Enviro-Panic: Tips for Navigating Climate Change Anxiety

There’s no doubt that climate change is a real threat to our planet. It’s also a burgeoning source of anxiety, particularly for young people.

According to a recent survey of young people aged 16-25, 45 percent worry about the climate negatively affecting their daily life with 56 percent saying humanity is doomed.

The term “eco-anxiety” is becoming more commonplace as the stress and worry about our warming planet heightens. Although eco-anxiety is a very real issue, it is not a mental illness. Eco-anxiety is defined as extreme worry about current and future harm to the environment caused by human activity and climate change.

This anxiety-inducing uncertainty about the future, frustration at the slow pace of government to address the crisis and anger at previous generations for the current state of affairs can be crippling. But there are ways to support the environment and lessen anxiety, including:

  • Develop personal goals related to climate change. While deciding to personally curb meat, reduce single use plastics or bike to work will not stop the crisis, every action does indeed count. Making healthy, climate-conscious decisions a part of your routine puts your values into action and helps you to push back against hopelessness.
  • Join advocacy organizations. Connect with like-minded individuals to see what you can accomplish together. Encouraging change through petitions, letters to Congress and joint action will help you feel less alone in your fears and build healthy connections to encourage change.
  • Avoid “doom scrolling.” There is no shortage of bad news about the planet but there’s no need to incessantly seek it out. Actively pursue promising news and advancements to help give hope and safeguard your time so you don’t over do it on the negative news.
  • Ground yourself in nature. We all can benefit from time in nature, but it’s particularly gratifying for people concerned with climate change. Get out for a walk, involve yourself in a park clean-up, meditate in nature, plant flowers and trees. Getting in touch with the beauty of our planet will sustain you.

There’s hope on the horizon

It can be extremely difficult to find optimism in the wake of eco-anxiety’s doom spirals. And, in the words of Mr. Rogers, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster’, I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.”

Our world is full of people who care deeply about the earth and are working tirelessly to make advancements in science and technology that can slow, or even halt the climate crisis.

According to the Columbia Climate School, “Fertilizer made from human waste and food waste is price competitive with fertilizer made from raw materials, in part because recycled goods are subsidized by reduced costs of waste disposal. Renewable energy is already less expensive than fossil fuels, and as battery technology advances, the issues of intermittency will disappear.”

The market for electric vehicles is surging, underscoring manufacturers’ understanding that fossil fuels are no longer sustainable. Some countries, like Portugal, are already majority powered by renewable energy sources.

Eco-anxiety can be debilitating and can exacerbate underlying mental health conditions. It’s a valid concern and one that doesn’t have quick, easy resolutions yet. Remember that people like you – people who care – are working every day to find solutions, and you can make a difference, too.

Don’t put off seeking professional help if you have trouble sleeping, lose interest in activities you once enjoyed or feel an overwhelming sense of dread that prevents you from pursuing your usual routine. WellPower’s TherapyDirect is an ideal way to instantly connect with a professional for an online session. No insurance needed. For more information, visit www.wellpower.org/therapydirect.