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Mental Health

How to Address Eco-Anxiety with Children and Teens. The words that will transform your fear into confidence, courage, and clarity

Our children are experiencing the catastrophic damage that the natural world is facing. An excessive number of our children and teenagers believe that humanity’s power to prevent the global ecological problem is greater than it actually is. This results in eco-anxiety, which deprives people of their sense of assurance and security in the world by making them feel helpless, hopeless, and despairing. We must complete important jobs as members of humanity dealing with a global environmental crisis. More importantly than healing and defending our planet, we must instill hope in our future generations. We need to ease their anxieties and help them discover their own capacity for change.

There are two main causes for this. The first justification is that our kids deserve far more than to be allowed to grow up fearful, helpless, and without hope. The second justification is that we are unable to address the environmental calamity without them. They are powerful and well-respected, and everything they do matters. They lose the ability to recognize this when anxiety levels are too high, but as adults who play a role in their lives, we can correct that.

We can help people understand that their eco-anxiety is a call to action, an appeal to that essential, potent, brave part of themselves that can actually change things. We can assist them in recognizing that their fear is not a sign of hopelessness, but of something important that requires their attention. More importantly, it demonstrates their ability to deal with this meaningful, necessary event in a way that can make a significant difference.

Changing one’s viewpoint. “That feeling you’re having is anxiety, and anxiety gives you the tools you need to do strong, important things,”

In the struggle to save our planet, youngsters have the power to effect change. Whatever they do will matter. But first, we need to give them some relief from their anxiety and inadequacy. By giving them hope and guidance, this is accomplished. In order for their anxiety to operate and motivate people to make substantial changes, optimism gives them a feeling of safety and purpose in the world.

We need to help people perceive this catastrophe as an opportunity for humanity to move towards a more equable, caring, and valued way of life. In order for individuals to feel strong and courageous enough to identify the difference they can make, however, let’s first bring down eco-anxiety to a bearable level.

Eco-anxiety drives three responses: fight, flight, or freeze.

Anxiety is an alertness call. It’s power. It is the brain that prepares the body for fight or flight – either away from risk or towards something worthwhile. We want to lessen their fear of being at risk and give them the confidence to achieve something worthwhile.

The energy generated by eco-anxiety, like any other anxiety, will drive three potential responses: fight, flight, or freeze. Anxiety expresses itself most visibly through freezing. This occurs when the brain believes that neither fight nor flight is an option. This is not what we desire for our children. Being ‘frozen’ with terror is feeling powerless and hopeless. This is when worry and teeth collide. Any worry that leads to despair is extremely unpleasant and catastrophic. ‘What is the sense of trying if it’s too late?’

We can guide kids away from this by explaining anything frightening they’ve heard. This may sound like, ‘For some individuals, this is how they feel like they are able to make a difference. It doesn’t have to be too late to protect our environment.

Reduce their involvement with climate change hype and poor despair as much as possible. People have the right to their beliefs, but it is all too easy for youngsters to consume others’ opinions in entirety, without digesting them and coming to their own judgments in a safe way. As children grow older, they will be willing to add their own knowledge, education, and experience to the views of others, hopefully ending up somewhere informed and balanced, but exposing children to dire warnings or estimations about our planet will do them absolutely no good. It is less likely to awaken them to take action and more likely to impair or freeze them with fear. 

However, flight is not a choice.

Flight is also out of the question. We are unable to ignore the situation or run away from it. We don’t want to ignore the truth that the world around us is in trouble and requires our help to recover. This will not reduce environmental worry. Our youngsters are aware, and they are concerned. They are aware of the unpleasant reality that the environment is in distress. We can’t run from it, and we do not want our children to freeze in its face. What we can do is provide our kids with the tools they need to fight for the environment, the planet, and the daily lives of those who are unable to fight for themselves. 

So only one choice remains: fight. Let them be aware that their efforts to save the earth will have an impact.

The struggle for our planet will be tough. We, humanity, have what it needs to fight for the well-being of the planet, and our kids and teens play an important role in this. The most beneficial antidotes to helplessness and fear are confidence and empowerment. When we give these to our children, we move the emphasis away from a powerful sense of threat and towards their ability to take serious action. Anxiety provides them with energy, while we provide them with confidence and direction, and they begin to understand that they are a vital and important part of the solution. 

Hope and direction turn eco-anxiety into empowerment. So let’s give them plenty of both. 

