How worried are you about climate change?
I would hope that most of us are, to some degree. Some of us actively try and do what we can about it, by joining organisations to spread awareness of the problem, whether it’s about the polar ice cap melting, or trying to prevent destruction of various habitats around the world such as rain forests and wetlands. Some groups lobby the government to tackle the issues, or to make sure they stick to their election manifestos. And some of us do what we can to help by recycling, and shopping more responsibly in our food, clothing, and cosmetics.
But there is a condition known as climate anxiety, which is a real and valid concern that many people have about the state of our planet and its future. It's important to acknowledge and address these feelings, whilst also taking action to combat climate change. In this blog, we'll explore what climate anxiety is, why it's becoming more common and what you can do to manage it.
So what is climate anxiety?
Climate anxiety is a psychological response to the current and future impacts of climate change. It's the feeling of being overwhelmed, and the fear or despair that arises from the knowledge of the magnitude and complexity of climate change. It's normal to feel worried about the planet and the future, but climate anxiety is when that worry starts to interfere with your daily life.
It can take many forms. Some people experience physical symptoms such as headaches, nausea or difficulty sleeping. Others may feel emotionally drained, sad or angry. Climate anxiety can also lead to feelings of hopelessness, helplessness or guilt.
Climate anxiety is becoming more common as the impacts of climate change become more visible and severe. The frequency and severity of natural disasters, such as hurricanes, wildfires and floods, are increasing. The melting of glaciers and rising sea levels are causing permanent damage to ecosystems and communities. The extinction of plant and animal species is accelerating at an alarming rate. These events can trigger feelings of anxiety and helplessness, especially for those who are directly affected.
Of course, having a passion for the environment means you’re probably investigating the problems and solutions, and therefore it is on your mind more. Social media and traditional news sources can also contribute to the worry by constantly reporting the bad news. Additionally, the political attitude surrounding climate change can be divisive and frustrating. Many people feel like politicians are not doing enough to combat climate change, even though they're aware of the problem.
Managing your anxiety needs more than one approach. It's important to acknowledge your feelings while also taking concrete steps to combat climate change.
Firstly, take action. One of the most effective ways to combat climate anxiety is to take action. This can be as simple as reducing your carbon footprint by using public transportation, eating less meat, or using reusable bags. You can also get involved in climate activism by joining a local organization or attending a protest. Doing something to make a change, however small, can make you feel as if you’re helping in some way, which of course, you are.
Secondly, practice self-care. This is important for managing any type of anxiety. Take time to do activities that you enjoy, such as reading, meditating or spending time in nature. Exercise is also a great way to reduce stress and anxiety.
Connect with others. Connecting with others who share your concerns about climate change can help you feel less alone. Joining a local organisation or attending a community event can be a great way to meet like-minded people.
Limit your exposure to the news. Whilst it's important to stay informed about climate change, it's also important to give yourself a break from the news. Set limits on how much time you spend on social media or watching the news. I find a good way to balance this is to search for good news stories – there are some amazing people doing wonderful things to help with many aspects of improving our carbon footprints.
If your climate anxiety is interfering with your daily life, it may be useful to seek professional help. A therapist can help you develop coping strategies and provide support.
Climate anxiety is a real and valid concern that many people feel about the state of our planet and its future, and it's becoming more common as the impacts of climate change become more visible and severe. Remember that even small actions can make a difference, and that you're not alone in your concerns about climate change. By working together, we can create a more sustainable and resilient world for future generations. If each of us makes a small change, they add up to a big change.
Take a balanced approach and look after yourself, so that you’re in a good state to help make that change.