How to cope with climate anxiety
A little like climate action itself, easing anxiety about the climate crisis is easier said than done. But by focusing on a few key ways to reduce disproportionate worry, we can all breathe a little easier and play our part in creating a brighter future for everyone.
What is climate anxiety?
More and more people – especially the younger generations – are getting increasingly anxious about the plight of the planet. However, while it’s right and healthy to be worried about the situation, climate anxiety can be debilitating and, without careful management, can seriously affect our overall mental health or even lead to forms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
How to deal with eco-anxiety
Don’t aim for perfect
While it’s easy to feel like it’s your sole responsibility to save the world on your own, try to let go of unnecessary worry by accepting that you can only control what you can control. Reassure yourself that if we all do a little, we can achieve a lot.
It’s impossible to be perfectly eco-friendly. You might get your milk delivered in bottles, but what about the van used to deliver it? You may choose vegan food, but is the packaging recyclable? The best thing here is to simply take the steps you think will help the situation overall and leave the bigger picture concerns to the politicians and committees who can make hopefully make the larger-scale difference we all need.
Change the channel
It’s good to stay in the loop and be aware of how the climate crisis is unfolding – but it’s damaging to fixate on 24-hour news and doom-scroll constantly on social media.
It can be more helpful to be more selective when it comes to your news sources. Instead of tuning into TV bulletins or media websites (which are often actually designed to scare us all in order to get clicks) make an effort to follow selected public figures, or search for articles by trusted experts such as Sir David Attenborough or Chris Packham.
Sir David Attenborough talks about climate hopes with Earth Optimism Cambridge
Change your mindset
As with all the tips you’ll see on this subject, this is easier to recommend than it is to do. But by focusing on positives (our generation could be the ones to save the entire planet after all) we can start to chase future success rather than only attempting to remedy past failures.
Make climate action fun
None of us are any use to anyone else – or the climate fight – if we’re not equally committed to being kind to ourselves. You could host a sustainability spa day, or a vegetarian dinner party and help spread the word on climate action while you’re looking after your own wellbeing. There are lots of ways to apply climate-first thinking to everyday life and have a great time while you’re doing it – just ask our very own ethical influencer @sustainablelucy on Instagram or check out her blog if you need any tips.
One in five children have had a bad dream about climate change. Two in five don’t trust adults to tackle the challenges that climate change presents.
Nature heals, fact. Gardening and creating space for reconnecting with the earth and protecting biodiversity. The International Green Academy’s School Manifesto outlines ways that children (as well as teachers and parents of course) can actively pursue a healthy hobby while saving the planet by building new worlds through gardens. If you can’t get too active, you could support those that are out and about doing amazing work on the ground on our behalf.
And what better way to look after yourself while taking in the nature and ecosystems we so desperately need to protect than by committing to regular jogs or walks in the country – or deciding to cycle to work (and reap the health benefits) regularly?
I donate monthly to The Woodland Trust, The Tree Planters, and Surrey Wildlife Trust charities for habitat management and creation which sequesters and stores CO2, as well as planning and managing habitat creation and management through my work.
Darren Storey Ecologist at Sweco
Talk things through
It can help to talk to those who are perhaps closer to climate issues than you might be – like local councillors or MPs. You could approach teachers too, or businesses in your area…who may be taking more reassuring steps than you think when it comes to going green. While you shouldn’t obsess over bigger issues that you can’t control, it’s helpful to educate yourself by reading thought and opinion pieces – and you can always ask the authors questions to put your mind at ease if you’re concerned or confused about the topics they cover.
Fight for climate justice
The climate crisis isn’t only about saving the planet. It’s about making the world more inclusive, chasing equality and tackling systemic injustice. It’s a privilege to live on our amazing planet, but while some people remain more privileged than others, we will never achieve climate justice.
Climate anxiety and climate injustice are deeply connected. To create more hopeful futures we must continue to challenge the deep injustices present in our world.
Dr Cheryl McGeachan Senior Lecturer (School of Geographical & Earth Sciences)
Create your own climate plan
You might not be able to change the world single-handedly…but you can change your world. Consider your next life decision – how could you do things differently to fight climate change in your own corner of the planet? It could be as simple as creating a bee or butterfly corner in your garden – or you could take on a full-on eco build for your next home.
We are undertaking a deep retrofit of an old house to improve energy, environment and whole life maintenance performance. We’re opting to use triple glazing, sheep wool insulation etc.
Doug Marsh Technical Director at Sweco
Change things up in every day life
Why not start using your local milkman and use returnable glass bottles instead of plastic. Or use Ecosia instead of Google and plant trees when you search for things online (a double-whammy when you use the internet to find helpful climate action tips). Going vegan – even if only for Veganuary – could be a good life choice for you and your family (did you know that animal agriculture is responsible for 87% of Greenhouse Gas emissions?), and perhaps only buying pre-loved clothes is better for the climate (as well as your pocket).
I have been vegan for 21 years. Animal agriculture has a devastating effect on the environment. Switching to a plant-based diet and avoiding animal products is one of the best and easiest thing anyone can do.
Isabelle Rineau Project Administrator at Sweco
5 reasons to be optimistic about climate action
Positive News looks at reasons to be hopeful:
1. The USA is back in the game
The last international climate summit in Madrid, COP25, was overshadowed by former US president Donald Trump’s refusal to attend, and the country’s withdrawal from the Paris agreement. Two years later, the US is back at the table and back in the Paris agreement.
2. Coal is going under
With pressure from the public growing, investment and insurance becoming harder to secure, countries tightening environmental regulations, and renewables becoming much cheaper, there is now much less incentive to keep using coal for energy.
3. Fossil fuel companies are no longer the go-to choice
“We were told that we were not welcome,” said Ben van Beurden, chief executive of Royal Dutch Shell. This is just one example of the tide turning against those who put most pressure on the planet through fossil-fuelled energy.
4. Society is mobilising
The public is showing more and more consciousness when it comes to climate challenges. A diverse programme of civil society events will take place during the Glasgow summit, educating us all about exactly how we can take positive climate action.
5. Every 0.1 degree counts
The focus of the UN talks are to keep global warming to 1.5C. But every 0.1C increment of avoided warming will help to limit how intense the damage is. In other words, while bold action is badly needed, the little things will also add up.