with a renewed spirit!
TAKE LOTS OF LITTLE SUSTAINABLE ACTIONS
Massive changes can be appealing in their grandeur, but in reality, they can also be extremely difficult to execute overnight and leave you feeling like you have to turn your entire world upside down just to do your little part to fight the climate crisis.
Before you do anything drastic that might leave you drained and exhausted, first, try to incorporate as many little sustainable changes as you can, so that they blend seamlessly into your lifestyle and feel like a joy rather than a chore. The climate crisis is already depressing enough as it is, you don’t want to feel like your compassion for the environment starts to ruin your daily life by depriving you of simple joys or making every little task difficult.
Brainstorm a list of small sustainable steps that feel achievable, whether that’s keeping a tiny tote on hand to avoid plastic bags for those last minute groceries, or switching to veggie meals for two days of the week, and add them into your life at a rate that you feel comfortable with. Odds are, these changes will actually last much longer and snowball into bigger actions, because they’ll feel so easy and gradually become a part of your routine.
There’s no need to sell your car and switch to an electric one, refit every window in your house with double insulation, switch to a vegan diet, and only buy sustainable or second-hand all at once. That will only make you hyper-aware of how every little part of your life impacts our environment, leaving you anxious and on edge. Baby steps are ok. In fact, they pave the way for the giant leaps!
TAKE ONE BIG SUSTAINABLE STEP
Once you’ve mastered your baby steps, or even alongside them, choose one giant leap at a time that you feel comfortable and capable of achieving. Doing something that feels “big” or “extreme” could help you feel like you’re really doing your part, and give you something to fall back on when you start getting anxious about whether or not you’re doing “enough”.
Whether that’s switching up the way you eat, shop, or heat your home, the big steps do make a difference when you take them at the right time for you, so that you can stick to them long-term, and they’re an amazing way to prove to yourself that your actions align with your beliefs.
Plus, not only do they benefit the environment, but they’ll often have more widespread positive impacts on your life. At the very least, changing your diet could bring about a whole host of health improvements and introduce you to new recipes and restaurants you’d never tried before, if not integrate you into a whole new community that provides fulfillment in your life.
Likewise, when you start shopping sustainably, you might realize how much mental, as well as physical, space all that unnecessary clutter in your closet was occupying, and understand that a more intentional, purposeful approach eases the stress of having too many clothes to organize and yet seemingly never have the perfect outfit.
Best of all, with many sustainable switches, you may even notice an improvement in your long-term finances. By investing in well-made, timeless pieces, you’ll be less likely to hop on the latest trends that seem to be a good deal in the moment but the costs for them add up over time when they fall to pieces or suddenly go out of style. Likewise, updating your home’s infrastructure to conserve more energy may make a dent in your bank account here and now, but you’ll be saving on years and years of lost energy and unnecessary costs.
SURROUND YOURSELF WITH SUSTAINABLY-MINDED PEOPLE
It’s always a good idea to surround yourself with people who share your values, but it reaps extra rewards when it comes to sustainability. Being around people who are careless with the environment, littering whenever they go out, consuming endless amounts of plastic, and most importantly, expressing little regard for the state of our planet, is emotionally draining and can make you feel hopeless and terrified for the future.
Being around those who are consistently committed to creating a better future and combating the climate crisis will remind you that there is hope and that you’re certainly not in this alone. If you’re struggling to find people who align with you in this way, there are so many awesome places to look for a sustainable community!
Facebook Groups are a great place to start, since it’s as simple as searching the word “Sustainable” + the name of your city, and voila! You’ve joined at least a couple hundred, if not thousands, of people in your area who share your interests and can help you work towards a brighter future with a positive mindset. You can also search for terms like “Zero-Waste”, “Vegan”, “Climate Justice”, and anything similar to see what groups you find and make sense for you to join.
Then, whether you find them online or on the bulletin board of your local cafe, attend sustainability events where you can not only learn and contribute to an eco-future, but meet others who are doing the same and can help you stay on track and keep your spirits lifted. Again, Facebook is a great place to look for fun activities; whether it’s beach cleanups or vegan potlucks, and meetup.com is literally an entire platform dedicated to meeting people with similar interests to you!
SHARE YOUR FEELINGS WITH SOMEONE WHO CAN HELP AND UNDERSTAND
Sometimes, all we need is to feel heard and understood. Whether it’s confiding in a close friend who you know can hold space for your feelings, attending community climate events, or seeking guidance from a professional therapist, it’s important to get your eco-anxieties off your chest every once in a while. It’s a burden that you don’t have to carry alone, and simply releasing it into the world by speaking those words, and sometimes having a big ol’ cry, can bring so much relief.
Try your best to identify your feelings, not just the big scary facts. You could start with journaling before you discuss it with someone else to really get to the core of your emotions.
Are you feeling overwhelmed by the pressure you put on yourself to live a “perfectly” sustainable life? Are you feeling judged by the people around you who might make you feel like you’re not doing “enough”? Are you feeling in despair due to the uncertainty about the future of our planet? Pinning down how our current climate situation is making you, specifically, feel is an important stepping stone to help you work through it.
You can’t change the facts, but you can work through your responses to them and how they influence the way you live.
At the end of the day, life is challenging, and challenges can sometimes be rewarding. There’s no need to make it harder by beating ourselves up about our efforts and obsessing over facts we can’t change alone. We each have so many various things to juggle, and second-guessing every purchase or decision we make through the lens of the environment doesn’t make it any easier.
Do your best to find a balanced approach to sustainability, wherein you contribute in meaningful and powerful ways without sacrificing your own sanity or happiness.
It’s cliché, but you can’t pour from an empty cup. You need to make sure you have reliable sources of input flowing so you can offer equally reliable output. Whether that means being mindful of how and when you consume climate-related content or picking your battles at family gatherings to conserve your mental energy, find the balance that works for you.
And remember, our lives are in constant flux. Your balance today might be different from your balance tomorrow, next week, or next year, and that’s completely okay. Actually, it’s not just okay, it’s human. We’re all in this together, and if you ever need reminding of that, the Consciously fam’ has your back! Join us over on Instagram and sign up to receive our community letters and updates to stay connected.