Climate anxiety has been described by the American Psychological Association as “a chronic fear of environmental doom.”
It is manifested through sleepless nights feeding an obsession to know more or being brought to the point of apathy due to inability to make sense of the calamity.
Either way, climate anxiety is powerful. It places pressure on the mental well-being of large parts of the world’s population, especially the young.
Our team has been all up in the climate sauce for years. We understand what it feels like to be inundated with the gloomy news and we’ve developed some healthy habits to help cope. Check out our 6 reflections and tips:
Build Connected Communities
Santiago Sáez Moreno, Spain
Santiago has suffered climate anxiety and knows first-hand how terrifying it can be. He advises acknowledgement that it is a natural reaction for those who deal with the facts of climate change.
For him, climate anxiety demonstrates itself through feelings of deep fear, despair, depression, and detachment.
“My worst moments usually came after what I know are big, important news (scientific reports, announcements, votes…) that are totally ignored by the media and people in general, despite all my efforts.”
Santiago has found that forming meaningful connections with others has helped him to deal with his bouts of climate anxiety.
“Caring and being cared for. Community building. Faith in people is the best antidote against fear, and you can only find that in people.”
Remember the Smallest of Victories
Katherine Cheng, Hong Kong
“I think almost everyone I know has experienced climate anxiety at some point. It is important to acknowledge these feelings, but not to let them overwhelm us.”
Maybe you’re like Kat, who says these feelings tend to come in waves. There are moments when she feels completely powerless, hopeless, and exhausted. In these moments, she admits, subconsciously withdraws as an act of self defence.
“I feel it most when I wake up to headlines of a major disaster (such as the wildfires of 2019) and when I see responses are apathetic or straight-up denial. I am intensely triggered when governments go so far as to roll back environmental policies.”
Kat’s got some good advice though.
“Recognise that you’re not alone and that there are moments of small victories. Use these to fuel your actions. Focus your energy on systemic change.”
Indeed, many small victories will lead to big change. So don’t give up!
Seek out the Good News too
Nariswari Yudianti, Indonesia
For Nariswari, climate anxiety is experienced through a sense of paranoia.
“News headlines about the planet being destroyed, and the fact that Jakarta’s air is getting dirtier each day, triggers me. I try to avoid traffic in the city and I am a big advocate for bike-sharing transportation services. I move around by motorcycle and this makes me feel exposed to the city’s polluted air, everyday.”
To combat these feelings of climate anxiety, Nariswari ensures she surrounds herself with good news. While it’s critical that we acknowledge the catastrophe, it is imperative that we expose ourselves to some good news as well. So many people around the world are practicing sustainable lifestyles and have committed their lives to progress.
“ I read the good news and I find encouragement from the accounts I follow of persons who are actively engaged in sustainable and eco-friendly living. This inspires me to keep active in climate action.”
Write it Down. Publish. Publish. Publish.
Lina Yassin, Sudan
“Climate anxiety is real. I just don’t like to think about it.”
Lina is right. The intensity of sadness and frustration that comes with climate anxiety is sometimes too much and it feels easier to sweep under the rock and just continue working. She expressed that it comes with feelings of helplessness and doom, triggered especially by lack of government action and determination of some governments to avoid responsibility.
“I usually feel it the most when I’m at a climate negotiation session and seeing how some countries are not taking the issue seriously, or when I get in touch with people who are fallen victims to a climate-related catastrophe.”
Lina’s coping mechanism is in her writing. She finds it cathartic. It’s an effective way to let out the anger associated with climate anxiety and to feel just a little bit less stressed.
If you haven’t read Lina’s articles, check out her inquiry into the Egytian and Liverpool FC footballer – Mohamed Salah’s – partnership with Exxon Mobil, one of the biggest climate deniers and contributors.
Identify your Window of Tolerance
Dizzanne Billy, Trinidad and Tobago
One of my favourite quotes is – “We can’t direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails.” — Cora Hatch
When we are able to widen our window of tolerance, we can enjoy more smooth sailing regardless of the waves, obstacles and adventures we encounter. I’ve found that a good way to do this is to practice mindfulness in responding to the stimuli that enters my life. As a communications person, I find myself in a deluge of climate news.
Floods. Cyclones. Heat Waves. Hurricanes. Droughts. Air Pollution. Food Scarcity. Death. Climate tragedies throw us off kilter, but they are the reality.
So, for me, it’s important to regulate my emotions and pay attention to how they are happening and how I respond to them.
Bonus tip from Chris Wright (Australia): Bake bread, it gives a real sense of fulfillment.
It is deeply painful to face what’s happening on our planet right now. We hope these tips help and inspire you to turn the powerless feelings we all sometimes face into climate action. These feelings can be messy and complicated but we can’t give up. Not now.