Posts

Brain

Are “Smart” Headbands The Newest Stress-Relieving Technology Of The Future?

If you’re an avid headband wearer who also happens to love the newest innovative technology, this just might be the product for you. Speaking with BBC News, USA Bobsled/Skeleton team member Emma Baumert has taken to wearing a smart headband that measures brainwaves.

The headband, called FocusCalm, is a neurofeedback or EEG (electroencephalography) device. According to FocusCalm, the headband’s sensors pick up electrical pulses from your brain, which are then compared to an AI (artificial intelligence) model that shows the user their mental state.

Through the use of an app, FocusCalm offers the user the opportunity to build a routine while also improving their mental state thanks to games that are intended to engage the user’s brain in order to increase productivity and calmness.

Max Newlon, president of BrainCo., the firm behind FocusCalm, explained to BBC that the headband’s AI monitors 1,250 “data points” in the user’s detected brainwaves. A user score between 0 to 100 is then given, with 50 being the typical score as their website states.

While some may be skeptical of how well FocusCalm actually functions, Baumert— who became a part-time researcher for BrainCo. due to her education and sports-heavy background— vouched for the headband’s usefulness when it comes to improving a person’s overall state of mind and being.

“I got to visualize and learn how to have better control, and what training I need to do to get into a more relaxed state, while still being able to have very high explosive power output.”

A device like FocusCalm isn’t exactly new or exclusive, as other companies have taken a crack at neurofeedback technology. Muse and Cove work similarly to FocusCalm, using apps to deliver brain activity results and exercises to the user. Unlike FocusCalm, both respective products emphasize their ability as a sleep-aid.

Of course, not everyone is on board with the brain-reading headband. U.K. psychologist Dr. Naomi Murphy told BBC that EEG devices can have negative consequences, such as changing a person’s view on their brain activity after use.

“While some people find measurements useful or reinforcing, many are attracted to ‘neuro-tech’ because they identify with a vulnerability, an anxiety about their performance, and the use of data can exacerbate this.”

Additionally, others question how AI can successfully implement itself in meditation practices that have existed for well over 1,000 years, and advocate that you shouldn’t need to compare your mental results to others.

The going price for one of these headbands is almost $200. That also doesn’t include the app membership, which costs $149 for a lifetime account. While you may not be having stress following a purchase, your wallet might. If you’re out of that price range, don’t fret— there are other, less-costly methods that can help you break away from your anxiety-filled days.

Calm, an app that has received critical praise and was named an Editor’s Choice on the App Store, helps to bring users less anxiety through breathing and stretching exercises. Calm also promotes better, more relaxing sleep through music and bed-time stories told by well-known stars. Calm is also free, although it does contain in-app purchases.

If technology isn’t appealing, there are simple, classic ways of stress relief that you could do, even while reading this. From simple, 5-minute yoga techniques to taking a morning or afternoon walk or run, stopping to give yourself personal time, even for a brief period, could do your mental health good in the long-term.

Of course, don’t let anything stop you if you have the burning desire to give FocusCalm a go. You’ll be able to try out some fascinating hardware while also giving yourself a head start on a sci-fi costume for Halloween.

Girl Waking up Happy

Tips for Getting a Good Night’s Sleep

Though we tend to focus our attention on events that transpire during our waking lives, we spend roughly a third of our lives sleeping. Sleep is an often-overlooked part of life that affects nearly all aspects of human health and well-being, but many of us neglect to prioritize a goods night’s sleep, often erroneously thinking that we can be more productive during the day if we spend less time sleeping. While caffeine can temporarily mitigate the effects of poor sleep, sleeping poorly for a long period of time is linked to a number of health problems, including depressed mood and increased risk of heart disease and obesity. As such, this article will discuss several strategies you can use to improve the quality of your sleep so you can enjoy a more alert and productive waking experience.

Embed from Getty Images

The practices associated with high-quality sleep are referred to as “sleep hygiene,” and include a number of important behaviors, all of which are essential for sufficient rest. Perhaps the most important factor is limiting your use of electronic devices in bed or near bedtime. Ideally, usage of electronic devices should be eliminated before going to sleep, as electronic devices with light-emitting screens stimulate the mind and make it difficult to rest. However, if it’s not possible to avoid using electronics late at night, it may be helpful to activate a blue-light filter on your computer, phone, or other device. These filters tint the screen to a reddish-orange hue, reducing the output of blue light which is thought to inhibit sleep by reducing the body’s production of melatonin. In general, the bed should only be used for sleep and sex, as setting these boundaries helps to create an association in your mind between being in bed and falling asleep, subconsciously helping you to fall asleep faster.

Conditions like depression and anxiety can wreak havoc on your sleep/wake cycle, causing you to get too few or too many hours of sleep and sleep at inappropriate times

Making various lifestyle changes can also help to improve sleep quality. Two of the most important lifestyle factors that contribute to sleep quality, as well as overall health, are diet and exercise. Tiring yourself out for a half hour or more of strenuous exercise per day not only improves your cardiovascular health and strength, but it can also relieve anxiety and stress, reduce tension, and prepare the body and mind for sleep. While exercising immediately before going to bed probably isn’t a good idea, exercising earlier in the day can help you feel more tired and prone to sleep later in the night. The food you eat also affects your sleep; eating a large meal immediately before going to bed can keep you awake as your body uses energy to digest food, whereas a diet high in sugar could cause you to wake up several times throughout the night. A healthy diet that includes fresh fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat proteins can not only help you maintain a healthy weight but also improve the quality of your sleep. Be mindful of foods that cause heartburn, as any heartburn sufferer knows that it can prevent you from going to sleep.

Embed from Getty Images

Good psychological health is also important for quality sleep. Conditions like depression and anxiety can wreak havoc on your sleep/wake cycle, causing you to get too few or too many hours of sleep and sleep at inappropriate times, so if you’re experiencing symptoms of mental illness, be sure to seek treatment from your health care provider, as these illnesses can often be treated with therapy and medication. One of the actions you can take to improve your mental health, alongside diet and exercise, is to begin a mindfulness meditation practice, which can reduce stress and negative emotions by training the brain to observe experiences with openness and acceptance. Another good way to support mental health is to maintain a regular daily routine, ensuring that you wake up, eat, exercise, and go to bed at the same time every day. Doing so will naturally support the body’s circadian rhythms, helping you to feel tired enough at night to fall asleep quickly and alert enough in the morning to start your day. 

Kitten

Reduce Your Fear Of Flying With Some Cute Therapy Animals at Airports

Travel to many people is a gateway to the rest of the world. The opportunity to explore new places, meet new people and try new experiences. To meet up with family and friends, conduct business or even part of a commute for some workers.

And with the holiday season fast approaching it’s easy to get caught up in the mad dash at the departure gate, or bustled through security meaning stress levels can increase significantly.

There are also some passengers who find travel so traumatic that they need medication just to get on the flight.

But there is another way!

Many airports are turning to therapy animals who can not only be a comfort within the stress of an airport but can also put anxious children at ease thanks to a spot of petting the animal. Although most airports have employed therapy dogs there are also some airports who use other animals such as miniature horses. Or pigs.

Meet LiLou, who is not just an ordinary pig; she’s a therapy pig, and wants to help travelers have a more relaxing experience.

The ‘Wag Brigade’ is a program the San Francisco International Airport has set up to help ease the anxieties some passengers may have, enabling them to get on their flights without popping pills or having that extra drink.

Owner Tatyana Danilova brings the five year old Juliana pig to the airport not only dressed in a pilots cap but also with bright red toenails.

Lilou then heads to airport security, passes through the metal detectors – never needing to be searched – and makes her way to the departure gates where she loves to entertain the passengers with selfies or by playing a tune on her toy piano. She also greets everyone with a raised hoof to make sure you notice her.

Danilova explains, “People are very happy to get distracted from the travel, from their routines, whether they’re flying on their journey for vacation or work. Everybody is usually very happy and it makes them pause for a second and smile and be like, ‘oh, it’s great’.”

Many airports around the world have ways to help passengers have a more relaxing flight but pigs are not one of the most popular, though LiLou has become a firm favourite at the airport.

And to make sure she keeps healthy she lives on a diet of protein pellets and organic vegetables in her apartment in downtown San Francisco that she shares with Danilova. She also has her own bed and keeps in shape by heading out to explore the neighbourhood each day, taking in the sights and again, meeting new people.

However LiLou is still a prey animal so it is important not to approach her from behind as she can react so if you do have the pleasure in meeting her make sure you say hello to her face!

Back at the airport a young girl from California is ecstatic to meet LiLou and watches in amazement as she plays her a tune on her piano — she uses her snout and hooves to create a good melody — and enjoys taking a few selfies together.

Although the airport has many dogs of different shapes, sizes and breeds in the Wag Brigade, Guest Services Manager Jennifer Kazarian confirms that LiLou is the world’s first airport therapy pig, which she says has helped the airport build a feel good community spirit.

Jennifer said, “When we first launched the program, our main goal was to relieve stress for our passengers. However, what we have found is we have formed a connection with our passengers and it’s been totally amazing.”

There are not many requirements that the therapy animals need to take part in the training program. However, the San Francisco SPCA confirms they must have good manners, a stable temperament and a friendly personality. They must also be house-trained so that there are no incidents that could embarrass the animal, something that LiLou can agree would not be fun!

And if a therapy pig isn’t quite what you have in mind to ease your flying anxieties maybe a cat is? Stitches is 11 years old and has been helping ease passengers at Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport since she started her new position this month.

The first therapy cat to join the 96 Animal Ambassador program, Stitches gets wheeled around in her stroller complete with a ‘pet me’ sign on top. She even has business cards available which her owner Nikki Christopher hands out after she receives a good neck scratch, Stitches that is!

Many animals work for several years training to be a therapy pet and Stitches is no different. She worked with the North Star Therapy Animals program for three years before joining the airport and is now happy to be pushed around Terminal 1 and the entrance of Concourse C.

If you are lucky enough to see one of the therapy animals – or even LiLou or Stitches – make sure you stop and say hello.

Mental Health

FOBO: Are You suffering From The Latest Mental Health Issue?

Mental health is a big issue that affects one in four people around the world and since the advent of social media, conditions such as anxiety and panic attacks are increasing.

Sometimes it can seem as if everyone else on social media is having a better life than you. Whether they are showing off their home, what they wear, what they look like – which thanks to the abundance of filters available usually is not what they look like normally – or showing us the latest event they have attended.

Which can lead to users developing FOBO – or ‘fear of better options’. Similar to FOMO – Fear of Missing Out – FOBO can affect anyone who has had difficulties making the easiest of decisions. The thought of having to make that vital decision can bring you out in a sweat, make you feel nauseous and generally feel like if you choose the wrong option, you could be missing out on something even better.

Although FOBO sounds like a new thing invented for the “have it all” younger generations, it is in fact something that has been around forever, it is just that now there is a name for it!

Let’s think about it. Each day we have to make thousands of decisions from the mundane things such as what to have for breakfast, whether to watch the latest episode of Keeping Up With The Kardashians or catch a movie, to the more important decisions including should I change my job or should I move homes.

The idea that more choices gives us more freedom can be challenged. For example, Netflix currently has 5863 different TV shows and movies showing and the choices at your local coffee shop can be mind blowing – especially with the new seasonal ranges.

Yet even with all these choices, if you find yourself undecided or unsure many will accuse you of sitting on the fence, a phrase guaranteed to annoy someone making a decision, but it could just be that you are dealing with FOBO.

Patrick McGinnis, a US venture capitalist, created the term – he is also responsible for FOMO – and claims those affected by FOBO experience a feeling of being overwhelmed by the potential of what their decision could lead to, even if the end result is not certain. This in turn leads to the sufferer tending to stay away from commitment, or to some extent, committing then canceling before the decision can be carried out.

According to McGinnis, this type of behavior is not new but reflects our basic need of wanting the best of everything.

“Our ancestors a million years ago were programmed to wait for the best because it meant they were more likely to succeed. However, our ability to compare both options and ourselves via technology and social media has accelerated this tendency, sometimes escalating to crippling levels.”

Unlike FOMO which can affect anyone, FOBO seems to only affect those that have a higher income than most as “the richer you are, the more powerful you are, the more options you have. That’s when you start to feel it.”

With the ever increasing number of choices given to us we should be happier, however research clearly indicates having so many options can lead us to be dissatisfied with our decision due to “decision fatigue.” A condition created when trying to work through all the choices on offer.

So maybe we should be presented with fewer options. A recent study tested the buying habits of customers with a store offering samples of jam, with either six or 24 being offered every other day. Surprisingly, out of those who were offered a choice of only six, 30% bought some jam, while out of those that were offered 24 choices only 3% spent any money. A clear indication that too much choice can be too overwhelming.

Unlike FOMO, which can sometimes improve our lives as we choose to do something we may not have tried before, FOBO can be more “destructive” as the principal fear seems to be the “fear of letting go.”

McGinnis comments “in order to choose something you must let go of another thing and it’s the fear of having to mourn the road untaken. So we would rather not decide at all and keep our options open.”

But do not worry, there are several ways you can overcome FOBO. McGinnis has several suggestions:

“For everyday things, I do what I call ‘Ask the Watch’. I whittle something down to two options and then assign each item to a side of my watch. Then I look down and see where the second hand is at that moment. Decision made. It sounds silly, but if you try it – asking the universe – you will thank me. For the big things, I try to think like a venture capitalist. I write everything down on the topic – pros, cons, etc – and I read it out loud. That process is basically like writing an investment memo for a VC investment, but in this case the investment is of your time, money, energy, etc.”

World Mental Health Day

Mental Health Illness In Young People Reaches ‘Alarming’ Rates

With reports suggesting one person commits suicide every 40 seconds worldwide, there have been calls to address the alarming rates of young people suffering from mental illness.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death amongst young people aged 15 to 29 and became the focus of the World Health Organization (WHO) during this years’ World Mental Health Day.

The WHO are keen to promote measures which can be taken to help prevent and reduce levels of suicide across the world. Their recommendations include reducing access to the means of suicide, ensuring that the media always reports responsibly on the topic, introducing more school/college-based interventions and identifying cases early – such as individuals who already suffer from mental illness or substance abuse.

There are also calls to improve the training of non-specialized health workers, so that they are better able to recognize and monitor those at risk from suicide. Not forgetting that mental health issues can be long term and require continual monitoring, the WHO has also recommended more adequate follow-up care and community support for those who have previously attempted suicide.

On the November 7th the WHO and UNICEF hosted a global conference to discuss child and adolescent mental health. The WHO’s 2013-2020 action plan aims to reduce global suicide rates by 10% by 2020 and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals are aiming for a 33% reduction by 2030.

With an estimated 3.1% of the US population suffering from Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Major Depressive Disorder affecting more than 16 million American adults, it is of critical importance that people feel supported through any mental health difficulties but are also empowered with techniques to alleviate any unnecessary feelings of fear, depression and anxiety so that these do not become a wider issue.

Whilst it is true that an element of fear is required for survival and motivation, these feelings can be crippling and have a drastic impact upon someone’s quality of life. Within his new book A Life Without Fear transformational coach Garry Jones is keen to share practical tools and the necessary push to go out, take control and use exactly what works for them to their own benefit.

At the heart of Garry’s process is a simple A.B.C; he encourages people to Accept nothing, Believe nothing and Check everything. He doesn’t think It is enough for people to simply take his word for it that these techniques work, he is passionate that everyone needs to try these tools for themselves to really discover what is most effective for them. Garry explains “The real test is the “Check Everything” part. It is very easy to do the first two using a solid set of beliefs/truths that are yours. The most important part is to check it.”

The book is set out in his M.A.G.I.C.K structure, Meditation, Anchor, Gratitude, Intentions, Cardio and Kin-aesthetic, and within this, he demonstrates the importance of acting upon the advice and techniques he provides. He says “Billions of pounds/dollars are spent each year on self-help books and media. And yet, very few people change. Why? The key to the clue is the very first word – SELF! Taking responsibility for change. Wanting to change. Really wanting to change. So, unless you are prepared to take that to heart, save yourself some money and put this book back on the shelf”

Garry emphasizes the importance of breathing throughout. For Garry, a life without fear is purely breathing with ease. He thinks that to really minimize fear and embrace life, people need to utilize their whole lung capacity, which currently many people do not, particularly if they are consumed by panic or worry. Garry thinks that breathing has major transformative powers and can alter our body chemistry. Focusing on the out breath helps to reduce these feelings because this activates the Vagus nerve which has the power to change someone’s heartbeat. He also says sufferers should fill the space in their lungs not only with air, but also with gratitude and positivity.

This is alongside clearing out the brain clutter, changing their perspective and embracing the beneficial impact of cardio that he believes also contribute extensively to mental well-being.

For Garry, everyone deserves to live a life without unnecessary fear and it is only by taking action will this be truly possible. It is not enough to simply own and read ‘self-help’ books as he is passionate that action is the vital component needed for release.

“To really move forward individuals need to give themselves permission to change, hold themselves to account and be honest with themselves in order to create a future without fear where they feel truly alive,” explains Garry.

Deep Sleep

Deeper Sleep Can Reduce Anxiety Up To 30%

The connection between sleep and mental health has always been present. A lack of sleep can lead to a greater sense of irritability, lack of motivation, increase in depression and anxiety, etc. Sleep is one of the most important aspects of being a human being, so when we’re not getting enough of it, our physical and mental well-being suffers greatly. Extensive research has only further emphasized the connection specifically with sleep and anxiety; sleepless nights can lead to a 30% increase in overall anxiety, according to Medical News Today

Deep sleep was the main focus of this particular study, as it’s been proven countless times in the past that the longer period of time you’re in the “deep” part of your sleep cycle, the less anxiety will be present the following day. 

“To measure anxiety levels, the researchers asked a group of 18 young adults to watch emotionally unsettling videos after a full night of sleep and after a sleepless night. After each viewing, the participants completed a standard anxiety questionnaire called the state-trait anxiety inventory. The scientists used functional MRI and polysomnography to scan the brains of the sleeping participants in order to identify the stages of sleep. The brain scans showed that a brain area called the medial prefrontal cortex was deactivated after a sleepless night,” according to Medical News Today.

Embed from Getty Images

The prefrontal cortex has been studied in the past in anxiety studies, which have worked to prove that this area of the brain is what helps us reduce our daily stresses and anxieties. So when this area is “deactivated” due to a lack of sleep, the anxiety and stress of our everyday lives are amplified, as there’s no on switch for the prefrontal cortex once it’s turned off. The only way to turn it back on is to get some much-needed deep sleep. 

To better understand our sleep cycle, let’s break down the stages of our nightly sleep patterns. Scientists divide our sleep cycle into two categories. There’s rapid eye movement (REM) and non-REM sleep. Non-REM sleep is what controls how well, and how deeply we sleep every night. There’s four main stages to non-REM sleep, the first two are light and involves the part of the night where our bodies are fully relaxing, unwinding, and succumbing to the comfort of temporary unconsciousness. The third is our friend, deep sleep, which is the majority of the night in which our bodies fully recharge themselves and give us restorative energy to use when we wake up. Finally, the fourth stage is also a lighter sleep, this time towards the end of the night, this stage is when most of our dreams occur as our bodies begin to wake up with all the newly developed energy we gained from stage 3. 

Embed from Getty Images

So without enough proper sleep during this cycle, our brains can feel heavier and it becomes harder to function. Without enough deep sleep, there’s not enough restorative energy to last an entire day and our emotions are able to run rampant, as our brain doesn’t have enough energy to turn them off. This is what leads to overwhelming feelings of anxiety. Our increase in irritability and emotional distress causes massive feelings of discomfort. 

“We have identified a new function of deep sleep, one that decreases anxiety overnight by reorganizing connections in the brain. Deep sleep had restored the brain’s prefrontal mechanism that regulates our emotions, lowering emotional and physiological reactivity and preventing the escalation of anxiety,” reports Eti Ben Simon, a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Human Sleep Science at UC Berkeley and the study’s lead author.

While sleep is not the cure to clinical anxiety, and certainly won’t cure any other mental health ailments one might be experiencing, it definitely doesn’t hurt. Giving your body the necessary rest and restoration it needs for daily function is extremely important. Make sure you’re trying to get your full eight hours every night, and if you’re someone who suffers from feelings of insomnia, talk to your physician right away. Everyone deserves a good night’s rest, and a reduction in their everyday stresses.

Workaholics

Workaholics at Risk From Being ‘Overstressed’

Stress can have significant effects on your body, both physical and psychological. With more and more people leading stressful lives, the occurrence of long term stress has increased dramatically with one third of people reported to be suffering from stress at least one day per week. Identifying the signs that you’re overstressed can be difficult, especially when you’re constantly busy with work and the demands of everyday life. If you can identify the early signs and symptoms it can make combating the problem much easier, allowing you to get back to being yourself.

You always seem to be ill

Being ill regularly can indicate problems with stress. Although most people associate being ill with the weather, the sickness bug going around at work or perhaps an inherently weak immune system, illness can in fact have much more complicated causes. Stress can trigger illness as your body’s capability to develop white blood cells decreases, therefore making you ill more often as you are less able to fight off infections. 

How is it possible to link stress with regular illnesses? Take the time to remember when you were last ill. Where there any stressful situations going on in your life simultaneously such as a work deadline or an upcoming exam? Connecting the dots can help you tackle stress and reduce the impact it has on your body. Seeking professional advice can also help you deal with the problem as they can give you the best advice and treatment. Furthermore, it is essential that you are maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle, ensuring that your immune system is well equipped to deal with any bouts of illness that do occur.

Embed from Getty Images

Everything irritates you

Another sign stress may be taking over is when you start to feel irritated by everything around you. A colleague may ask you to help with a certain task and you find yourself sighing and getting annoyed at them. It feels like everything around you is constantly going wrong and the world never seems to be on your side. 

A lot of people have no idea that they are being rude to the people around them, often causing irritation and rifts in their relationships. Being stressed and overwhelmed can mean we don’t have the capacity to consider the feelings of others around us, leaving them hurt and confused. Seeking professional advice in this situation can be extremely effective so you can go back to being yourself and prevent stress from affecting your quality of life.

You’re constantly thinking about work

A major sign that work is stressing you out is when you cannot stop thinking about it! Even though you leave the office at 5, your mind is constantly occupied with work related worries and tasks you need to complete before a certain date. Work is on your mind during dinner, when you’re trying to relax and fall asleep, and even when you’re talking to other people. Taking a step back and leaving work at the door is extremely hard for many people, causing intense stress.

Keeping yourself healthy by staying hydrated, following a nutritious diet, maintaining a healthy sleeping and exercise pattern will help you tackle stress head-on when it does hit.

You can’t focus on anything

Whilst many people cannot focus on anything but work, many find it extremely difficult to focus on anything at all when they’re stressed. Failing to make progress or even get started on that task or deadline you’ve been putting off is a sign that you may be overwhelmed. Instead of being able to focus and complete a task, you fret too much about all the other things you have to do and worry about not being able to complete those tasks to a good enough standard. You become trapped in a vicious cycle as tasks pile up around you.

Those who suffer from anxiety are all too familiar with this cycle, however beginning to refocus your concentration on what you need to accomplish is never impossible. There is lots of advice available both online and from professionals that can help you to get you life back on track.

Embed from Getty Images

You’ve got eczema or inflamed skin 

Stress can also trigger problematic skin conditions such as eczema or inflammation. This is a result of your body being put through stressful events especially if you already suffer from chronic dry skin or eczema. Anxiety can also trigger flare ups and may lead to more stress, intensifying the issue. 

Seeking advice and treatments from doctors is a good place to start when tackling this issue whilst following a healthy diet and moisturizing your skin regularly can also help the situation. Removing products from your regime that you think might be causing the problem to worsen can also help lessen the symptoms. Many people also find that certain foods such as dairy and wheat can intensify breakouts, keeping your skin clear and further stress at bay. 

Everyone combats stress in different ways. Keeping an open mind to other people’s symptoms and struggles that may differ from yours is a major step towards acceptance. Keeping yourself healthy by staying hydrated, following a nutritious diet, maintaining a healthy sleeping and exercise pattern will help you tackle stress head-on when it does hit. Listen to your body, take care of it and address issues when they arise. Beating stress is never impossible and doing so will lead to a happier life.

Climate Change

Studies Detail Impact of Climate Change on Mental Health

One of the concerns associated with climate change is the effects of rising global temperatures, pollution, and increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather events on human health. Typically, this concern is related to people’s physical health; heavily polluted air can lead to respiratory illnesses, contaminated drinking water can contribute to all manner of illnesses, and extreme weather events can cause traumatic injury as well as dehydration and starvation resulting from damage to infrastructure. But another aspect of the health impacts of climate change is often overlooked, which is the psychological impact of understanding the global threat imposed by the phenomenon.

Climate change has been in the news with increasing frequency lately for a number of reasons. One reason is the increasing number of extreme weather events, some of which have been shown scientifically to have been worse as a result of climate change. Another reason is the work of activists, particularly young people such as Greta Thunberg, to raise awareness about the scope of the impacts of climate change, including the historic global protests on Friday. As I write this article, the U.N. is holding a climate summit to discuss the problem and potential solutions, where Thunberg is speaking. And in the United States, democratic presidential candidates are discussing the policies they’d implement to fight climate change, many of which call for unprecedented political change.

Embed from Getty Images

A meta-analysis, which will be published in the April 2020 edition of Current Opinion in Psychology, takes a holistic approach of understanding the health impacts of climate change by reviewing research that has been conducted on the subject over the past several years. This study identifies three different forms of climate-related events and how they relate to mental health. These events are “acute events” such as hurricanes and wildfires; “subacute or long-term changes,” like droughts and heat stress; and “the existential threat of long-lasting changes, including higher temperatures, rising sea levels and a permanently altered and potentially uninhabitable physical environment.” The various ways in which these factors impact mental health is broad, and the authors specifically point to the development of depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Children and poor people are particularly vulnerable, as these are populations most directly threatened by the effects of climate change.

For psychologists, eco-anxiety is a natural and reasonable reaction to the science of climate change, and the best response to eco-anxiety is to take action.

The term “eco-anxiety” has been introduced to describe the sense of being overwhelmed by the nature of climate change as an existential threat, and has been identified as an area of concern among psychologists. The phenomenon impacts even people who do not have a history of mental illness, and is characterized by “a chronic fear of environmental doom,” according to a 2017 report produced by the American Psychological Association. Sufferers of eco-anxiety, a condition which is thought to be rapidly growing among the global population, worry about the future of themselves and their children, and experience feelings of loss, helplessness, and frustration owing in part to their conceptualization of themselves in relation to the global environment. According to psychologist Molly S. Castello, sufferers of eco-anxiety use denial to distance themselves from their existential concerns, but that denial only serves as a distraction from their anxiety, worsening the condition in the long term.

Several therapies have been proposed to treat eco-anxiety. Both cognitive behavioral therapy and medication have been shown to be useful treatments for the depression and anxiety that can result from environmental concerns, but psychologists who specialize in environmental concern recommend additional steps. These steps involve changing your lifestyle to reassert control over your feelings and instilling yourself with the knowledge that you are not remaining complacent in the fact of climate change. Duncan Greere, who edited a report detailing solutions to the climate crisis, recommends that individuals “make climate change a factor in the decisions you make around what you eat, how you travel, and what you buy,” “talk about climate change with your friends, family and colleagues, and “demand that politicians and companies make it easier and cheaper to do the right thing for the climate.” For psychologists, eco-anxiety is a natural and reasonable reaction to the science of climate change, and the best response to eco-anxiety is to take action.