Climate anxiety is becoming more and more common as climate changes seem to be getting worse. Anxiety can make us passive – and there are ways to instead make it put us into action mode.
Are you feeling restless, irritable, or worried thinking about the future, watching the news or reading about the state of the planet? Climate anxiety is becoming more and more common as climate changes seem to be getting worse. Anxiety can make us passive – and there are ways to instead make it put us into action mode.
The future can be overwhelming to think about, especially if we consider the planet's current state. In fact, a study on Climate Anxiety in Children and Young People reveals that 84% of youth from ten countries are at least moderately worried about the planet, while 59% are extremely worried. And this worry could negatively impact the daily life, functioning, and even the thoughts of the young generation.
However, kids aren't the only ones affected by the planet's condition. People of all ages are concerned about the environment, and it's impacting our mental health.
Understanding the everyday impact of climate change
A climate activist in Lagos named Jennifer Uchendu points out that young people often have to suffer the brunt of environmental issues when crises and disasters occur. True enough, around two-thirds of people from Nigeria expressed that climate change had negatively impacted their quality of life, especially since the country frequently experiences floods, landslides, coastal erosion, and other disasters. Despite this, Uchendu points out that the government lacks action, which causes people a great amount of stress and anxiety.
The same experience is happening in Southeast Asia. Most of Southeast Asian areas affected by natural disasters face the Pacific Ocean, which is a hub of warm water where storms usually develop. The problem is that climate change increased the frequency and intensity of the typhoons developed in the Pacific Ocean, causing 2014's Typhoon Haiyan to reach a wind speed of 315 km/h while 2018's Typhoon Mangkhut clocked in at 285 km/h. Unfortunately, many people in the Philippines, Indonesia, and other Southeast Asian countries aren't provided with any support for these natural disasters. As a result, devastating typhoons and natural disasters put their lives in danger and cause them to become more anxious during monsoon seasons.
Tips on how to take care of ourselves and our planet
Identify what can and cannot be controlled
We often get stressed in the face of environmental disasters because stress is a natural response that is supposed to help us survive. When we've been in survival mode for too long, we must protect our mental health by managing our stress. Our article on Stress Management Techniques recommends creating a list of your stressors before dividing these factors into what can and cannot be controlled. By focusing on what can be controlled regarding the environment, we can put more of our energy into recycling efforts, planting trees, and more.
Recognize that your environmental efforts have impact
Psychology researcher Maria Ojala studies environmental guilt and anxiety, and she explains that many people merely focus on the problem without trying to find out the steps they can take to solve the issue. According to Ojala, we need to integrate a bit of hope into our problem-focused coping strategies to encourage and remind ourselves that we can collectively fix our environment. So instead of thinking that you have no control over climate change issues, shift your focus and recognize your power to change your environment through methods like writing to the city mayor about eco-friendly projects or even by recycling your waste at home.
Create more significant change by engaging others
You're not going through this alone. Many people are worried about the state of the planet, which is why it's important to engage these people in taking actionable steps. You can try to start local clean-up projects or even Facebook groups to encourage your neighbors to plant trees and recycle more items. You can also make a significant change by just inviting your relatives and your friends to carpool to school or eat more local ingredients.
Many people are feeling climate anxiety due to its devastating effects on various communities. The good news is that with consistent, collective effort, we can heal from climate anxiety and channel our energies into changing the planet for the better.
Article by JB Alderson for 29k.org