'Climate anxiety' describes anxiety related to the global climate and biodiversity crisis and environmental disaster. Hearing from one of our amazing volunteers and two members of our Youth Council, this guest blog from Roisin Taylor looks at how the experience of climate anxiety differs from person to person, and different mechanisms to help you cope with it.

What is climate anxiety?

Climate/eco anxiety is feelings of worry and fear about the climate and ecological crisis. Symptoms range from worry, indecision, panic attacks, insomnia, obsessive thinking and burnout. Often, people feel that no matter what you do, you can't change anything.

While many of us are disconnected from our usual support systems and under-going ongoing stress of Covid19, climate anxiety is one additional worry that might be adding burden on to your day-to-day life.

Photo credit: Ben Andrew (rspb-images.com)

People experience it differently

Experiences of climate anxiety can manifest themselves differently from person to person...

Anne, one of our Scottish volunteers, says: "It feels like whatever I do is never going to be enough... climate anxiety is my number one worry."

One of our Youth Council members, Indy, experiences sleepless nights and "days where I think 'Why am I even bothering?'".

Emily, another Youth Council member, agrees: "I have a lot of optimism about the earth, but alongside that hope I have periods where I just stop feeling anything at all."

It is important to remember that however your emotions and anxieties present themselves, they are valid.

How can I deal with climate anxiety?

Coping also looks different to everyone, meaning there are lots of ways to manage your worry. Here are a few...

  1. Acknowledge your feelings

Mental health professionals say that one of the most important things you can do is acknowledge your feelings and talk about them.

Emily takes time to "feel the connection between my feelings and the land itself, and feel that I am a part of this", whilst Indy sometimes goes to a nearby hill to have a good shout when he feels angry. Expressing these emotions allows you to process them and recognise the impact they are having on your mental and physical health.

It is also useful to contextualise your emotions: ask yourself why you're feeling worried. Have you been overwhelmed by negative news stories? Have you changed your routine lately which has made it harder for you to stick to climate-positive actions?

Talk about or write down the emotion and why you might be feeling that way, then what action might make you feel better.

  1. Lay aside any shame you feel

Shame, guilt and self-blame are often overwhelming emotions that can lead you into a negative cycle that may lead to apathy. Individuals can effect change, but it is easier to sustain motivation if you aren't always kicking yourself for actions you didn't take in the past.

Anne says: "I feel a lot of guilt around my past life; our generation lived this fantastic lifestyle with lots of consumption, and it feels hard to make up for those decades of planet abuse."

It is important to acknowledge your feelings and harness them for positive change.

  1. Find actions that work for you

Emily, Indy and Anne all found some solace in action:

  • Anne volunteers at her local nature reserve and spends time transforming her garden into a more wildlife-friendly space to connect with nature.
  • Indy uses his voice online to be an activist and lends his support to smaller-scale projects he cares about, because "supporting smaller projects gives you a much more consistent boost... the climate seems like such a massive thing to change".
  • Emily uses research to control her worry: "I get angry and sad... and then I think 'Ok, that is over now, now it is time to think about what I can do about this.'"

Action looks different to all of us, and for it to be accessible and sustainable action long-term, it should be something within our means and control; such as eating more plant-based meals, reducing unnecessary consumption and waste, volunteering for a project or campaign, signing and sharing petitions, or making your garden as nature/climate-friendly as possible.

Caingorms by Ben Andrew

 Photo credit: Ben Andrew (rspb-images.com)

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