5 tips to beat eco-anxiety
More and more I’ve been hearing Sustainability people talk about their eco-anxiety. It’s very easy to look at the constant stream of bad environmental news and fall into a pit of despair. However, as they say in airline safety talks, we have to look after ourselves before we can help others, and those “what’s the point?” voices in your head will kill your ability to inspire others to act.
On top of the usual stuff about eating well, getting plenty of exercise, socialising and sleeping properly (my personal weakness as my brain often kicks into gear at 3am) here are my five tips for keeping one’s mind on an even keel in this business:
- Focus on science, not doom. There’s a whole community of people online who like to catastrophise – I’ve even seen one layperson berate John Mann, one of the world’s leading climate scientists, for daring to say the situation was still retrievable if we take swift action. As Sustainability Professionals we need to keep abreast of the science, but not get sucked into the doom loop, so choose your sources carefully (CarbonBrief is a go to for me), ration the bad news and block out the virtue signalling commentators.
- Accept the imperfection of solutions. The doomsters seem just as keen on doing down the solutions to climate change as amping up the challenge. None of the climate solutions are perfect – I know electric cars don’t fix congestion, require mining of minerals and have their own substantial carbon footprint, but they are most definitely better than ICE cars. Every kilo of carbon avoided makes climate change the teensiest bit less bad, so there is never an excuse to do nothing. I also share a bit of good news every day to push back against the tide of negativity.
- Use techniques that work. I use backcasting/co-creation (for sustainability strategy) and Green Jujitsu (for engagement and comms) because they work. Green Jujitsu is about finding common ground with each audience rather than banging on about the latest IPCC report, so you talk engineering to engineers, health to the health sector and money to finance peeps. It opens doors you never knew were there, so ditch the soap box and try it! Banging your head against a brick wall helps no-one, not least you.
- Embrace nature. Most of my professional life is spent at a desk or in a meeting room where I can quickly feel dislocated from the very natural world we are trying to protect. On office-bound days this winter, I’ve started taking a daily walk up the river valley where I live, watching the water flow and the wildlife flit around – it never fails to lift my mood. I also do a couple of short bikepacking trips a year – a fantastic, low carbon escape to some wild corners of the country.
- Small actions. I pick up at least one piece of plastic litter near our river every day. I know this will make negligible difference to the amount of plastic flowing into our oceans, but knowing that particular plastic bag isn’t going to choke a seabird gives me a little warm boost inside. It works for me!