As we’ve felt the temperatures rising and had heatwave warnings issued across the UK this summer, we’ve slathered on extra suncream, found shady spots to find relief from the heat and the bedroom fans are on full blast. While seeing the sun out this summer has definitely put smiles on our faces, it may also have sparked anxiety-fuelled moments as we see climate change in real time. Keep reading to find out how to manage that anxiety and what you can do to help the planet too.
What is climate anxiety?
Simply put, it’s a sense of fear, worry or tension linked to climate change. Someone experiencing climate anxiety may feel worried, nervous or scared of the consequences of climate change, and what the future may hold for our planet. They might also experience low mood, connected to a wider sense of hopelessness or helplessness in pursuit to make improvements.
While this kind of anxiety can develop into an anxiety disorder for some, in many cases taking personal action can help alleviate worries and manage what is in our control - which can hopefully pull us away from that sense of doom and gloom that thinking about climate change can often bring.
Every little helps
Our anxieties spike when we feel uncertainty, and with so much that around climate change it’s no surprise that many of us are feeling all kinds of uncomfortable (and we’re not just talking about the sweaty unmentionable places). But as a well-known supermarket slogan goes… every little helps. And it’s true here too.
It’s also important to remember that in these kinds of circumstances, focusing on what we can control is really handy for keeping those worries and woes at bay. It’s not going to make them go away, but it can prevent racing thoughts and spiralling minds - especially when it’s hard to ignore the rising temperatures.
So we’re sharing some super simple ways we can make a difference to the environment, all the while supporting our wellbeing (you can thank us later).
Give your time to clean up your environment
Whether it’s an organised group event or a spontaneous litter pick on your dog walk, try making some time to clean your environment, your local park, your street, outside the corner shop or local pub, your garden. Reach out to your local council and find out how you can volunteer and help out. Supporting our local communities is of course worthwhile, and it even has a positive impact on our wellbeing, feeling a sense of purpose and accomplishment.
Acknowledge it and talk about it
Just because anxiety is uncomfortable, doesn’t mean we have to ignore it or push past it. In fact, allowing it to be there, to sit with the discomfort of it helps us move through it. And talking about it can help us process our feelings, and even inspire others to get involved with making a difference. Whether it’s just with friends or family, finding a support group or organising a talk for others to join you, start talking about your climate worries.
Educate yourself (and others)
Learning about climate change and what action we can take helps us feel a sense of control when things feel uncertain. Notice your mindset or mood before reading up, if we’re already feeling a little blue, reading about it might be more overwhelming than helpful. But if we’re feeling proactive and ready for a challenge, we’ll find it much less daunting to digest the information. And then share it! Post on social media, write a blog, send the link to all your contacts, rant and rave about the importance of taking care of our planet! Just don't forget to take care of you too!
Make a conscious effort to go green(er)
Recycle as much as possible. Get reusable items like cups, cutlery, straws, packaging to save on single use plastic. Save water by using a water butt or reusing cooking water to soak the plants. Eat more plant-based or local foods. Buy less ‘fast fashion’ by opting for pre-loved items, repurpose clothes you own or organise a community clothes swap (shopping without the price tags!). Walk or use public transport to save on fuel - costs and emissions (win, win). Even the small things have a positive impact on our wellbeing, as we feel a sense of achievement in our efforts.
There’s lots of ideas out there, support and information available about climate change and how to do your part. But remember: feeling anxious or worried in uncertain circumstances is normal, and focusing on what’s in our control can help us alleviate some of the discomfort.
When to seek support: The existential threat of climate change can be overwhelming, if you find worry, fear or anxiety taking over your life, interfering with your abilities to meet usual responsibilities, or an all-consuming sense of hopelessness, it’s time to seek professional support in managing the symptoms, whether it’s your GP, a therapist, or other healthcare professional.