What To Know About Eco-Anxiety And How You Can Deal With It

Nearly every year, another devastating scientific report is released by the United Nations alongside warnings that the effects of climate change are becoming more severe and less reversible. The impending doom of it all is beginning to take a toll on many people, especially those who consider themselves environmentally conscious. It can be intensely discouraging to feel like all the measures you've taken and the modern conveniences you've sacrificed for years of your life were for nothing. Then, the fear sets in when you think about what the future could look like for you or for future generations on a planet that may no longer be inhabitable.


According to a 2020 poll by the American Psychological Association, more than 70% of Americans are concerned enough about climate change to alter their lifestyles. Dark thoughts and worries tied to climate change are now so common that they have been dubbed eco-anxiety. Eco-anxiety is similar to generalized anxiety disorder; however, the symptoms specifically center around worrying about the progression of global warming and its effects on the planet. If you already suffer from an anxiety or panic disorder, you're more likely to experience eco-anxiety. Here are the symptoms to watch for and how to deal with this modern mental health struggle.

Symptoms and risk factors of eco-anxiety

A predisposition to anxiety or panic disorder isn't the only risk factor for developing eco-anxiety. People who live in areas that frequently experience natural disasters and those that are expected to be most impacted by climate change, including sustaining the highest numbers of related fatalities, are especially at risk. Since African American, Native American, and Alaskan Native individuals are more likely to live in these highly impacted areas, they are especially prone to experiencing eco-anxiety, as reported by the United States Environmental Protection Agency. However, by no means does this exclude other groups from falling into its grasp.


The symptoms of eco-anxiety are largely the same as those of anxiety in general. They include racing or intrusive thoughts, a frequent sense of panic, and chronic worrying that disrupts your ability to function. In this case, those thoughts and worries will center around the future of the planet and the sense of helplessness and/or urgency created by the growing amount of scientific information available to confirm the seriousness of the situation. You may also experience physical symptoms like insomnia, tension headaches, nausea, appetite changes, sweating, and a racing heart or shortness of breath when your anxiety flares (via the Mayo Clinic).

Ways to deal with eco-anxiety

Once you've learned to identify your anxiety around climate change, you can incorporate mindfulness to manage them. Grounding and breathwork are easy, powerful, and free exercises that can bring you back to your center, per Harvard Health Publishing. Start with simple box breathing. Slowly inhale into your abdomen while mentally counting to five. Gently hold the breath in your lungs for another count of five and then slowly release it while counting to five once more.


If you'd like to try grounding, simply close your eyes and complete a round or two of box breathing. Visualize a system of roots emerging from your legs, feet, and the base of your spine. Watch these roots extend through the floor, into the ground below, and all the way into the earth's core. The core glows with pure, healing white light and this light is infused into your roots and carried up into your body.

When you feel recharged and secure, visualize these glowing roots retracting back into your body and then open your eyes with the knowledge and reassurance that you have the ability to reconnect with the planet and ground yourself to the earth at any time. If mindfulness practices alone aren't helping to manage your symptoms, reach out for help from a local mental health professional or a national resource like MentalHelp.net.


If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.