Climate Anxiety: Strategies for Lightening the Load

The negative effects of climate change can weigh on you like an elephant on your chest, but they don't have to. Here are some strategies for effectively managing climate anxiety.

Written by Georgie Hutchings on 15 February, 2024

Droughts, fires, floods and record breaking temperatures have dominated the headlines in 2023, so it’s no surprise we’ve seen a heightened level of concern about the future of our planet. The stark reality of climate change's consequences is undeniable, leading many to grapple with feelings of guilt and helplessness. This article explores the concept of climate anxiety, identifies those it affects, and offers three constructive strategies for managing these challenging emotions.

What is Climate Anxiety?

Climate anxiety, also known as eco-anxiety, refers to the emotional and psychological stress associated with the uncertainties and impacts of climate change. This form of anxiety is often paired with feelings of guilt, anger, helplessness and grief - all of which can affect one’s mood, behaviour and productivity at work.

Who is affected?

It’s critical to understand that you are not alone in feeling stressed or anxious. It's a natural response to the daunting challenges we face. According to a study by the American Psychological Association, over two-thirds of Americans are experiencing climate anxiety, signaling a widespread phenomenon. Notably, young adults are particularly vulnerable, with 47% of those aged 18-34 reporting that their daily lives are influenced by these feelings.

What are some strategies for managing climate anxiety?

Addressing climate anxiety is vital for preserving mental well-being while facing an environmental crisis. Everyone's experience with climate anxiety is unique, so it's essential to find approaches that resonate with you personally.

Below we have listed three strategies to help you manage climate anxiety:

1. Stay informed, but set boundaries

Knowledge is power, and understanding the full picture without being consumed is key.

  • Educate yourself about climate change and its impacts. Understanding the issues and the steps being taken to address them can empower you and alleviate some anxiety.
  • However, it's equally important to establish limits to avoid becoming overwhelmed by negative news. Take regular breaks from climate-related media to maintain a healthy balance.

2. Focus on what you can control

Remembering that no single individual can tackle climate change alone helps shift focus to actions within your control:

  • Adopt sustainable lifestyle habits to reduce waste, conserve energy, and prefer eco-friendly transportation options.
  • Get involved in local or global initiatives that focus on environmental conservation and sustainability. Taking action, even in small ways, can provide a sense of purpose.
  • Advocate for policy changes and support organizations dedicated to sustainable solutions. Participating in collective efforts can make you feel part of a larger movement, reducing feelings of helplessness.
  • Focus on solutions and positive narratives. Instead of dwelling solely on the challenges, explore and promote success stories, innovations, and positive steps being taken to address climate change. Shifting your perspective can contribute to a more hopeful mindset.

3. Practice Self-Care

Prioritizing your mental health is a crucial part of managing climate anxiety.

  • Engage in activities that promote personal well-being, such as exercise, balanced nutrition, meditation, or spending time in nature. Physical activity and mindfulness practices can help manage stress and anxiety.
  • Surround yourself with a supportive community by connecting with like-minded individuals who share your concerns. Discussing your feelings with others and sharing coping strategies can provide a sense of solidarity.

Most importantly, remember that you are not alone! Climate anxiety is a growing issue and something you do not have to go through by yourself. It’s so easy to get overwhelmed by all of the ‘bad’ climate news, but remember that across the world, individuals, communities, and nations are mobilizing, innovating, and pushing the boundaries of what's possible in pursuit of a sustainable future.

Positive change is not only possible but inevitable, thanks to the collective efforts of those committed to finding solutions. Your feelings of concern and anxiety are not in vain; they are the catalysts for action and engagement. Let them inspire you to contribute to the solutions, be it through lifestyle changes, community involvement, or advocacy. The path towards a sustainable planet is paved with the efforts of those who care deeply, like you.

If climate anxiety starts to affect your day to day life it can be helpful to talk to someone about it, whether that is a friend, family member or trained professional.

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