Does climate change keep you up at night? Do you ever feel your heart racing, your palms getting sweaty, and notice other signs of anxiousness peeking through your body? You may just be experiencing climate anxiety. Climate anxiety (also called eco-anxiety), is the feeling of distress resulting from the effects of climate change.
The Lancet conducted a study and found that 84% of children and young adults aged 16-25 are worried about climate change at a moderate level, at least. 59% are extremely worried about climate change. Sadly, climate change affects children and young adults disproportionately, with UNICEF estimating that one billion children will be at “extremely high” risk levels of climate change results.
Fortunately, there are quite a number of ways to cope with climate anxiety.
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Coping With Climate Anxiety
Physical exercises can alleviate symptoms of stress, anger, and anxiety, while also being able to slow down cognitive decline. People who exercise regularly are also 30% less likely to experience depression. You can also help the planet through exercise by cycling instead of driving when you’re able to!
Are you going on a walk with a friend? Help to pick up litter you come across on your way! You could even turn this into a group activity by gathering a small group of friends. Consider reaching out to your local council to find out about cleaning streets, parks, and beaches that you can help with!
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Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
You don’t necessarily need to get a therapist for this, but some techniques that are used in CBT practices could be helpful to manage climate anxiety. One particular technique that could help with climate anxiety is the “Thoughts on Trial” method.
In this technique, you’ll be able to address negative thinking by challenging your negative/catastrophic thoughts. Start by looking at the factual evidence you have that supports your thought. For instance, if your thought is “the world is about to end really soon”, try and find facts that support this idea. Then, look for evidence that doesn’t support your thoughts. Finally, look for alternative thoughts. For example, if your initial thought was as the aforementioned, then an alternative could be “Maybe I am catastrophizing; nothing around me has happened to indicate that the world is ending. This is not a tangible fear.”
Practising this method can help you stay calm and grounded, as it reminds you that not all the thoughts you have are necessarily true by default.
Keep your learning process going, and stay updated on what’s going on in our environment. Be careful not to let this turn into doom-scrolling or more catastrophic thinking; discern what’s real and requires immediate attention, and what isn’t as worth your energy.
When you stay educated, you’ll also be able to share what you know with other people and help them understand the importance of looking after the environment and their mental health as well.
Another tool you can adopt in your aim to cope with climate anxiety is the Stress Bucket. You can take a look and download the Stress Bucket template here. When using the stress bucket, identify things that cause you stress and recognize when your “bucket” is getting too full. This helps you visualize how much you carry emotionally, and reminds you to take a moment to empty out your stress bucket before it pushes you towards a burnout.
Photo Credit: Sydney Rae
It isn't easy to navigate these waters, as climate change has come at us hard and fast over the last few decades. When it comes to our planet, sometimes all the preparation in the world still doesn't feel sufficient when things get rough. We hope that this article helps you manage the emotions that surface when it comes to our planet's climate