My Experience with Climate Anxiety

30 Jan 2022

It started when I read about The Climate Clock, which counts down the time left for us to reach zero emissions globally. It shows us exactly what we need to do, and by when.  

It hit me as I read more – this was it. The final stretch. Somehow, my friends did not seem affected by it. All I wanted to do was talk about this, to address this so we could come up with a solution; and everyone around me had seemingly ‘moved on’.  

It was in conversation with one of my professors (and research guide) that the subject of climate change anxiety came up – as a practicing Clinical Psychologist, she had noticed an upward rise in this anxiety in a lot of her patients.  

As it is, climate change is something very much ‘not in our hands’ and, yet it somehow is as well. 

While it is a known fact that the majority of carbon emissions are let out by industries and not individuals, individuals do also leave behind a significant carbon footprint. Through our actions, purchases and most importantly – our choices.  

The American Psychiatric Association describes eco-anxiety as “a chronic fear of environmental doom.” While not considered a diagnosable condition, eco-anxiety can be just as debilitating, with devastating effects on one’s lifestyle and mental health.   

Eco-anxiety brings with it feelings of vulnerability, helplessness, and emotional distress over the fear of potential planetary destruction. This may consume them to the point where everyday choices can leave them feeling anxious and guilty. An act like forgetting to carry their own reusable bags or taking a cab instead of their bicycle can send them down a spiral.  

For a while, I experienced a few of these feelings– panicking every time I left my reusable cutlery at home, or when I saw people around me using 5 plastic bags for carrying 4 things. I wanted to scream - “Can’t you see what you’re doing is hurting the planet?!” 

This fear was, however, neither helpful, nor sustainable (😀) 

Hence, the quest to understand what the solution was began once again.  

As I spoke about the climate and its changing landscape to people, I realised so many people around me were also dealing with this fear. Their solution? Adopting sustainable practices in their lives.  

I met someone who has not had any food which contains palm oil for almost 8 years now.  

One of my friends exclusively buys secondhand – clothes, jewelry, furniture, books, appliances.  

Another is exclusively vegan and has managed to turn her entire meat-eating family into a vegan bunch.  

Most of my friends (and myself) do our best – using bar soap, menstrual cups, buying secondhand, curbing new purchases, buying local whenever possible. It took a while to realise that this was the most suitable lifestyle change for me at this point in my life (as an international student on a budget) and pushing myself beyond what I think I can do will bring me closer to my goal of reducing my carbon emissions. The goal now is to adopt more sustainable practices and shatter the myth of ‘sustainable is expensive’ for myself and others around me. Buying secondhand saves me money. Eating plant-based helps my body. Carrying my own straws and bags gives me a sense of accomplishment for saying ‘no’ to the plastic.  

And that’s where Adva helped me go from 30 % to 80 %. With its quick yet succinct lifestyle assessment and personalized carbon reduction plan, the app not only helped me stay consistent with my goals but track the impact I was making with these ‘small’ changes like eating vegan meals or carrying my own takeout containers.  

(And it does not hurt that the points earned can then be used to redeem vouchers and discounts!) 

I realised that only action could help – reactions cause fear, and fear shuts us down. Instead of worrying about all that can go wrong, let us work towards taking control and make sustainability part of our lifestyles.  

Written By

Currently an intern, Avni came over to sunny Singapore to further her studies and is a firm believer of sustainable practices.