There will always be anxiousness before we accomplish anything courageous or worthwhile. It’s just the way it is. Anxiety has been the motivation for the most significant transformations in our world’s history. The fight for harmony, human rights, equal opportunities for women, the end of Apartheid, restrictions on guns, and gay marriage all began with fear of what may happen if things remained the same. The more unpleasant the same became, the greater the concern, as well as the energy and drive to fight for change. 

When our kids express their concerns about the effects of climate change, they are conveying vital information to us. They are sharing their tense, complicated, and overwhelming emotions with us so that we might assist them in bearing the burden. We can, however, provide them with something more amazing. We can give them those feelings in a way that makes sense and provides them with purpose and motivation.

Our children are capable of making a big difference and are strong individuals. Helping kids understand this and gently pointing them in the right way is one of our most important responsibilities. They ask that we identify with the aspect of them that hopes to change the world and holds out hope. These components will be there. They might not know how to make changes or whether they will be helpful if they feel worried about the environment. Despite the fact that their direction and hope may be harmed, they still have a lot of promise. 

When we give others hope and purpose, we transform anxiety from something that seems overwhelming into something with a purpose. We move the emphasis from something frightening (the end of the world) to something significant (their ability to save the planet). Here are a few words that may be useful.

  First, acknowledge the feeling:

Validation informs their anxious amygdala (the ‘anxiety’ section of the brain) that they are not alone in what they think. For a little moment, we must feel the way they feel and see what they see, and we must do so in a way that feels genuine and affects them. However, this must be done from an attitude of strength: ‘I see you, I feel you, and I’ve got you.’ Validation calms the body’s nervous system by indicating to the brain that help is on the way.

 Then, let them know they aren’t alone:

‘It’s simple to believe that one person won’t make a difference, but if you hear nothing else, hear this, my love: there are so many individuals who feel precisely the same way you do, and who are trying to heal the globe. I assure you that you are not alone. I, like many other individuals, am concerned about what is going on. This is fantastic because it means that there are actually a lot of individuals working to make things good.

 Make sense of their eco-anxiety:

When thoughts make sense, they become less unpredictable, noticeable, and overwhelming. Eco-anxiety may still exist but in a less terrible and painful form.

Anxiety may cause you to feel useless and terrified, but it’s actually there to give you what you require in order to do something essential and potent – to help heal the earth and make it more secure and liveable for us and the other lives on it. Anxiety is power; it may appear as anxious thoughts or feelings, but it is power. You may feel the vibe inside you if you stop and pay attention. It could feel like a racing heart, butterflies in your stomach, unsteady arms or legs, or your thoughts racing with all the horrible things that might occur.

 Now, give them hope:

There are things we can do to save our planet; we are now doing so. Examples include using renewable energy (like solar), reducing carbon emissions, and reforestation.

After learning about the impacts of climate change, the next step is to decide where to focus your efforts. Anxiety about climate change has reunited people from all around the world. You’re a member of them, and you’re quite powerful. It’s true that we have made some mistakes, but we are learning from them and fixing the harm. It’s not too late yet. We now realize the importance of treating our planet and those who share it with kindness as a result of current events. You’ll be an essential component of people coming together from all around the world to set things right.

 And give them directions:

We now guide them in redirecting those feelings and energies into something practical. By supporting people in mobilizing for action, we are assisting them in using their eco-anxiety as it was intended to provide our bodies with the energy and tools to plan for action and struggle for what is vital.

‘Everything you do is extremely important. Never believe that since you are “just one person,” you will not make a difference. All major change begins with one person, next to another, and so on. It can’t be any other way. Let’s discuss some ways you can make a difference. Here are some suggestions:

  • lowering the use of single-use plastics (straws, cups, plastic water bottles, plastic shopping bags, cling wrap, and take-out food containers);
  • recycle whenever possible;
  • reducing trash by bringing our own boxes and containers;
  • growing a tree;
  • growing our own fruits and vegetables, then composting the scraps to provide a pleasant, safe home for soil critters;
  • conserve water whenever possible;
  • Be willing to experience food that is locally farmed and in season – it reduces storage and transportation and tastes great.’

And finally … 

Our children depend on us more than ever to lead the way with hope for our world and their future. It’s the only method they have to deal with the terrible amounts of environmental anxiety that are killing their motivation or ability to change anything. Hope that is grounded, focused, and self-confident. Don’t worry, we’ll be OK was not something conveyed as hope but rather as an excessive dismissal. The children we have will not tolerate that. They need our help to make sense of the world around them and to focus on their anxiety so that it may perform its job of motivating them to take action on crucial matters that will change the world.