Do you often worry about how climate change will affect your future? Or the future of your family, friends, and loved ones? If you do, you may have something called, “climate anxiety.” Climate anxiety is described by the American Psychological Association as, “a chronic fear of environmental doom.” It’s completely normal to be overwhelmed and worried about climate-related topics. Those are feelings all of us who work to fight climate change feel now and then. But we also need to feel hope. But sometimes hope is really difficult to find when you hear all the statistics and facts about deforestation, sea level rise, warming temperatures, and increased natural disasters. According to a recent CNBC article, 45% of young people say their feelings about the climate crisis are negatively affecting their daily lives. And 77% say that because of climate change, the future feels frightening. Do you feel that way? Do you have any of the feelings that are in the graph below?
I do need to state I am not a doctor or healthcare provider. I am not here to give you medical advice. If your anxiety overwhelms you and is affecting your day-to-day life, PLEASE talk to a parent, trusted adult, or mental health professional. There is NO SHAME in getting help. I myself have sought help for anxiety and I’m glad I did. That being said, there are things you can do to refocus your anxiety into productivity. Self-Care – You can’t be part of helping the world if you don’t take care of yourself. It is not selfish to take some you time to clear your brain and relax. For me, I like jogging and going on nature walks. Seeing the beauty of nature always clears my head. Plus getting a workout in is great for your body and mind. For you it may be meditating, reading, or watching your favorite movie. Whatever it is, schedule some you time each day/week so you can clear your head a bit. Talk about it – Don’t hide your worry, fears, and feelings. You’ll find a lot of kids and teens your age have very similar concerns about the climate and their future. Find a group you can trust and talk to them about it. They can provide insight into what helps them. You can also talk to a trusted adult about your feelings. They are here to help and guide you. They want to know what concerns you have. Take action – Personally, I find the best thing I can do when I’m a bit worried is to take action and do something for our environment. It can be as simple as sharing a climate article on social media, going out and doing a litter clean-up walk, planting some plants or trees, or reaching out to an organization that focuses on the environment and/or climate and ask how you can help. You could even write letters to your government representatives or to companies and tell them what you think. Your thoughts matter.
Change your frame of mind – It’s not about “me,” it’s about, “we.” Once you realize that ONE person, ONE company, or ONE group can’t do it alone, you may feel better because the weight is not all on your shoulders. We all have a role to play. But it is not all on you to make every single change and fix everything. You are not alone in this. We are all in this together. Form a positivity group – It’s not hard to Google, “Climate Change,” and find a lot of depressing articles. But what about creating a group that gets together either virtually or safely in-person and focuses on finding articles and news that are positive about climate change. It can be articles about positive changes big companies are making, new laws or initiatives the government is proposing or has passed, or local efforts to make our world greener. Focusing on the positive can make you feel so much better because it makes you realize there is so much good going on in the world. It can also inspire you to take action! Focus on one local issue at a time – Climate change is made up of many different elements. It can definitely be overwhelming to figure out where to start. But the best place to start is in your own neighborhood or community. See if there is a local group you can join. Or, try starting something yourself. For example, our family started picking up trash on our walks to help beautify the community. But picking up trash here doesn’t just affect us; it affects distant waterways and our world’s oceans. And after we got more involved with clean-ups, we started Trash Pirates and have been able to connect with many amazing groups because of it. Learn more – This may seem counter-productive but learning more about specific climate issues that you see in headlines can actually help you understand the issue more and make it less scary. Headlines are supposed to grab your attention. They want you to read their articles. But sometimes those headlines can be misleading. They can exaggerate things and make things seem far worse than they really are. So do your research, hit the library and read some more. It may help you feel better about it. Give yourself a break – Even the best of us do things that aren’t great for the environment. So, give yourself a break when you use a single-use plastic now and then, ride in a car that is fueled with gasoline, or you leave a light on in a room you left hours ago. We all make mistakes and we all need some grace. No one is expecting you to be perfect. And don’t believe those “zero waste” people. You know, the ones who can fit a year of their trash into a small jar. It’s great and all but far from realistic. You do what you can and know it’s okay that you aren’t doing it all perfectly. None of us are! #climateanxiety #climatecrisis #climatechange #teens #kids #fear #actoncimate #climateaction #environmental #activist