From Eco-Anxiety to Eco-Action

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Image by J Murray, Year 8 student, Newcastle

Inspired by Parabol Studio and images from NASA  

As part of the Biomes Exhibition the School of Psychology is running workshops to help adolescents cope with Eco-Anxiety. 


If you live in the local region, ask your school to get in touch with Dr Michelle Kelly if interested in participating -


What is Eco-Anxiety

Eco-anxiety is defined by the American Psychological Association as “a chronic fear of environmental doom”. Feelings of worry, nervousness and chronic stress can be triggered by a growing awareness of the ecological threats facing our planet.


Adolescents are more at risk of developing eco-anxiety, as they have less control than adults in the political and personal arenas. Not only do they view environmental challenges as outside their control, they are also frustrated by what they perceive as a lack of political commitment to environmental action and have grave concerns for their futures and the planet’s future.


How can we manage Eco-Anxiety

There are simple steps to help adolescents tackle Eco-anxiety. It’s all about using those anxious feelings to motivate us to take action and move from Eco-Anxiety to Eco-Action. We’ve set out five ideas here:


1. Acknowledge that your anxiety is reasonable and that many of your friends and family may also be feeling the same way, particularly in 2020! It is OK to have feelings of worry, sadness and fear


2.  Mindfulness exercises reduce stress and anxiety. These can be as simple as mindful colouring, such as the one found here, or simple mindfulness breathing which can be downloaded for free from Youtube or apps such as “The five count breath” from Smiling Mind (*sound on*).


3. Spending time connecting to nature also helps to manage stress and anxiety. Take a bush walk or a swim at the beach. Volunteer with your local Landcare organisation to help with native bush management and regeneration. Get out in nature and get active!


4. Get in touch with your eco- values. What matters most to you about your environment?

Write down the first three things that come to mind. To help, here’s some ideas:


  • I value renewable energy

  • I value zero waste

  • I value organics farming

  • I value reduced greenhouse emissions

  • I value efficient energy use

  • I value sustainable water use

  • I value sustainable transport methods

  • I value local food production

  • I value self-sufficiency

  • I value biodiversity

  • I value native flora and fauna

  • I value reduced consumerism

  • I value biodegradable products

  • I value recycling


Then, from below, which actions would most closely align with your values?

5. Commit to taking Action in line with your values!

  • Individual action

    • Raise money for causes you believe in and are close to your heart. For example, the World Wildlife Fund are currently raising money to campaign for koala habitat protection after the devastating bushfire seasons of 2019/2020.

    • Commit to small changes at home. These are simple things that have an impact and increase our sense of being able to make a difference. You might want to take charge of the recycling, or you could aim to move your home towards zero waste. You could research energy contracts that use renewable energy. You could plant a vegie garden or do meat free Monday’s. There are lots of simple things that can be done at home – here’s a list of 50 ideas from Biofriendly Planet to get you started.

  • Group Action

Want to get involved in our science?

Our research students are running a real science project looking at environmental attitudes and behaviours. If you are 15 years or older and have a spare 30 minutes to do a survey and would like to check it out, plus enter the prize draw for participating, it would be greatly appreciated!