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What it is and how to deal with climate change fears

What it is and how to deal with climate change fears

climate anxiety

Perhaps you’ve had your share of middle-of-the-night wake-ups lately: Between the usual pressing work deadlines, kid drama and (oh, right!) Anxiety is high because of a global pandemic. But on top of these day-to-day concerns, there’s another pot of worry simmering, and it’s moving off the back burner for many of us: Climate change anxiety.

Recent climate-related catastrophes have pushed the issue to the forefront. Many young people are making ever more vocal calls for action. This discourse will hopefully encourage individuals and communities as well as countries. mitigate climate changeIt could be making you feel uncomfortable. Anxiety and panic worsen, especially if you’re likely to be directly affected by climate change. After Hurricane Harvey struck Houston in 2017, researchers estimated that nearly half the city’s population had symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).An extreme form of anxiety. You can be pushed over the edge if you are impacted more than once. “If you experience two 100-year floods in a few years, your capacity to cope is going to be depleted,” says Christie Manning Ph.D., Director for Sustainability at Macalester College Saint Paul MN.

Even if you have managed to avoid disaster, the fact that something bad could be coming to your community can be a huge stressor, especially for women or people who have been marginalized. Research shows that women are more likely be the family caretaker and to help elderly parents and their children through any weather-related events. This is especially true for people of color, who are more vulnerable to climate change. That’s because decades of discrimination by banks and governments have pushed marginalized people into neighborhoods at lower altitudes or close to highways and airports, and with fewer parks and trees, making these neighborhoods more vulnerable to flooding, pollution and heat.

There are many options. AreThere are many ways to manage it all.

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What exactly is eco anxiety?

First, it’s important to understand how the climate crisis — caused by all the greenhouse gasses humans have pumped into the atmosphere since the nineteenth century — affects our emotional health. Scientists have long understood that rising temperatures are a result of increasing temperatures. DehydrationHeat stroke and Heart diseaseAs well as warm-weather conditions such as Lyme disease AllergiesYou can stay longer. Extreme weather conditions, such as the California wildfires or the Midwest floods, can make it difficult to access medical care.

However, the idea that climate change has an impact on our psyches may be a recent phenomenon. “Even 10 years ago, the idea that climate change has mental health impacts was something most people didn’t think about — including me,” says Susan Clayton, Ph.D. is a professor of psychology at College of Wooster in OhioA coauthor of a comprehensive2021 report on this topicby the American Psychological Association, and the non-profit EcoAmerica. These effects include everything, stressAnxiety and stress DepressionPTSD and other mental disorders.

Research is ongoing, but it’s clear that our angst is rising, says Clayton. More than three quarters if Americans are aware that the planet has begun to heat. According to Yale Program on Climate Change CommunicationMost people believe that it will harm their communities. This may be why 70% of us are at least somewhat worried, with 35% “very worried.” Google searches for terms like climate anxiety or eco-anxiety have skyrocketed the past few years, According to Kelton minor, University of Copenhagen researcher.

Parents are particularly worried. “I hear from people a lot that they’re worried about the world they’re leaving their children,” Clayton says. And Climate change is a topic that kids love to discuss with their parents, too. While younger children haven’t yet been queried, Clayton co-authored a large international study in 2021It was found that 45% of teens and young adults feel climate stress has an impact on their daily lives. “After we see a climate disaster on the news, my 8-year-old son peppers me with questions on what we will do if it happens here. I can see the anxiety on his face, and it is heartbreaking,” says Ricki Weisberg, a 42-year-old public relations executive in Ardmore, PA. Compounding Ricki’s own climate anxiety is that she can’t even tell him those disasters are unlikely — several previously rare tornadoes struck a nearby city last year.

Is eco-anxiety a mental disorder?

Climate angst can be described as similar to other anxieties. It involves feeling anxious and tense when we think about the future. Anxiety can lead to anxiety, insomnia, nightmares, panic attacks, high blood pressure, and dizziness. In its worst form, it can derail a person’s work and family life.

Climate anxiety is different in other ways. Unlike a lot of what we typically focus on when we’re anxious (which may be overblown) there’s good evidence that what we are worried about may well come to pass. “Climate anxiety is not a mental illness, because it’s rational to be concerned,” Clayton says.

climate anxiety

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The things you might normally do to soothe exaggerated or irrational fears aren’t enough. If you’re anxious that your child’s poor grades at school will lead him to a life of failure, for instance, a friend or therapist might help you view the situation more rationally. It is reasonable to be concerned, even though Earth is in balance. “Anxiety is a sensible response to what we’re facing. Everyone, everything and every place you love is at stake,” says Katharine Hayhoe Ph.D. is chief scientist at the non-profit Nature ConservancyThe book’s author Save Us. Plus, that worry about your kid’s grades should dissipate once his study habits improve or when summer comes. Even if some countries try to reduce it, climate shifts are here to stay.

In its purest form, climate anxiety is a good thing. Such preparation might include learning more about what’s coming from websites like the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration(NOAA), creating an a Family emergency planYou can even choose to purchase your next home away form a low-lying coastline in the event of wildfires and storms.

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However, anxiety about the planet we love can paralyze us. Renée Lertzman, Ph.D., a consultant on environment, psychology, culture 2019 TED Talk This topic has been viewed millions of times. “There’s a myth that people don’t care about the climate. But many feel conflicted about how to respond, so they numb out,” she says. Let’s say that you understand the ways that flying, driving and even eating meat contribute to the problem, but you like having those things in your life — this may cause you to freeze instead of taking individual actions, she explains.

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And because the problem feels so huge — and because we know we need widespread change to systems — we can feel overwhelmed to the point of being debilitated, says Manning. “Not many of us feel we have the training, skills, influence or time to know how to get elected officials and corporations to listen and make changes,” she adds. In fact, more than half of us don’t know where to start in turning things around, the American Psychological Association found in 2020.

It is important to overcome climate anxiety. Optimism can help. According to a study published in August by the University of California, Berkeley, people who felt most optimistic about taking climate action were more likely to be motivated to do so. Anxious people were less motivated. Journal of Environmental Psychology.

How to deal climate anxiety

Anxiety is terrible and will not help the planet. Instead, take these steps:

  • List the things that you love about yourself.Manning says although it may not seem related, you must calm down your brain before you can get ideas about how you can make a difference. This involves developing what psychologists call “meaning-focused coping,” which can include everything from thinking about what you appreciate in your career or family or the natural world around you, to enjoying weekly sunset walks with a friend.
  • Recognize that everyone can make a difference. Hayhoe suggests that you think about the history of South Africa’s end of apartheid, gay marriage was legalized, and women won the right to vote. “Those didn’t happen because some influential person or a president decided it was time, but because ordinary people decided the world had to be different and they used their voices to start the change,” she says. A good example is: A petition was started by a hospital technician to divest their institution’s retirement funds out of fossil fuels, Hayhoe says. “We often picture climate action as a giant boulder at the bottom of a hill with a few hands on it, but when we look at what so many people and groups are already doing, we realize the giant boulder is at the top and already rolling down, and it has millions of hands on it that we can join,” she says.
  • Find your people “If you have deep concerns about the climate, it’s really important that you have people who take those concerns seriously and don’t gaslight you,” Manning says. Plus, joining forces can help to solve problems. There are national environmental groups like the Sierra Cluband niche groups such as the nonpartisan Winter protectionFor those who love snow sports. Finding groups in your own community is especially valuable, because the practical solutions that can arise — more green spaces to help with cooling, say, or bike lanes to reduce driving — will help your locality. A group can also be a stress-relieving tool.
  • Push the powerful.The most significant impacts will be made in the areas that have the greatest impact on us all. So voice your concerns to companies and campaign for politicians who are sensitive to our needs.
  • Small actions are important. Every step you take (using a colder wash cycle, or driving an electric car) has merit, so don’t worry about being perfect. Hayhoe and Lertzman have combined multiple speaking engagements at each location to reduce the heat-trapping carbon emissions. Katy Romita, a Mamaroneck meditation instructor, launched a website last fall. One small stoneProvides online meditations for people who want to calm their anxiety about the climate.
  • Ease your kids’ angst. Involve your children in climate solutions in a fun way, such as by volunteering to plant trees during your city’s annual drive or joining the NASA-sponsored Globe ProgramSandi Schwartz, author, suggests that parents and children can monitor the temperatures in sunny and shaded spots to contribute to climate data. EcoHappiness: Finding the Right Balance. Actions like these are beneficial for making children feel better, but “it’s important not to make the child feel like it’s his problem to fix,” Clayton says.
  • Spread the word. Tell your family and friends about any climate-friendly changes you make in your life. Most people can be influenced if they use language that reflects their values. “It’s not about telling them they should care for the same reasons you care. It’s about listening for what they’re passionate about,” Hayhoe says. When climate-skeptical Republicans in two congressional districts were shown ads featuring people and terms they related to — an Air Force general describing national security implications and an evangelical Christian (Dr. Hayhoe) emphasizing her faith’s teachings about caring for the planet — they became more open to the climate’s harms, a recent study published in Nature Climate Change found. Other researchers have shown that a skeptical audience becomes more willing to act when the local effects of the crisis is highlighted.
  • Don’t argue with deniers.7 percent of the population believes that global warming is not happening. “If that’s your family member, say ‘I love you but you’re wrong,’ and move on. Don’t try to have a productive conversation,” Hayhoe advises.
  • Get help if you need. Talk to a therapistIf you feel overwhelmed by climate anxiety, please consult your doctor. You can also reach out to other climate experts via the online climate cafes, or at the 10-step group climate support. Good Grief Network. Remind yourself that even though your community is directly affected by the disaster, you will rebound. “Resilience is the ability to function and thrive in the face of negative events,” and humans have this resource in spades, Clayton says. As we tackle climate change, that’s something to feel good about.

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