From the U.S. election to massive wildfires, concerns about climate change have become even more urgent. All the news regarding climate change, or even in general, can be draining. The anxiety following the news of climate change can leave many feeling hopeless. And, many may even want to avoid the topic altogether.
The term climate anxiety (or sometimes referred to as Eco-Anxiety) helps us explain the ways that climate change affects our mental health. The doom and gloom of our planet can easily spark feelings of stress among people. Feeling this way for a long time is not good for our well-being. And it may be hindering our ability to meaningfully act against climate change.
This anxiety is very real for many people. I see it on the news and social media. I see it among my peers. And, I have personally felt climate anxiety as an environmental studies major.
In addition, for those in frontline communities, climate change is very present in their lives. Frontline communities are the first to experience the effects of climate change; they are low-income and communities of color that are more vulnerable to environmental degradation. These communities are more likely to be exposed to environmental harm and lack the resources to resist or survive them. One of the ways to analyze why this happens is through the concept of environmental racism. Toxic waste dumps and highly polluting farms and factories tend to be built near communities of color. These communities lack political influence, and they tend to be overlooked.
A good example of frontline communities is small island nations. As climate change continues, more ice caps melt in the ocean, causing the sea level to rise. These island nations are already experiencing the loss of their land from sea-level rise. They have been tasked with convincing the world to stop contributing to climate change, so they can continue to live on their islands for generations to come. Their lack of political and social influence makes their efforts more difficult. For those in frontline communities, the issue of climate change is even more urgent. Thus, more anxiety-inducing.
Anxiety and fear are not fun emotions. They are ones that many of us want to avoid. But avoiding climate change will not make the problems go away. There needs to be a way for us to navigate our anxiety and channel it into action.
Focusing On Mental Health
Like any other problem, there are healthy ways to cope and deal with the situation.
Be real with yourself! An important step when dealing with climate change is acknowledging your emotions. You should allow yourself to feel the emotions that climate anxiety causes and know that what you are feeling is valid.
Forgive yourself! Many of us regularly participate in actions that harm the environment. Sometimes we cannot or do not have the means to control how much of our daily lives affect the planet. Sustainable options can be more expensive or unrealistic at the moment. A lot of the most harmful causes of pollution are not in our immediate control. So, it is important to acknowledge your limitations.
And even if you have the ability to make more sustainable decisions and mess up, that’s okay! No one is perfect! Don’t be hard on yourself!
Talk about it! With any problem, it is good to talk it out. Sometimes talking about your feelings can be difficult. So, try to find someone you trust. This can be friends, family, or even a counselor. Talking it out can give you a sense of relief and give you new perspectives about the problem.
Take action! Finding a way to fight climate change can be empowering. It can give you a sense of control! There are many ways you can be involved in climate change activism. Some ideas are to join an organization, volunteer, educate others, vote, or write to your local representative!
Remember you’re not alone! This is one I struggle with a lot. You are just one person, and the fate of the world is not just up to you. There are many other people actively working to combat climate change. I find it really inspiring to see the work that other people are doing to fight climate change. I recommend looking up climate change organizations or following climate activists on social media.
In short, climate change can be a nerve-racking topic, but it is not something that we can ignore. There are healthy and productive ways to deal with climate change. Remember to focus on your mental health and do things that will empower you in the face of climate change!