Eco-anxiety is a growing concern amongst Australians. And for good reason – world-renowned naturalist Sir David Attenborough said: “If we don’t take action, the collapse of our civilisations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon.”
If feelings of stress, sadness or frustration overcome you when thinking or hearing about the state of the planet, you’re not alone. In fact, research shows that 75% of Australian voters are worried about climate change.
The first thing to note is that these feelings are warranted. It’s completely appropriate to feel stressed or anxious about climate change. The impacts are unfolding before our very eyes, and are getting worse with every day we delay meaningful action. It is important to come to terms with those feelings, recognise that it’s okay, and channel them into something positive.
At the Climate Council, we’re no stranger to these feelings, given we work on climate day in and day out. So we have compiled our best tips, tricks and resources to help you along your way.
Remember: in the fight against climate change, we are all in it together.
What is eco-anxiety?
Eco-anxiety (sometimes called ‘eco-distress’ or ‘climate-anxiety’), is a way of describing how people feel when they hear bad news about our planet, the climate, and the environment.
You might feel anxious, worried, upset, scared, sad, angry, overwhelmed or unsure about the future. And that’s completely understandable: climate change is a very real issue, affecting lives, livelihoods, the economy and ecosystems right around the world.
In fact, many psychologists suggest that eco-anxiety, in its most basic form, is not actually considered ‘anxiety’ – as those feelings are an appropriate and rational response to the situation that we’re witnessing.
What can I do to deal with feelings of eco-anxiety?
The good news is that there are plenty of practical things we can do to help soothe our worries and overcome feelings of eco-anxiety.
Here are some of the best ones from the Australian Psychology Society’s guide for ‘Coping with Climate Change Distress’.
1. Take action
Channelling your feelings of being overwhelmed or stressed into something positive that will help the situation is a tried and tested coping strategy. You could:
- Join a climate action group
- Email politicians and big business to put pressure on them to act
- Change up the way your household operates by opting for public or active transport, switch power providers to clean energy, improve the energy efficiency of your home
- Sign up to the Climate Council for more tips for getting involved in climate action
2. Take a break
Constantly thinking about, hearing about and talking about climate change can be exhausting and emotionally taxing, so it’s advised to take some time off every now and then to recharge. You could:
- Make a conscious effort to avoid consuming news for a 24-hour period, or while on holiday
- Take a mental health day to yourself to indulge in the activities you love
- Try and build rest into your weekly routine
3. Have fun
Positive experiences are so important for motivating yourself (and others). Being able to enjoy the good times makes the hard work worth it! When we feel good, we are also more likely to want to throw ourselves into helping the causes we care about.
4. Move your body
Exercise is crucial for maintaining good mental health and solid sleep patterns, so make sure you’re still moving those limbs daily! Walking, running, yoga and team sports are some of our faves – especially because they often require us to get outside into nature as well.
5. Focus on the solutions
We already have all of the solutions we need to solve the climate crisis! Focussing on these can give us a renewed sense of hope, optimism and remind us that we CAN fix this. Check out the Climate Council’s Instagram and Facebook pages where every Friday they share some of the best climate solutions and good news stories from the week.
6. Talk it out
Our relationships with other people have a powerful and positive effect in helping us to cope with whatever life throws at us, so lean on the people around you. Share concerns, thoughts and feelings about climate change with trusted friends, family and colleagues. If you don’t feel comfortable talking with someone you know, consider joining an online community of like-minded folk, or talking to a professional.
For urgent immediate help, phone Beyond Blue 1300 22 4636 or Lifeline 13 11 14. To arrange an appointment with a psychologist, ask your GP for a referral.
- A new guide for parents: Managing eco-anxiety in your kids
- 5 tips for dealing with stress in uncertain times
- Coping with the climate crisis series – Psychotherapist Rosemary Randall on Youtube
- Eco distress for young people – Royal College of Psychologists
- Coping with climate change distress – Australian Psychology Society