02 Dec Environmental Stress & Eco-Anxiety – How Can CBT Help ?
Eco-Anxiety – What is it and what can we do about it?
Stress is commonly used in our society, and describes a state of being. But how can we understand stress within ourselves and the wider environment that may be contributing to a particular kind of stress –Ecoanxiety? And more importantly what can we do about this particular stress – when the uncertainty of our wider environment – such as climate change and political stability are reported to us everyday.
Firstly, let’s define stress. Stress involves an imbalance between what is demanded of us and what we are able to cope with or respond to. We may notice ourselves becoming stressed when we have changes in our physical responses – such as sleep and eating patterns or in our thinking processes – seeing the bad things that could happen or worrying more about things we cannot change and also in our emotional state – having more anxiety and frustration for example. Any physical or emotional state really that causes bodily of metal tension. Stress varies based on the individual and if stress is associated with particular circumstances, this stress can reduce when that situation has resolved itself. However stress can also build over time if the problem is not within the person’s control and having a sense of not being dealt with, which increases the health risks.
These are stressors found in our environment and can be accumulative. Everyday life is full of environmental stressors which build up to cause a reaction in us. Some common environmental stressors are : Heat, Noise, colours, crowding, air quality.
The wider environmental stressors are such things as evidence of climate change – tornadoes, flooding, deforestation, bush fires and also issues of conflict such as reports of war, political unrest and Financial Market uncertainty.
Stress related to the wider Environmental Issues
The definition of Environmental Stress – Pressure on the environment cause by human activities (eg Pollution) and natural activities (such as floods/droughts). In our therapy sessions here at BraintrainersUK we have noted that the impact on an individual from witnessing or hearing about the deterioration in our natural environment but also the economic and political environments is on the rise. A new report written by the American Psychological Association, Climate for Health, and ecoAmerica argues that our mental wellbeing is just as vulnerable to global warming as is our earth. The stress of worrying about climate change’s impacts may also lead to maladaptive coping mechanisms, such as substance abuse, while heightening people’s risk for depression and anxiety (Simpson et al., 2011).
Add to this mounting fear and anxiety derived from watching the world around us change in irreversible ways — coupled with the helplessness of feeling as if we cannot stop or reverse global warming— and you have another effect of climate change on mental health: “Watching the slow and seemingly irrevocable impacts of climate change unfold, and worrying about the future for oneself, children, and later generations, may be an additional source of stress (Searle & Gow, 2010),”. “Albrecht (2011) and others have termed this anxiety eco-anxiety. Qualitative research provides evidence that some people are deeply affected by feelings of loss, helplessness, and frustration due to their inability to feel like they are making a difference in stopping climate change (Moser, 2013).”
How we can help ourselves with the wider environmental stressors leading to eco-anxiety?
Finding strategies to cope with the mental health effects of climate change, can reduce the sense of hopelessness and helplessness a person may be feeling. There is a need to hone resilience, foster optimism, cultivate active coping and self-regulation skills, and getting involved in meaningful practices or activities. It is also important to strengthen connectedness to family and community, and have a preparedness plan for natural disasters or extreme weather conditions, if they are likely to occur where you live.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy trains you to focus on current situations and enable a change in your ways of thinking and behaving to reduce this anxiety. BraintrainersUK have many years’ experience treating people with anxiety and depression using Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.
Changes to your thinking:
Understand how this issue is of value to you as a person – It’s useful to come up with a concise but non-judgemental way to convey your passion for this topic. Recognise what the meaning is for making the changes you are doing. It’s important to not let negative comments from others affect you, as this contributes to negative thinking.
Don’t beat yourself up for what you may have done in the past – accept these actions with compassion and learn from them. Look out for the inner bully, treat yourself as you would a friend. Focus on what positive choices you are making now, and learn to be supportive of yourself.
Don’t catastrophise, looking too far into the future is not helpful and leads to a generalised sense of hopelessness. Keep your view on what you can do in the present and near future.
Changes to your behaviours: Start by making small changes
No matter what anyone else says, small changes CAN make a difference. Not only that, but your changes in behaviour can rub off on other people. Don’t stop using your reusable coffee cup or bamboo toothbrush – those things are great and if nothing else, you are contributing to normalising this sort of behaviour within society.
Making environmentally friendly lifestyle choices can also help offset some of the burden of climate change on your mental health – you are doing what you can.
If you own your home and can switch to renewable energy – do it. If you live in a rented property and have no control over energy providers – don’t lose sleep over it. If you can take the train to your holiday destination, despite a longer journey time – do it. If you are travelling over water – flying is probably unavoidable (but why not offset your CO2 emissions?). They’ll always be things that are somewhat out of your control, and you can’t possibly solve every environmental issue at once. Focus on the things you can control, and don’t beat yourself up about those yo
Be among the Greenery
Parks and green spaces have been connected to improved air quality and can increase mental well-being.
More time spent interacting with nature has been shown to significantly lower stress levels and reduce stress- related illness. Increased levels of vitamin D from sunlight can boost your immune system and improve cognitive function.
If you are feeling overwhelmed with the feelings of stress and anxiety it is helpful to seek out professional help. Use of CBT can limit the pressure felt and help you to take small steps to make changes in the areas you have some control over. Contact us at info@BraintrainersUK.co.uk or via our website: Https://BrainTrainersUK.co.uk for more information on individual Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.
Read more about it here: