We've all heard the term eco-anxiety and how the current environmental crisis gets us all angsty, worried & hopeless. But what we don't really talk about is how sometimes our "anxiety" can keep us from doing the "eco" bit.
Now, I'm not talking about anxiety in particular. I'm talking about the array of mental health issues that plague our species' very cognitive & very sentient minds.
So, let me introduce myself & my own brand of mental illness.
Hi, Anusha here, a co-founder at Clime - I'm a tree-lover, animal kisser & sustainable living believer. But I am also... very, very ADHD.
For those of you who don't know what ADHD is, let me break that down for you.
Having ADHD is like having a "fidgety" or "easily distractible" brain.
This results in symptoms like difficulty paying attention, impulsivity, hyperactivity & emotional dysregulation. This can make remembering things, staying organized, sitting still, regulating emotions, & not being stuck in thought loops kinda hard.
Now, don't get me wrong. My ADHD makes me larger than life. It makes me take beneficial risks (like starting my own business for instance), it makes me naturally curious, and I can enter modes of hyperfocus and go through 1000-page textbooks in a day. My ADHD also makes me very empathetic. The extent of love & compassion I can feel is often due to how my brain is wired differently. This also ties into my tree-loving, animal-kissing traits.
The only problem is - carry your reusables everywhere you go, remember to tell the waiter that you don't want a straw with your juice (or cocktail), switch off lights every time you leave a room, and... the list goes on.
The truth is that 99% of the time, I simply don't remember. Thank you, ADHD.
Being environmentally conscious in a world that isn't even remotely environmentally friendly is hard enough. Couple that with ADHD, and you usually end up with lots of concern, but so much guilt, imposter syndrome, and sometimes even anger.
However, we've all got our demons to fight. I'm not special.
I've also learned through bitter experiences that guilt and shame get you nowhere. Shaming myself doesn't motivate me to do better. Contrary to popular belief, it isn't shame and bad self-talk that gets humans to get their shit together. Self-love & encouragement do. Learning this brought about a radical shift in how I perceive the world around me, and more specifically how I motivate myself to care for this planet.
Through research, inner contemplation & pattern recognition, I've come up with a strategy that helps me be more eco-conscious despite my ADHD.
[Disclaimer - mental health issues look differently on everyone. What works for me may not work for you. The point is to encourage you to look at your life, and your mental faculties and then decide how you'll create the impact you wish to see.]
Let's dig in.
The longer the gap between "stimulus" and "response", the easier it is for me to remember my eco-conscious beliefs.
It is in this gap that my eco-awareness seeps in.
Grabbing my reusables while I run out the house door may not happen.
But I can curb impulse buying because online check-out processes usually give me that time to evaluate if I really need that product or not.
Saying no to the straw in that split second doesn't always happen, but saying no to meat and becoming vegetarian was as easy as pie.
Switching off the lights every damn time gets tedious, but menstruation being a 4-day activity gives me enough space to remember to use my reusable menstruation products.
If the activity is prolonged enough, I can override my brain and take a more eco-conscious decision.
This realization has caused me to stop beating myself up for all the things I can't do, and look for more areas in my life that are similar to these patterns.
This understanding of my brain motivates me to look at things differently.
I've also stopped beating myself up for the things I can't do or don't do right.
My understanding of my ADHD gave me a blueprint of how I can live sustainably. Of course, this doesn't just pertain to mental health conditions. You could have no mental health issues, but still have characteristics, traits, and quirks that make certain lifestyle changes easy or hard.
Self-awareness and a very curious approach to how you work can sometimes be key.
Also, if you can relate, drop a comment and let's exchange notes.