Climate anxiety is a real mental health condition that stems from concerns about climate change and the negative impact it has on our planet.
According to a survey by the American Psychological Association, more than two thirds of Americans struggle with climate anxiety. One billion children will be “very high risk” due to climate change, according to a UNICEF report from 2021. Climate anxiety may increase children and young people’s risk of developing mood, anxiety, and substance use disorders. Chronic stress can have a particularly detrimental effect on them.
According to environmental psychologist Thomas Doherty, it’s important to recognize that climate anxiety is a valid feeling and take steps to address it.
At the Aspen Ideas Festival, Doherty spoke about the importance of taking a step back from the constant barrage of negative news about climate change. He suggests doing things like going outside, reducing stress, and accepting that as an individual, you can only do so much.
Both the United Nations and the American Psychological Association have found that humans are increasingly at risk of mental health issues caused by climate change. Climate anxiety can lead to feelings of fear, anger, powerlessness, and exhaustion.
Doherty believes that it’s okay to feel these negative emotions, as long as we’re able to process them in a healthy way. He suggests talking to others about your feelings, whether you’re feeling upset or inspired.
Fellow panelist Alaina Wood, a sustainability scientist and TikTok influencer, also spoke about her experience with climate anxiety. To help her followers address their own climate anxiety, Wood focuses on positive developments in the fight against climate change. She suggests logging off your phone and spending time in nature to remind yourself why you care about the issue and why it’s important to take action.
Taking action, such as joining advocacy groups and making lifestyle changes, can help manage climate anxiety.