If you’re reading this article it means you’re probably interested in the environment and living more sustainably, and if that’s true its very likely you’ve experienced eco-guilt or eco-anxiety before. In this article I’ll explain exactly what eco-guilt is and (more importantly) a few ways you can lessen the anxiety that it causes.
What Is Eco-Guilt?
Just like the name implies, eco-guilt is the dread or anxiety you may experience when thinking about environmental issues, or the declining health of our planet caused by waste and harmful emissions.
Similar to other causes of anxiety, it stems from a feeling of not being in control and it may feel like no matter what you do there’s no way to prevent the untimely demise of our planet.
But don’t worry! Although its easy to get pessimistic while trying to live sustainably, there are ways to ease this eco-guilt and restore your hope for the environment.
Remind Yourself That Its Okay To Make Mistakes
Often times sustainable living is made out to be an all or nothing commitment, which actually ends up deterring people from incorporating any eco-friendly practices into their lives.
Because of this, when you make a small mistake such as forgetting to bring your reusable grocery bags to the store, it feels like the end of the world or that the impact of your error is much larger than it really is.
Taking deep breaths and reminding yourself that its just a small mistake can make the eco-guilt easier to control. You can also try thinking about all of the positive things you’re doing for the environment, and be proud of yourself for taking steps towards a more sustainable life.
Make A List Of Things That You Can And Cannot Control
This is a practice I use for anxiety in general, but its especially helpful for eco-anxiety. Most of the things we find ourselves feeling worried about are things we don’t have immediate control over, which leads to a sense of helplessness.
Instead of getting caught up on the things out of your control, the list exercise encourages you to focus on what you can change as an individual. Here are my lists, so you can get some ideas.
Things I can control:
- The waste that I create
- The companies that I support
- The food that I consume
Things I cannot control:
- The actions of other people
- The consequences of large corporations
Making the lists is the easy part, the difficult part of this practice is putting what you don’t have control over out of your mind.
This of course doesn’t mean you shouldn’t encourage people to live sustainably or protest corporations that create waste and excessive emissions. It just means that you don’t have direct control over other peoples’ actions, so you have to shift your focus to your personal goals instead.
Interact With Others Interested In Sustainability
One of the best ways to ease eco-guilt is to remind yourself that there are other people fighting for environmental protection, and that you aren’t alone.
If your friends or family don’t share the same values as you, its easy to feel as if you’re the only one trying to fix environmental issues, which isn’t true. Joining communities online or locally can expose you to other people who care just as much as you do, and help you remember that you aren’t facing these big problems on your own.
I hope these tips will help you the next time you’re feeling anxious about the state of our planet, and remember that even small changes can make a big difference. Thank you for reading, have a lovely day!