Climate Anxiety

Climate anxiety, also known as eco-anxiety, is a term used to describe anxiety caused by the climate crisis. Often, individuals with climate anxiety will experience a feeling of imminent doom around climate change. Some symptoms of climate anxiety include feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and despair. An important distinction between climate anxiety and generalized anxiety is that whereas generalized anxiety can often be challenged with thoughts, climate anxiety is rooted  in the observable changes to our environment and the worry that might naturally come from it. In this way, climate anxiety doesn’t respond well to typical anxiety treatments. So, how do we help ourselves if we are experiencing climate anxiety? Edmonton-based therapist, Shaheen Alarakhia, goes through 5 ways to cope with climate anxiety.

In Alberta right now, there are 87 active wildfires with a total of 495 wildfires this year alone. For many in the therapy room, this has lead to conversations around increased climate anxiety. Climate anxiety is a deep, unshakable worry which impacts individuals who are acutely aware of the urgent and increasing dangers posed by the climate crisis. And while local events might trigger an increase in a person’s climate anxiety, many individuals with climate anxiety cite worries around the suffering and injustices faced by vulnerable communities and ecosystems worldwide as thoughts that plague them daily.  

Some symptoms of climate anxiety include:

  • Persistent worry and preoccupation: Climate anxiety can lead to a large amount of mental energy being used up on the current and future impacts of climate change on the environment, ecosystems, and human life.
  • Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness: Because issues pertaining to climate anxiety are not able to be solved at the individual level, often people will begin to feel hopeless and helpless around the situation.
  • Fear: Because of the accompanying sense of hopelessness, many people with climate anxiety experience high levels of fear around the climate crisis. Climate events like the current wildfire crisis in Alberta can serve as triggers for those with climate anxiety and increase their baseline worry about the situation
  • Emotional distress: those experiencing climate anxiety might experience higher than average levels of emotional distress. This includes mood swings, anger, emotional outbursts, and increased sensitivity to environmental news.
  • Social withdrawal: climate anxiety might lead individuals to withdraw from social situations due to feelings of hopelessness, despair, discomfort, and even feeling fearful of being judged by others.

Feeling overwhelmed and worried around the climate crisis is normal reaction to an abnormal problem. It is important and possible to integrate things to help reduce climate anxiety. Below are five evidence-based ways you can cope with climate anxiety.

  1. Connect with nature: Research has shown that spending time in nature can reduce stress, improve mood, and increase overall feelings of well-being. When possible, spending time in nature can help to reconnect with the earth that those with climate anxiety seek to protect which can help provide a sense of purpose and meaning.
  2. Practice mindfulness: Mindfulness has many mental health benefits, including reducing levels of anxiety. Learning to quiet our minds can be one way we can take breaks from the existential threats posed by the climate crisis. Mindfulness can be practiced informally, in everyday moments or formally for instance in the form of meditation. Want to join us on a mindfulness walk? You can do so here.
  3. Take action: Engaging in climate activism can help reduce feelings of hopelessness and helplessness. Climate activism can include joining other climate activists in protests, writing letters to your elected officials, or even voting in an election for a politician who you feel would take climate change seriously. When we take action, it can also help connect you with people who feel similarly and increase your sense of connectedness, which is protective for all types of stressors.
  4. Seeking support: Identifying people in your life who you can talk to about your climate anxiety, who you feel safe and heard by, is an important step in reducing climate anxiety. If you aren’t sure who to reach out to, our trained therapists can help. Contact us today to book a session.
  5. Connect to hope: While the climate crisis can be overwhelming and scary, it's important to connect to hope for the future. Reading about individuals and organizations who are tackling climate change, following climate advocates on social media who focus on solutions and action, and even using affirmations to connect to optimism can be helpful. Some examples of affirmations include; humans have encountered existential threats before and found ways to survive. Many people take climate change seriously. There are many smart individuals who are working on possible solutions. The earth heals when it's given the chance.

Conclusion

If you are struggling with climate anxiety, know that you aren’t alone. The increasing temperatures and events from the global climate crisis can be overwhelming and have a negative impact on our mental health. Working on climate anxiety with a trained therapist might help you feel lighter and more hopeful. If you would like to book in a session with one of our Edmonton-based therapists get in touch with us.

Welcome to Holistic Healing

Welcome to Holistic Healing

Meet our certified therapists, Adam, Selena, Danielle, and Shaheen. No matter what you want to work on, we have a therapist to help. Our Counsellors focus on helping you feel at ease by allowing you to feel heard and understood. By using a holistic, or whole picture approach, our trained Counsellors can help their patients live a happier, more authentic life. Our therapists offer adult counselling, couples counselling, and adolescent/teen counselling. Interested in learning more? Need to book a session? Contact Us here.

 

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