Climate anxiety is the name given to feelings like worry, fear, sadness, anger, uncertainty, helplessness, and loss related to the climate crisis.
It can be about
- extreme weather events which might directly affect us
- probable future events
- empathy we have for people in other places affected by climate change
- the knowledge of the threat to life on our planet
The World Health Organisation has recognised climate change as the greatest threat to human health in the 21st century. Anxiety is a rational human response to threat and danger; it makes sense to feel anxious about this real issue affecting our lives.
Am I the only one feeling anxious? Am I too sensitive?
Climate anxiety is so common that there is an emerging field of study into its mental health effects.
The Australian Psychological Society and Doctors for the Environment Australia have even written guides on how to support ourselves and each other.
You might not be directly affected by climate change, but being aware of the unfolding threat has mental health impacts. World news can raise our anxiety.
You are more likely to experience climate anxiety if your work is related to the climate crisis. Health professionals in Australia are twice as likely to be alarmed about the climate crisis as the general population and young people are thought to be disproportionately affected by climate anxiety.
People who are vulnerable to a greater impact of climate change also have a greater likelihood of climate anxiety (e.g., First Nations people, people with chronic illness, disability, existing mental health conditions, lower incomes, and living in rural and remote communities).
According to the Black Dog Institute, up to a quarter of Australians say that climate anxiety has affected their ability to function at times.
So no, you are not ‘too sensitive.’ You are having a healthy human response to a distressing problem.
Can I reduce my climate anxiety without ignoring the problem?
Letting politicians and industry off the hook by falling into despair or giving up might reduce our climate anxiety right now, but it doesn’t help us or the planet.
Let’s reduce our climate anxiety without reducing our ability to help. What we do, what we think, who we work with can help us AND the planet.
It’s the antidote to despair. You can lobby politicians, join local activist groups, and find out how to reduce your own impacts on the climate.
- Citizens Climate Lobby Australia[i]
- Transition Towns Tasmania[ii]
- WWF Australia (World Wildlife Fund)[iii]
Focus on a few things
Take a break & have fun
Turn off the news. Put your phone down. Read or watch something funny. Do something creative!
We need joy, play, rest, excitement, humour and passion to restore ourselves.
Sleep, healthy food, moving our bodies, spending time in nature and with kids or animals – it’s good for you!
Connect with people.
Acknowledge and allow difficult feelings
Look for the good news stories: the solutions being put into place, the growing collective action around the world and in your local area.
- Climate Council share climate solutions and good news stories every Friday on Instagram and Facebook[v]
- Positive News[vi]
Now you’ve got some ideas on how to tame this climate anxiety. Talking and listening, action and fun…this sounds like a Women’s Health Tasmania kind of approach!