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11 Sneaky Signs You Have 'Eco-Anxiety' (And What To Do About It)

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In tandem with the relentless reports of higher temperatures, extreme weather, natural disasters and depleted resources saturating your newsfeed, you may find yourself experiencing an uptick in anxiety, depression and existential dread – better known as eco-anxiety.

A 2020 poll by the American Psychiatric Association found that more than two-thirds of Americans (67%) are somewhat or extremely anxious about the effect of climate change on the planet while more than half (55%) are somewhat or extremely anxious about how climate change affects their own mental health.

Though not an official clinical diagnosis, the American Psychological Association defines eco-anxiety as “a chronic fear of environmental doom.” Eco-anxiety is just as real as any other form of anxiety in that it typically involves the same physical and emotional sensations.

“It’s even more real, in a sense, because the problem triggering the anxiety symptoms is objectively real and massive in scale,” Erica Dodds, chief operating officer of the Foundation for Climate Restoration, told HuffPost. “There used to be more distance between any one person and the world, but now it feels like every problem in the world is right in our living rooms with us.”

Like other forms of anxiety, eco-anxiety can affect anyone, and to varying degrees. “Some people might be proactive in taking measures to protect the planet’s resources, while others might feel so powerless to stop the degradation of the environment they can’t handle thinking about it at all,” Dodds said.

No matter where you fall on the eco-anxiety spectrum, the steps you take to recognise your symptoms and improve them will likely be advantageous for the planet, too. Where to begin? See if any of these eco-anxiety symptoms sound familiar and use the expert-backed strategies provided as fuel for positive change.

1. You’re in a persistent state of anticipatory anxiety

Our animalistic need to feel safe operates on the most primitive level. “When we don’t feel safe, we naturally scan our environment to detect any hint of threat,” Carla Marie Manly, a California-based clinical psychologist and author of Joy From Fear told HuffPost.

When a threat like climate change is continuously felt yet isn’t readily discernible in the present moment, you may end up with chronic anticipatory anxiety. Because anticipatory anxiety is future-based, the best way to counteract it is to reconnect with the present moment, starting with a few deep breaths to calm your over-revved sympathetic (“fight or flight”) nervous system.

“Keep a rock, dried flower, twig or other natural object around that you can look at and touch when you’re feeling overwhelmed,” said Holly Schiff, a licensed clinical psychologist based in Greenwich, Connecticut. “This acts as a grounding technique.”

2. You feel guilty about not doing more to reduce your carbon footprint

Odds are your guilt stems from all-or-nothing thinking — you consider your actions as successes or failures, and there’s no gray area. Meanwhile, the grey zone is where many of our daily actions land.

“Recognising this maladaptive thought pattern is the first step toward alleviating guilt and shame related to your feelings of personal responsibility for your carbon footprint,” Tyson Lippe, a psychiatrist at Heading Health in Austin, Texas, told HuffPost.

Learn to acknowledge the positive decisions instead of focusing on how much more you could have done. “By ignoring everything less than 100%, it becomes easy to feel your efforts will always be in vain,” Lippe said. “One setback or shortcoming........

© HuffPost

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