How to Cope with Climate Anxiety

By Jessica Hicks

Climate anxiety, also known as eco-anxiety or climate change anxiety, is not a mental health medical diagnosis, but it’s a very real feeling some of us experience every day. Surveys find that young people in particular are concerned about climate change and its impact on their mental health.

Why Is Climate Anxiety So Hard to Cope With?

Climate anxiety is hard to wrap your head around for many reasons: You may:

  • Feel worried about charting your future amid so much uncertainty.
  • Experience frustration by the lack of acknowledgment and action to support the planet.
  • Feel angry because younger generations are likely to experience the greatest effects of climate change.
  • Have a sense of helplessness because you’re not sure what you, personally, can do to make a difference.

Signs you may be experiencing climate anxiety include chronic worry, appetite changes, difficulty concentrating, and even panic attacks. You may find yourself needing additional rest and downtime.

No single individual can stop climate change, but it may ease your anxiety to take action in ways both big and small in your pocket of the world and to try strategies to manage overwhelming feelings.

Tips for Coping With Climate Anxiety

Take Small Steps to Live More Sustainably

One of the best ways to fight feelings of helplessness and anxiety is to take action. It doesn’t matter if that action is small — what matters is that you’re actively doing something to ease your worries.

Taking steps to be eco-friendly can help you feel more hopeful and make positive contributions to the environment. Alone or with others, you might: 

  • Recycle cans, plastic containers, and other items you use in your day-to-day life.
  • Compost food scraps.
  • Opt for a reusable water bottle rather than single-use plastic bottles.
  • Bring reusable bags to the grocery store.
  • Experiment with more plant-based meals.
  • Thrift for clothing and household items.
  • Plant trees or a vegetable or herb garden in your backyard.
  • Reduce your water usage by turning off the tap when brushing your teeth or skipping the rinse before putting dishes in the dishwasher. 

Get Involved in Your Community 

Lots of communities have organizations or initiatives dedicated to taking care of local ecosystems. Whether it’s a group that picks up litter on town beaches or gets together on weekends to tend to a community garden, there are many ways to give back to your neighborhood and the environment. Plus you may even make some new friendships through your involvement. 

There are probably other people in your circle who share your concerns, so consider working with friends or family members to raise awareness, advocate for action, or work on climate sustainability and adaptation strategies.

Write to Your Local Policymakers 

Govtrack.us is a great place to check out environmental-protection bills that have been proposed in Congress. You can look for bills that speak to your particular climate concerns — such as wildlife conservation, reducing ocean pollution, increasing funding for climate-related research — and use the site’s “Call or Write Congress” feature to quickly and easily share your support for the legislation.

Seek Out Good Climate News

A lot of what we read and see online is negative, especially as it relates to climate change, but innovative solutions are happening too. Sprinkle some good environmental news into your feeds by following creators and accounts that share positive updates about our planet. 

Learn ways to protect your mental health when you use social media.

Spend Time in Nature

Spending time outside is not only a natural stress reliever, but it may also deepen your appreciation for and connection with the environment. Make a point to hang out in local parks and greenspaces or simply drink your morning coffee or tea on your front porch or in your backyard.

Don’t Put All the Pressure on Yourself

It’s not up to you — or any one person — to put a stop to climate change. Some of the biggest contributors to pollution are whole countries and corporations, after all, and it takes collective action to effectively limit emissions and help the Earth heal. 

When the weight of climate change feels extra heavy, remind yourself that it isn’t up to just you to fix things and there are many smart and well-positioned people working behind the scenes to change things — even if it is not always evident. Remind yourself that you’re not in this alone or reach out to friends to talk about how you’re feeling and how you might take small, sustainable steps together.

Find Your Sources of Joy 

With the planet shifting around us, there is a benefit to finding constants in our lives and leaning into the power of joy in difficult times. The constants can ground us during this time of change and provide hope when we’re feeling down. From going for a walk on your favorite local trail every weekend to making time to journal or read, finding ways to experience moments of peace in our routines can help make things feel more manageable. 

Learn steps for adding more joy to your life.

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If this is a medical emergency or if there is immediate danger of harm, call 911 and explain that you need support for a mental health crisis.