Shrinking ice caps, disappearing biodiversity, Heat waves and bushfires that are more intense and flash floods. It is difficult to ignore the effects of climate change.
Researchers believe eco-anxiety is on the rise, particularly among younger generations who feel distressed. The environment has left me feeling overwhelmed.
A major study of 16-25-year-olds was published in The Lancet75% of those surveyed said the “future” was “frightening” and more than half stated that “humanity’s end is imminent.” Forty-five percent of the 10,000 respondents across 10 countries said their feelings about climate change negatively affected their ability to function in daily life.
The term eco-anxiety (or climate anxiety) refers to a variety of responses to climate change. These include fear about the future, shame and guilt over our consumption, and anger. Weeping over what is and will be lost.
If you are feeling these feelings, what can you do?
Recognize that difficult eco emotions are normal
In the LancetStudy found that more than half of young people felt sad, anxious and angry about climate change.
Liz Marks, coauthor of the study and senior lecturer in psychology at Bath’s University of Bath, states that a First step in dealing these emotionsRecognize that they are a natural, healthy response to an existential danger.
She said, “When discussing eco-anxiety it’s important to not pathologize it.” It’s not something we have to treat or eliminate. It’s about how we can live with it and not let it overwhelm us.
Marks says that this means “giving yourself and others room to feel what you’re feeling, no matter if it’s grief, anger, fear or anxiety. Also, acknowledging that these feelings can change over time.” Even when you feel overwhelmed and unable to control your emotions, emotions can change.
She also said that, despite being stressful, these feelings can be a part of your humanity and a positive sign that you care deeply about the planet and other species.
Connect with other people
Megan Kennedy-Woodward, climate coach, suggests that if you feel overwhelmed by the climate crisis it is possible to find communities in real life and on social media, and share your thoughts with likeminded people.
It is amazing because people can see that there is so much happening here. Kennedy-Woodard, co-director of Climate Psychologists, stated that she doesn’t feel that this is all on her shoulders.
A variety of Support groups for peopleThere have been many new initiatives to help people suffering from eco-anxiety in recent years. There are climate cafes or NGOs like the Good Grief Network that offer a 10-step program to help people overcome their eco-anxiety and collective grief.
Take a break and get away from the climate crisis
There are many news stories about natural disasters or species loss that are bleak. You might have a lot of these news stories if your social media feeds are filled with people who are concerned about environmental issues.
Liz Marks suggests that it is important to prioritize your well being and refrain from consuming media that causes distress.
She said, “This isn’t about pushing it aside completely.” “While you might want to stay informed, it may be about decreasing the amount of time and frequency that you read about the climate crisis. It may also be about choosing reliable information sources that won’t cause anxiety.
She stresses that mindfulness, while it is not a cure to climate change, can help with stress relief, along regular exercise and activities that allow for you to feel connected and calm.
Patrick Kennedy-Williams is a clinical psychologist and co-director of Climate Psychologists. He says that self-care and enjoyment are essential. It’s okay and even healthy to enjoy yourself.
He says that professional help is recommended if the anxiety becomes so severe that it has an impact on your daily life, work, and relationships.
Megan Kennedy-Woodard and Patrick Kennedy-Williams work with people suffering from climate anxiety
Make anxiety your guide to action
Studies show eco-anxiety is more prevalent in young people, many of whom feel older generations and governments are failing to respond to the climate crisis.
Marks suggests that young people can overcome feelings of powerlessness by taking small steps to combat environmental destruction.
She says that eco-anxiety can be less overwhelming if they feel like they are doing something about it. How can you make an impact in a way that is convenient for you? Many people don’t have the time or resources to make a big difference, but they still have the ability to make a difference. This could include anything from recycling to writing [to] MPs.”
Patrick Kennedy-Williams suggests that parents with children with eco-anxiety may consider planning a family activity, such a local clean-up day.
He says, “It’s the uncertainty which drives a lot fear and anxiety in children.” “So if they if they feel like they can play their part … it’s incredibly relieving of anxiety,” he said.
It can also be used as a way to emphasize positive, solution-based developments in climate news, rather than only the negative.
“Look at all the action taken by us to close the hole created in the ozone layer. We have banned CFCs. There are wonderful examples,” he added.
All three psychologists stress that while it is important to be hopeful and build optimism, it is not up to individuals to solve the crisis — a burden that can stoke guilt and anxiety in itself.
“This isn’t the problem for the individual. We are all part a system. It’s the wider systems that have created this,” Kennedy-Woodard said.
Edited By: Tamsin W. Walker
Learn more about eco-anxiety, the climate crisis and mental health. Listen to On the Green Fence.