Does the climate crisis keep you awake at night? You're not alone. We are living through a climate emergency and a growing sense of panic has led to the phenomenon of climate or eco-anxiety.
What is climate anxiety?
Each day brings a breaking news story about the gravity of the climate crisis. It's important to stay informed, but the mounting horror stories and lack of action from world leaders can leave us feeling helpless and overwhelmed. The facts are well-known, and yet carbon emissions are still increasing. Here's how to stay sane in the face of this existential threat.
Find your voice
Alleviate anxious thoughts by talking about them. It's a comfort to know that you aren't alone, and that many people feel the same way you do. Speak to friends, attend climate strikes and consider joining an action group, such as Extinction Rebellion. By meeting like-minded people, you can experience a sense of empowerment. You can also find support online for bigger actions, such as deciding not to have children, going vegan or avoiding fast fashion.
"To be involved with others in a supportive community makes a lot of difference," therapist Rosemary Randall told Ecosia. "It removes the sense that you've lost control."
Switch off the news
Reading about the climate crisis online can keep you informed, but if the daily onslaught of articles is making you feel depressed, consider reducing the amount you read. Turn off notifications so you can be mindful when choosing what content you consume. Remember that terrifying headlines are used to sell newspapers. Consider sourcing your information from scientific studies, which give a less sensationalist view.
But read these books
Knowledge is power. Stay in the know by studying up on authoritative voices who lay out the threats, but also propose credible solutions to the climate crisis. The books we recommend include This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein, Drawdown by Paul Hawken, The Leaderless Revolution by Carne Ross, This Is Not A Drill by Extinction Rebellion and Feral by George Monbiot. It’s a frustrating truth that many of the solutions to prevent climate breakdown already exist – but it’s also a chance for hope.
Make a change
It's easy to feel helpless in the face of mass species extinction and soaring temperatures, and think: "How could I possibly stop these events?" Remember that no one is too small to make a difference. Greta Thunberg was an unknown solo protester only a year ago, and now her activism is making global headlines. Be inspired and feel good about making a positive lifestyle change. By cutting out meat or deciding not to fly, you can lead by example and encourage others to do the same – and soothe anxious thoughts by boosting your sense of purpose and self-worth.
"Adjust your life to what you now know," Randall advises. "That means doing something and taking action of some form. You may become somebody who writes letters to your MP, or signs online petitions, or gets involved in your workplace to make sure they lower their emissions. Find your niche and contribute to the solutions, not the problems."
But don't blame yourself
The narrative around the climate crisis puts a lot of responsibility on the individual. Each of us can have a huge personal impact, but we need to keep up pressure on the governments and big industries responsible for the crisis. Those in power have ignored warnings from scientists in favour of their own interests. Try to treat those who aren't as active as you are with compassion. Direct your attention towards the establishment instead.
Tackle your anxiety by absorbing yourself in a task that can also benefit the climate movement. Why not try making your own artwork like the designers at Adapt, starting a blog or creating engaging and visual ways to present climate crisis data? Share your work on social media to spread awareness and mobilize others to act, too.
Talk to a professional
It's okay to seek help from an expert, too. Professional counsellors and therapists can help you develop the tools to manage overwhelming thoughts and fears. Randall told us that climate anxiety is a painful experience that can be healed by talking to people who are willing to listen. "People can find themselves isolated with a sense of a loss of identity. Talking it out is very important," she says.
And a word on hope...
Those who uphold the status quo have failed the planet. There are so many young people engaging in climate politics, and this shift will only intensify when the thousands of school-age kids currently striking for planet enter the workplace and start voting. Change is coming.