Sometimes it seems like no matter what we do to preserve the environment, our impact is insufficient and our efforts are futile. Other times you might feel like you don’t have enough power to spark a change and these thoughts leave you in a state of anxiety.
Yale Sustainability defines climate anxiety as: “fundamental distress about climate change and its impacts on the landscape and human existence that can manifest as intrusive thoughts or feelings of distress about future disasters or the long-term future of human existence and the world, including one’s own descendants. ”.
So if you find yourself constantly thinking about the environment and overwhelmed with intrusive thoughts about the end of the world, you might be coming down with a case of climate anxiety and we have a few ideas to get you out of it. Keep reading to see tips and ways to tackle and curb your anxious thoughts about the fate of our beautiful planet.
1. Focus on What You Can Control
One of the most challenging aspects of life is understanding that you cannot control everything. There will be situations and problems that you can’t automatically fix—no matter how much you want to. Unfortunately, climate change requires collective efforts for there to be significant impact and there are powers and institutions beyond our control that hold the key to making such changes. You have to recognize this and then focus on what you can control.
Here are some things that you can control and prioritize:
- Volunteer to clean up a street
- Recycle more often
- Switch to energy-efficient light bulbs
- Use reusable bags when shopping
- Plant a tree or two
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many people learned they had to have faith and keep moving forward, even when things seemed bleak. Focusing on what you can control can help you make a difference as the world changes around you. Many people working toward the same goal will help make a difference.
2. Turn Off the News
Being tuned in to what’s happening at any given time has its advantages, however, constantly watching the news can negatively impact your mental health. Watching or reading the news can make you feel more anxious, and being up to date on the latest research won’t help you if it causes you to miss out on the good things in life and to be stressed all the time. If you find yourself feeling perpetually anxious about climate change and the world at large, try detoxing from the news channels, websites, and social media accounts that typically bring you more stress than happiness.
Over time, you can reintroduce one or two forms of news media. When something doesn’t serve you, you should learn how to kick it out of your life. It’s great to stay on top of the news, but when it affects your mental and physical health, you must know when to step away from it.
3. Speak to a Professional
You shouldn’t bear the burden of this anxiety alone. Climate change isn’t your fault — though you might have picked up or been raised with environmentally unfriendly habits, you’ve worked hard to turn them around. If your climate anxiety has become particularly intense, consider speaking to a therapist about your feelings. They’ll be able to offer you some personalized coping skills that can get you through the worst of it.
4. Spend Time Outside
Nature can be healing. Sitting outside can bring you back to your roots and help you appreciate the world. Being near trees can reduce your depression and blood pressure. Spending time in nature, also known as “forest bathing,” can help you feel one with the planet you’re trying to save. Because being outside can decrease stress, you should build it into your daily routine.
5. Manage Your Stress Well
You may notice that your anxiety creeps into other parts of your life when you constantly think of the future and this might become a problem for you when you’re trying to focus at work or hoping to have fun with your friends. Use coping skills you already know to temporarily push the thoughts of climate change out of your mind. Realize there’s a time and place to think through stressors, and it’s ok if you have to turn your brain off to focus on what’s right in front of you.
Don’t feel guilty about taking a mental health day when you feel overwhelmed. Taking time for yourself can help reduce stress, prevent burnout, and re-energize you. To make the most of a mental health day, try turning your phone off, practicing some self-care, and engaging in a hobby that brings you joy.
6. Recognize How Far You’ve Come
You likely weren’t always as interested in the environment as you are now. You may have taken more steps to recycle better or use all the groceries you buy. You’ve made progress, so you should celebrate small and big changes affecting your life and community.
You can also look at the movement as a whole. More people are alarmed and concerned about climate change than ever before, which bodes well for the future of environment-protecting laws and actions. You can remind yourself that even if you step back to not worry so much about the environment, climate change activism is still making strides. It’s OK to rest occasionally, especially after all the good you’ve done for your community.
7. Know You’re Not Alone
You aren’t the only person in the world fighting climate change. Other people feel like you do and know that little changes can make a big difference. The Environmental Protection Agency is also working to measure and reduce emissions with partnerships and initiatives. Individuals work at the local level to ensure their communities are green spaces promoting the environment’s health.
You can connect with people who feel the same as you. Consider joining a volunteer group that reminds you there’s still hope for a future where everyone can enjoy the planet. You can find other like-minded millennials and Gen Zers who want to see a different world in the future. You can work together to make it happen.
Take a Breath, Then Make a Difference
Climate anxiety can be difficult to tackle. When you have all the facts in front of you and know people are choosing to ignore them, you might feel like the future is bleak — but it’s not. Others are fighting climate change alongside you, so you can allow yourself to take breaks and avoid burnout. Stick to your core values and step away when you need to. The community you’ve invested in will be there for you when you feel ready to jump back in.