How often do you think about climate change? What was once a conversation has turned into a crisis, and it is majorly stressing us all out! For good reason, we only have one planet to live on! The good news is that it’s possible to ease your anxiety without feeling like you’re turning your back on Mother Nature.
A few decades ago, it might have been easier to only think about climate change when it appeared on the news, or as something far off in the future. But now, the effects – rising water levels, more frequent hurricanes and tornadoes, longer heat waves, drought and crop failure and intense wildfires – are a daily reminder that climate change affects us directly.
Now look, I understand that climate change is one problem among many we have had to face over the past few years, and some people may consider it a “luxury” concern if you’re facing more immediate dangers. However, our health and happiness are greatly influenced by our environment, and for some people, these changes in our planet are already having life-threatening consequences.
So if you’re feeling guilty about not doing enough, or worried you can’t make an impact as an individual, or you’re just bummed out by the state of things, I plan to share positive ways you can move forward all month long.
But let’s begin with addressing your own stress and anxiety before we can help good ol’ Gaia.
Is climate change anxiety even a real thing?
Yes, absolutely! Climate change anxiety is more relevant than ever. And it’s not just a concern of Gen Z or “tree-hugging hippies”; people have dedicated their lives to studying human’s impact on the planet for decades. And government responses to the crisis have become a global talking point.
Caroline Hickman, a UK-based psychotherapist and climate change researcher, says that our worries are “a reasonable and healthy response to an existential threat.” And if you live in an area that has recently been hit by a natural disaster, you probably know firsthand that the threat is real.
How climate change anxiety affects your health
There are lots of ways climate change anxiety shows up in our daily life: increased worry, frustration, guilt, anger, grief, panic and even apathy. You can experience insomnia, changes in your appetite, and have trouble concentrating. Some people cope with alcohol or drugs or distance themselves from others.
And obviously, extra stress can drain your creativity and cost you income and motivation.
In addition to affecting our mental health, climate change has serious consequences to our physical bodies. We’re fueling our bodies with food from the Earth, and crops can be greatly affected by increasing temperatures, rising and falling rainfall, invasive species and diseases, and straight up human pollution.
We are also susceptible to increased natural disasters in ways you may not think about. Smoke-laden air from wildfires increases the risk of lung damage in children and people with pre-existing conditions like asthma. JAMA Neurology conducted a recent study of Americans with cognitive impairment and discovered a “strong link” between air contamination and dementia. And as pollution levels rise, so do the risks for heart disease and strokes too.
5 tips to help ease your climate change anxiety
1. Don’t ignore it.
The first step, according to Hickman, is to engage with our grief. When we try to ignore uncomfortable feelings or bottle them up, it ends up making the situation worse.
2. Find support in friendly faces.
If you’ve been struggling with anxiety about climate change, you’re not alone. There are plenty of organizations where you can find support, connect with like-minded souls and turn your anxiety into action. Plus, knowledge is power, and educating yourself on the changes happening to our planet will help make the unknown a lot less scary.
I’ll be sharing more specific ways to make a difference throughout the month.
3. Manage all your stress, not just about the climate.
When we get anxious, it isn’t uncommon to have obsessive thoughts or to fall down an Internet rabbit hole of Youtube videos on endangered species and depressing news reports of flooding or fires. So, when you start to doom-scroll, disconnect from your devices and recenter your efforts on self-care and rest.
As a creative person, I know there are many facets to your life, and your approach to stress management and easing anxiety needs to address all stress in your life, not just how you feel about climate change. If you need some tips, here are a few of my favorites for any amount of free time you can find in your schedule.
4. Try more nature-based activities.
Get your booty outdoors as often as possible! If you want to ease anxiety, there isn’t a better way than grounding your spirit with Mother Nature. While climate change is serious stuff, there is so much beauty everywhere to experience. So plan more nature-based activities – walks, beach days, park picnics, field days with your kids, whatever your planet-lovin’ heart desire. Let all the natural splendor inspire you.
If you can’t make it outside as often as you’d like, or you just want to take your self-care up a notch, check out how you can use nature-based guided imagery to ease anxiety.
5. Build your resilience.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, our bodies are amazing! Our minds are designed to adapt to difficult situations—from big events like a global pandemic to smaller moments like blowing a big audition. So while the climate situation may seem bad right now, know that we’re built to pick ourselves up and keep going.
If you want to toughen up your mental know-how and nurture your resilience, here are 6 ways to improve your ability to roll with the cosmic punches.
Which of these tips will you try first? Let me know by posting in the comments below or in The Badass Beauty Club on Facebook!
LOVE + hope!