A Spiritual Guide To Dealing With Eco-Anxiety
Do you ever feel deeply worried about the future of our planet? Do you get drained from contemplating the devastating effects of human activity on the natural environment? Or do you get overwhelmed by the magnitude of the environmental crisis? Then you might be suffering from eco-anxiety.
What is eco-anxiety?
It turns out climate change does not only cause mass extinction, natural disasters and an increasing number of extreme weather events. It also takes a toll on our mental health. More and more psychologists around the world are reporting on patients with psychological disorders inflicted by worries about the environmental crisis. And the American Psychology Association recognizes that “gradual, long-term changes in climate can surface a number of different emotions, including fear, anger, feelings of powerlessness, or exhaustion.”
Although there are no statistics available on the prevalence of eco-anxiety, it is clear that this phenomenon is real and on the rise.
What are the health effects of eco-anxiety?
It is no wonder that eco-anxiety is becoming the malaise of our time. Humans are natural problem-solvers. But our current climate crisis and its related environmental issues are so complex and immense that it is only natural for individuals to feel despaired and helpless. This constant state of worry can lead to a variety of health problems, from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and depression to physical illnesses stemming from chronic inflammation and a suppressed immune system. Of course, a world full of burnt out, depressed humans is not going to help anyone, so it is important that you take care of your own physical, mental and emotional wellbeing before you pour your energy into making a positive impact on the world.
So if you are feeling drained and down at the moment, below are some spiritual guideposts for overcoming eco-anxiety.
It all starts with yin and yang
If you are unfamiliar with yin and yang, they are best understood as two halves of a whole. Yin stands for the cool, quiet, peaceful and feminine. Yang stands for the hot, loud, active and masculine. Ideally, yin and yang are in harmony, but at the moment, we are living in a very yin deficient world. The abundance of yang expresses itself at the level of the environmental (a heating planet and dying forests), the societal (overconsumption and a focus on economic growth) and the individual (overstimulation and pathological lack of rest).
Framing the ecological crisis in terms of yin and yang allows you to understand that on the individual level climate activism – although very important – is not the only necessary response. What the world desperately needs at all levels is rebalancing towards yin. For individuals, that means slowing down, working less, taking time to rest and living a simple, wholesome life. Balancing yourself towards a more yin-based life will naturally lead to less consumption and pressure on natural resources, making it a crucial first step towards healing our dying environment.
The following activities are a great way to balance yin deficiency and to address eco-anxiety in a holistic way.
1. Find a healing community
The climate crisis is a collective one that requires collective action. It demands us to stand together, protest together, facility change together and transform our societies together. But it also demands us to heal together. Finding a spiritual or emotional community in which you can express your concerns about environmental issues offers a holistic approach to overcoming a holistic problem. Try balancing your local activist involvement (yang energy) with ceremonial sharing circles or community-based healing practices (yin energy).
2. Be with Mother Earth
Being in nature helps us to slow down, heal our racing minds and soothe our worn-down bodies. Nature has been proven to relieve stress and promote a sense of peace and well-being in humans. Spending as much time as you can in the great outdoors thus helps balance your yin deficiencies. Moreover though, being in nature connects us to each other and the world at large. It has been shown that spending time in nature increases altruistic and empathetic feelings. As the climate crisis can often leave us feeling hopeless and apathetic, reconnecting with nature is a great way to boost morale for inspired action.
Besides the above activities, general self-care is instrumental when dealing with eco-anxiety. Climate activism and individual action is incredibly important, but you cannot fight fire with fire. Eco-anxiety is a yang symptom, so extinguish the fire in yourself first with soothing and healing activities before you attempt to extinguish the fires of the world.
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