[Podcast] How to turn eco-anxiety into positive action

profile picture of Rasheda Begum
Health Content Editor at Bupa UK
21 March 2023
Next review due March 2026

This latest episode of our sustainability-themed podcast series explores how to address eco-anxiety in an environment of climate change. Bupa guest speakers, Bianca Clarke, Cognitive Behavioural Therapist, and Leah Jones, Head of Behavioural Insights and Research, discuss what eco-anxiety is, and how to turn it into positive action.

You can listen to the full episode below or read on for a selection of key points from the conversation.

What is eco-anxiety?

Anxiety is a very normal human thing. It is a feeling of fear, unease or worry about something that may happen in the future. Everyone experiences anxiety differently during difficult and stressful times.

Eco-anxiety is a type of anxiety that is focused on extreme worry about the future of the world, climate change, and health of our planet. Or you might be worried when hearing about rising temperatures, extreme weather, and disasters. While it can be heavy on your mind, anxieties about climate change is a normal response. It signals to us that there is something we need to pay attention to, that there is a threat, and that we need to act now.

Signs of eco-anxiety

Anxiety can feel very different for different people. If you have eco-anxiety you may have symptoms such as:

  • a racing heart
  • feeling tense
  • feeling hot
  • brain fog
  • avoidance and shutting down
  • overthinking
  • feeling helpless

What can help to cope with eco-anxiety?

Connecting to nature can help if you are experiencing eco-anxiety. Ecotherapy is a way to do this. Ecotherapy is an existing type of treatment that involves doing outdoor activities to help with treating common mental health conditions. It helps you to connect with nature, to boost your mental wellbeing. Being outdoors with nature could, for example, involve collecting rubbish or planting trees which are both helpful for the environment.

Mindfulness can be used to help you connect even deeper with nature, appreciating and feeling what is around you in the moment.

Ecotherapy also gives us the opportunity to get physically active. Research as shown that physical activity can help to reduce a person’s stress and anxiety levels too.

Cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT), which is the most commonly delivered therapy in the UK at the moment, has a lot of evidence behind it and can be helpful to manage anxiety.

What human behaviours can harm the environment?

Some behaviours that are part of everyday life can be harmful to the environment, such as:

  • travelling too much via aeroplanes and cars which emit green house gases
  • buying clothes that are made from unsustainable materials and imported from far away
  • drinking water from disposable bottles and throwing them away
  • using tampons and pads – re-usable devices are better for the environment
  • using household appliances – this requires energy often produce by burning fossil fuels
  • importing items – we should buy local where we can
  • not cutting down on meat - a lot of energy goes into producing meat compared to vegetables
  • not recycling things like clothes and electrical items (in addition to plastic, paper and glass)

How can we change our behaviour to help the environment?

Why not try these healthy changes to be more sustainable and reduce your impact on the environment.

  • Try to eat plant-based foods more often and reduce meat consumption where possible.
  • Use a reusable water bottle, coffee cup and cutlery.
  • Recycle anything that can be recycled, including electricals, batteries, clothes.
  • Buy clothes from second-hand shops, swap with friends or mend older garments. Or if you’re buying new try and by pieces that you know will last and be timeless.
  • Walk, cycle, run, use public transport, car share where possible.
  • Switch to a green energy supplier or tariff.
  • Do your laundry on a cold or low heat wash.

How can we make these behaviours stick?

Try to choose one specific behaviour that you know you can do and master that behaviour before you start thinking about another one. For example, changing your commute from driving to a more sustainable option. Perhaps you can change a 10-minute drive into a 20-minute cycle or a 15- minute bus journey?

Remember to be kind to yourself. If you end up driving into work a few times a month, it's still far better for the environment than driving in every day. So don't give up if you have a bad day or a bad week. In fact, you should reframe it and celebrate the wins.

If you’re interested in learning more about sustainability, we also have other podcasts on changing behaviours to be more sustainable and healthy and sustainable homeworking habits that you can listen to.

At Bupa, we're supporting the health of our planet. We've committed to a wide range of ambitious sustainability measures - partly because it's the right thing to do, but also because we know that the environment is closely linked to our physical and mental health.

profile picture of Rasheda Begum
Rasheda Begum
Health Content Editor at Bupa UK



Bianca Clarke, Cognitive Behavioural Therapist and Leah Jones, Head of Behavioural Insights and Research

    • Anxiety and panic attacks. Mind., published February 2021
    • Panu, P. Anxiety and the Ecological Crisis: An Analysis of Eco-Anxiety and Climate Anxiety. Sustainability 2020, 12, 7836. doi: 10.3390/su12197836
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    • Ecotherapy. Mind., published February 2021
    • Physical activity and your mental health. Mind., published March 2019
    • Mindfulness. Mind., published November 2021
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    • Edmondson D, Conroy D, Romero-Canyas R et al. Climate change, behavior change and health: a multidisciplinary, translational and multilevel perspective. Transl Behav Med. 2022 May 25;12(4):503-515. doi: 10.1093/tbm/ibac030
    • Dalton, A. N., & Spiller, S. A. (2012). Too Much of a Good Thing: The Benefits of Implementation Intentions Depend on the Number of Goals. Journal of Consumer Research, 39(3), 600–614.

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