Climate Anxiety Doesn’t Have to Keep You From Your Life
Extreme weather. Destroyed ecosystems. Melted ice caps. Bleached coral reefs. If you turn on the news, you will see the most visible and immediate signs of climate change that we are experiencing right now.
So it’s not hard to imagine why we’re seeing an increase in people dealing with climate anxiety, a blanket term typically used to describe distress associated with climate change.
In fact, in the U.S., a survey by the American Psychiatric Association found that more than two-thirds of Americans are somewhat or extremely anxious about climate change. And last year, the Lancet polled 10,000 youth between the ages of 16 and 25 from around the world and found that more than half reported feeling sad, anxious, angry, powerless, helpless, and guilty.
This is a phenomenon that’s impacting today’s youth at much higher rates than older generations. I mean, it is their future they’re anxious about.
The thing with eco-anxiety though is that there’s no easy fix. You can’t just snap your fingers and it will go away (if only solving all mental health problems were that easy).
Dealing with eco-anxiety requires both internal and external activism, a.k.a. processing things alone and with others, making small changes for yourself and as part of a broader collective.
It can be hard to strike the right balance between keeping yourself informed, taking action, and looking after yourself. So what can you do to protect your mental health? Here are just a few of our faves for coping with eco-anxiety.
Spend time in nature and connect with the world around you .
It sounds obvious, but spending time outside and connecting with nature grounds you. A Harvard study found that even 20 minutes in nature reduces stress hormone levels in our bodies. Need we say more?
Gardening, planting trees, or other activities that foster a sense of connectedness with nature have also been found to be helpful. Getting out and being with the thing you’re worried about — that is, the earth — can be therapeutic. We love using the AllTrails app to find new places to explore.
Look for positive climate news and innovative climate solutions.
The news about today’s climate can be a bit… much. But staying informed about climate change is important to understand today’s issues and for creating solutions. The answer to your eco-anxiety isn’t going to be burying your head in the sand.
So then how do you stay informed without being constantly bombarded with negativity? Don’t just click on headlines that grab your attention. We know, we know, it’s not easy (d*mn clickbait). Try choosing sources that offer solutions and action items in addition to explaining the problems we face. You want to feel more empowered and less overwhelmed by the enormity of the problem, not the opposite
Connect with others who care about the planet and share your feelings
Connect with others who care about the planet and share your feelings and experiences.
Coping with eco-anxiety can often feel very lonely. People often focus on their individual choices, like avoiding single-use plastic or taking public transportation, or like they need to deal with their emotions by themselves. Which is fine, but there’s a lot that can be gained through social connectedness.
There are many people who feel just as concerned about the environment as you do. Connecting with these people who share your same values and goals can be a great way to find support and build a community of activists.
There are also a bunch of groups offering support to people struggling with eco-anxiety that have popped up around the globe in recent years. There are climate cafes and NGOs like the Good Grief Network, which has a 10-step program that aims to “metabolize collective grief, eco-anxiety, and other heavy emotions” to help people build resilience.
Take a break to focus on yourself.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the climate crisis. Every day it seems like there’s another news report on some new record high temperature or another species on the edge of extinction. And there’s only so much doom and gloom a person can take.
Don’t’ be afraid to take a break. Regardless of what self-care looks like to you, we all need to make time for it in our own way. This might mean getting outside for a quick walk or regularly spending some time in nature. Check out these nature-inspired wellness routines for more ideas.
Support businesses trying to change the world.
Remember those innovative climate solutions we were talking about? One way to make those innovations more accessible and available to everyone is by showing companies that there is a want and a need for them. Every $ you spend is a vote toward the future you want (sorry, we know it sounds cheesy). So spend it on brands that are fighting for the future of the planet, offering lower-impact solutions, and working with organizations doing amazing environmental work.
Lastly, remember that you have power. Talk to your friends, family,
coworkers, on social media, etc. about things that matter the most to you.
Each of us has a unique set of circumstances and experiences, so what we can bring to the conversation when it comes to climate solutions and activism will be very different. You have no idea what sharing your experiences might spark in others.
Maybe sharing your new bamboo TP will inspire your parents to get experimental and try some, too. Or texting a pic of your latest susty outfit find to your BFF will encourage them to check out a new ethical brand. Or posting about reaching out to your senator about new water regulations on your stories will motivate your followers to do the same.
The main takeaway here is that there are ways to manage your climate anxiety, and also to channel it in positive directions. That’s going to look different for everyone, but connection — with yourself, nature, and others — is a good place to start.