Coping with climate anxiety

depressed expression

Stressed out

One of my most constant worries recently has been the state of our planet. The recent publication of the IPCC Report and it’s ‘code red’ announcement has surfaced my anxieties surrounding my future. What about you? Are you feeling okay?

Climate anxiety is a growing threat to mental health – for me it derives from feeling helpless, shocked, and uncertain about future plans. I feel saddened thinking of the side effects of global warming on animals, plants, and humans. However, this feeling has somewhat become the norm – over the years I’ve studied subjects relating to biology, environmental policy and environmental law, where there is the constant reminder of deteriorating ecosystems. It’s honestly hard to be hopeful when I think about our (poor) progress with climate targets.

I believe it’s important to recognise the types of negative emotions associated with climate anxiety, instead of shoving them away. This is a significant issue for our generation – and recognising ways to cope with climate anxiety is important. Understanding that you’re not the government or 'big corporate emitters' is helpful – as they have significant work on their part to decrease emissions. To some extent, my anxiety has lessened from the individual changes I’ve made in my life to reduce my carbon footprint. Below find four ways I'm managing my climate anxiety.


1. Switching to Eco alternatives

The argument for greenwashing is valid, and you may perceive switching to eco alternatives as ‘fluffy’ attempts to mitigate global warming. However, on an individual level it is so important to reflect on ways you can switch out single use items for eco alternatives. I understand it can be hard - I felt helpless living under my parent’s roof – as it was difficult for me to be more sustainable. However, now living out I’ve tried my best to ensure there’s a lot less plastic, that I’m composting all my scraps and ensuring any soft plastics are recycled (+ more). My anxiety has reduced knowing that I’m trying my best on an individual level to lessen my carbon footprint.

2. Activism/volunteering

Like the point above – I've felt less helpless when I've turned my stress into activism. Through attending protests, signing petitions and being part of an on-campus sustainability group, I’m able to put effort towards raising awareness of sustainability and climate action on a wider scale. I love being part of an on campus club who plans events which promote different aspects of sustainability (shout out to the student club: Adelaide Sustainability Association)!

3. Getting in touch with nature

Growing up, I lived near a creek which I often played in and later exercised in! It got me to really appreciate the Australian native fauna and flora. It was a great escape from busy school life. Being in nature replaces my negative emotions about climate change with being appreciative, happy and reminding myself that it is a privilege to be amongst the environment. I love focusing on the anatomies of plants – how cool is it that plants can come in so many different shapes and sizes? Evolution and adaption of these plants remind me that they have come so far to survive; they need to be protected - but nature also has an amazing ability to bounce back (which is hopeful).

4. Art

Drawing or painting is a great diversion from the pit of climate anxiety – I’m able to focus more on the details of my artwork. Undertaking art with friends also facilitates conversations in a product manner – I often find my friends conversing about the state of the planet. We’re able to support each other (even if it’s just to validate emotions surrounding climate anxiety). If you haven't tried this before - you’re in luck!

Sustainability Week is commencing the start of Week 7 (6-12 September) and includes a collaboration with Student Wellbeing’s Health Week to bring you ‘R U OK Day: Climate Anxiety Art Session’. Come colour, chat and snack for the hour (12-1pm) at the Co-op space, Hub Central!

Check out the following links for more details:

Tagged in What messes with your head, Wellbeing, Student life, environment