What do we even mean by climate anxiety?
Have you ever worried about the impacts of climate change? Have you ever deeply feared the possibility of an ecological disaster happening close to you? Did you ever feel a sense of guilt about your environmental impact? Well, that all sounds like you might be suffering from climate anxiety.
Climate anxiety, also frequently called eco anxiety, has been coined by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) as “a chronic fear of environmental doom”. The impact of climate change on one’s mental health is a real, scientifically proven issue that affects more people as the climate crisis worsens around the globe. A study conducted in 2021, where over 10,000 young people from 10 countries had been surveyed provides a good insight into how climate anxiety affects people aged between 16 and 25 years old. 59% of respondents felt extremely worried about climate change, and at least 84% of them felt moderately worried. 50% of them felt sad, anxious, angry, powerless, and even guilty. Additionally, over 45% said that their feelings related to climate change have negatively affected their daily life and functioning.
The study was conducted with a big part of the respondents residing in the Global North(Europe and the US for example). But the reality is that climate change has the biggest impact on the communities from the Global South (Latin America, Asia, Africa, and Oceania). The Country Vulnerability Index shows that the most vulnerable countries are located in Africa. Basically, climate change is a first world problem, but a third world reality.
Although the issue is real, all this data seems quite grim. So, the question is…is there a ‘cure’ for climate anxiety? We’ve come up with a few solutions that may help you to curb it!
What can I do to combat climate anxiety?
There are a few different steps you can take to help relieve the feelings associated with eco-anxiety. Let’s take a look below:
Confront your feelings and talk about them
A great way to start addressing climate change is recognizing your own emotional connection to it and seeking a way to talk about it. Acknowledging your own feelings and having a talk about it with somebody you trust can be the first step to addressing your own climate anxiety and bringing in a positive change. It can seem a bit challenging at first to find people who understand where you’re coming from, but in many countries and cities there are support groups forming that will help you find a way to act and take care of yourself.
If there are no support groups available to you, confining in a loved one or a friend is definitely a way to go. When you think about it, the climate crisis cannot be solved by one person only, so finding support in your closest circle can spark up something that will help with addressing it!
Educate yourself on climate change
The first step into anything is definitely: education.
By trying to educate yourself on climate change, you will not only begin to understand what is happening with our planet, but you’ll also understand more about how to act to try to combat it and gain a better understanding of what the topics and headlines presented in the media truly mean. There is DEFINITELY still hope and time to act, so the more people have knowledge on what is happening, the more that can be done about it!
Make sure you’re only checking trustworthy and scientifically backed sources. It’s also very easy to just get sucked into the topic and consume too much information, so make sure you’re doing it responsibly, keeping your own mental health in check. There are definitely a plethora of sources that can help with trustworthy, educational content on climate change, like for example the United Nations UNCC e-learn community, World Economic Forum or NASA’s Climate Change webpage to help you with the initial research on the topic.
Use your worries and be the change you wish to see
It is one thing to acknowledge your own feelings related to the climate crisis, and educate yourself on the topic, but a step forward is…being the change you wish to see and using your worries to act!
Whether it is joining a group of local activists or finding a way to live more sustainably, doing something good for the planet will help with climate anxiety. When it comes to finding a way to live more resourcefully and with the planet in mind, a step that one can do is offsetting your personal carbon footprint. Storm4 has recently made a small guide on the topic of carbon offsetting, where we also provide examples of companies that could help you with doing that. Looking at reducing your own food waste or being more focused on reducing, reusing and recycling will definitely have its impact as well.
Find connections with like-minded people
Related to our first point, where we discussed the necessity of acknowledging and speaking about your thoughts and feelings – finding a community of like-minded people will definitely help with easing your climate anxiety. We already mentioned that there might be support groups near you, but in case there are not – looking for an online community could be helpful as well! As like in the case of educating yourself, make sure you get in touch with individuals who also engage with trustworthy, scientific information, to not get sucked into something that can do more damage than good. But if you look well enough, you’ll be able to find a community of open, educated people who are willing to not only connect with others like them but will want to take action, which can be a great step into volunteering or finding other ways to combat the climate crisis. As mentioned before – you can’t fight climate change by yourself, and there are others who are willing to help.
Reconnect with nature
One study conducted in 2018 talks about “ecotherapy” as a beneficial practice for mental health. Was it meant by it? Are people more likely to enter a “meditative” space while surrounded by nature, rather than in big cities. Reconnecting with nature can be a good way of trying to manage your eco-anxiety! Re-discovering the beauty and peace that nature can offer, especially if you are stuck in a major city, will not only be beneficial for your own health but will make you more conscious of what you want to protect – and eventually lead to discovering a way of fighting the climate change. Spend some time in the forest or have a hike in the mountains whenever it’s possible – it will bring some calmness and reduce stress and anxiety, but it will help you connect with the planet in a more meaningful manner.
Last but not least, however cheesy it sounds – stay optimistic! It’s easy to get sucked into the doom hole and think there is nothing we can do to save our planet. It’s the contrary though! There are already many people working on ways to fight the climate crisis, so staying optimistic and trying to have your own input into that will not only help with your own climate anxiety, but with bringing forward a meaningful change that can accelerate the transition to a greener, more sustainable tomorrow. So don’t fret! There’s still time for a positive impact.