I’ve had a frustrating battle with anxiety for practically my whole life. While it’s not debilitating, it’s enough of a nuisance to keep my mind running on overdrive at seemingly all times. Because of this, I’m constantly looking for remedies to calm my mind and keep my anxiety low. When I started adopting a zero waste lifestyle, I was expecting it to worsen my eco-anxiety and potentially leave me feeling more anxious than ever. To my surprise, I’ve found that many aspects of the lifestyle really help to keep my anxiety in check. Here are the top 5 aspects of the zero waste lifestyle that have eased my anxiety.
Buying Products Without Packaging
When you go zero waste, you’re probably going to buy most of your food from bulk bins to avoid wasteful packaging, and you’re going to buy other products like soap and cosmetics in as little packaging as possible. By avoiding packaging, you’re also avoiding labels that will crowd your rooms with visual stimulation. In my personal experience, reducing the number of labels I’m surrounded by and replacing them with up-cycled glass and bamboo containers to store my package-free goods, I have lessened the visual stimulation that I’m exposed to. By reducing my visual stimulation, I have decreased my risk for experiencing sensory overload, which has in turn lessened my anxiety.
One large pillar of a zero waste lifestyle is reducing your overall consumption of goods. When you buy less, you’re demanding less resources and are supporting less large corporations that are at fault for a lot of our ecological distress. When you do buy goods, you generally buy from thrift stores and local artisans to be as environmentally-responsible as possible. This whole concept of buying less and being more mindful about my purchases has decreased how much clutter I have, how much I have to clean, and the amount of money I spend on a monthly basis. Decreasing my clutter has reduced my visual stimulation and leaves me feeling less overwhelmed by stuff, having to clean less gives me more time to do the things I love and has made time-management less overwhelming and stressful, and spending less money has made me feel more financial secure and stable which has drastically decreased the amount of time I spend worrying about my financial situation. Overall, integrating minimalist principles into my life for environmentally-related reasons has left me appreciating minimalism not just for the environmental benefit, but also for the benefits it has on my mental health.
Adopting a zero waste lifestyle has inspired me to not only reduce my waste, but to lower my carbon footprint in other aspects of my life. Most notably, I’ve been driving less and walking more as a form of transportation. It’s no secret that exercising is linked to improved mental health, and I can serve as living proof of this sentiment. By walking daily, I am not only more physically fit, but more mentally fit as well. Walking helps to ease my stress and anxiety, and makes the anxiety I do experience more manageable.
Making an Impact
Usually when people go zero waste, they start to experience a phenomenon known as eco-anxiety. This is anxiety that stems from being surrounded by news about our dying planet and the imminent doom of climate change. Going zero waste has increased the eco-anxiety I feel because I’m exposed to more environmental news on a daily basis, but at the same time, it has made the eco-anxiety I do feel more manageable because I know that I’m personally making a difference. By working to decrease the waste I create, lower my carbon footprint, and inspire others to do the same, I know that I’m doing all I can to save our planet. Going zero waste has also inspired me to become more politically active and push for environmental legislation, which has helped me to manage my anxiety about these issues because I know I’m working for solutions that impact our environment on a large scale. By reminding myself that there’s nothing more I can do to solve these issues and that these issues are bigger than just myself, I have gained control over my eco-anxiety and feel more at ease about our environment on a daily basis.
In order to reduce my waste on a daily basis, I have to be mindful about bringing along products like my reusable water bottle, reusable coffee cup, reusable napkins, and reusable shopping bags. Every morning before I leave I have to be mindful about bringing these products, and this little daily dose of mindfulness has inspired me to integrate mindfulness practices into other aspects of my life. I have always heard about mindfulness-based meditation being an effective way to manage anxiety, and it wasn’t until I tried it for myself that I truly understood it’s benefits. These daily doses of mindfulness have been really effective in helping me manage stress and anxiety.
While there is no one size fits all solution to anxiety, these five principles have helped me in managing my stress and anxiety, and I encourage anyone to try these methods of anxiety management at least once. What works for me won’t necessarily work for you, but it never hurts to integrate an environmentally-friendly principle into your life that could, in turn, help you manage your anxiety.
Is the blog manager for Zero Waste Club, combining her love for writing with her passion for all things environmental sustainability. She is currently a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she is studying journalism, environmental studies, and food studies in hopes of building a career in environmental activism. You can find her on Instagram as @kaylaguilliams.