Eco-anxiety is an emerging condition. Named in 2011, the American Psychological Association recently described it as the dread and helplessness that come with “watching the slow and seemingly irrevocable impacts of climate change unfold, and worrying about the future for oneself, children, and later generations.”
I would be a liar to say I don’t suffer a little eco-anxiety now and again. I have found some simple techniques to help “nip it in the bud” and not let anxiety rule my life. These simple techniques can change your mood quickly while you work on the immense challenges of life.
Stick your hands in some soil
Sounds too simple? Well, it is! Scientists have found that the bacterium Mycobacterium vaccae found in soil activates brain cells to release more serotonin. And when you think of it, have you ever met an anxious gardener? So if you are suffering a little eco-anxiety:
- Go big! Grow a backyard farm and eat organic. This helps you build your resilience and your health. Working with mother nature to secure your livelihood is calming and empowers you with the goodness of the garden and survival skills.
- Feel the power of nature. Go for a hike, camping out under the stars or a for a swim in the ocean. This can instantly make you feel good and lower the production of stress hormones such as cortisol.
- If you live in an apartment or work in an office, make a container garden. By placing pot plants around you, you not only clean the air (list found here), but you can connect with soil and let nature do its magic. LED grow light are available if your apartment does not have enough light.
Take control of your breath
Your breath may create your reality. Many people who suffer from anxiety tend to breathe in their upper chest with shallow, rapid breaths instead of breathing lower into their chest. Shallow breathing will cause more stress.
Many breathing methods are taught around the world, varying from meditative techniques to combat breathing. The goal is to calm the sympathetic nervous system. Deep (diaphragmatic) breathing is considered the fastest way to access a place of calmness inside of you.
Sit with your eyes closed and attempt to breathe naturally, preferably through your nostrils, without trying to control your breath. If you find that this isn’t working because your nervous system is too heightened or panicky, you may need to do the calming breath technique known as the combat breath. As you lower your anxiety, you can start to make a practical and straightforward plan to simplify your life.
Calming ‘Combat’ Breath
- Breathe in through your nose for a count of four, first filling your lower lungs, then your upper lungs.
- Hold your breath to the count of four.
- Exhale slowly through pursed lips for a count of four.
- Hold your breath again for a count of four. Restart the cycle as many times as necessary. While feeling your muscles in your face, jaw, shoulders, and stomach relax.
Start meditating one minute a day
This is one of my favourites. I was feeling “self-pressured” by not finding time to meditate and zen myself out. At the right time, this great little book “fell” into my hands, One Minute Meditation by Simon Park
Parke states that if you find it hard to meditate, start small and commit to meditating for just a few minutes a day. YAY, I can do that! Start with being aware of your surroundings, such as bird sound, laughing or the rustling of leaves. Focus on the ‘here and now. As you become more aware of the present, you will quickly move some negative thoughts.
Do something for nature
Random acts of kindness for nature is just as crucial as doing random acts of kindness for people. Caring for the Earth is the first ethic of permaculture and probably the most important as the Earth is the only planet we know.
Doing something for nature with no expectation of anything in return can help lift the feelings of eco-anxiety. Some of my favourite random acts of kindness are listed below. These are not necessarily the best tasks to be done, but they are essential tasks that are often forgotten.
- Plant a tree or three!
- Seed bomb local parks with bee forage plants.
- Make insect hotels for school gardens and random trees.
- Compost all your food scraps to make soil.
- Volunteer a day in a community garden weeding all the trees and perennial plants.
Take it personally
So the moment of truth! You need to take it personally and commit to lifting your feelings of eco-anxiety so that you can start creating your reality. These simple actions will get you started. Be persistent and mindful, even on bad days, to produce happy hormones in your body.
After reading this article, if you are still feeling uneasy, why not see a naturopath? A naturopath can help support your body and nervous system so that you are able to adapt to daily stresses with ease. Ensuring you have all the necessary things for optimal neurotransmitter production. Meaning you can get onto doing what you love – working with nature.