Many young people harbour feelings of stress and depression due to the ongoing seemingly hopelessness of a changing climate. Picture: TheDigitalArtist/Pixabay
Many young people harbour feelings of stress and depression due to the ongoing seemingly hopelessness of a changing climate. Picture: TheDigitalArtist/Pixabay

Six quick ways to cope with the new phenomenon of ’climate anxiety’

By Dominic Naidoo Time of article published Dec 1, 2021

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In a recent article, I covered the relatively new phenomenon of ’Climate Anxiety’ which is being experienced by scores of people around the world, including South Africa.

According to a study conducted by Bath University in collaboration with five other tertiary institutions, the majority of people who admitted to experiencing some level of climate anxiety are between the ages of 10 and 25.

This is a startling revelation as many youth harbour feelings of stress and depression due to the ongoing seemingly hopelessness of a changing climate.

The Guardian reported that as many as four out of ten young people worry so much about the crisis that they fear bringing children into this world because of it.

How do we cope with such feelings? How do we turn the constant negativity surrounding climate change into a hope for the future?

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I have found a few uncomplicated ways, which I use myself, to help cope with the constant feeling of impending doom.

Talk to Someone

I found that talking to someone such as a sibling, parent, spouse, or close friend about your feelings regarding the climate crisis. One of the most important things to realise when trying to understand these feelings is knowing that we are not alone in this and that many others feel the same way. If you think that no one close to you would understand then speak to a professional therapist or counsellor.

Join the Fight

Try to connect with others in the climate activism space. You could join a local activist group in your area, or a club in your school or college, or connect with others via social media or online discussion forums. Remind yourself that others care about the planet as much as you do, this can help you to feel hopeful, supported, and give you the encouragement to keep moving forward.

Focus on what you can control

The climate change issue is quite complex and just too much for one person, group, or government to solve on their own. It may sometimes feel disheartening but it will do us good to remind ourselves that we should only focus on what we can control rather than the huge issues which we cannot. Small actions make an enormous difference as well such as avoiding meat a few times a week, carpooling to work or wearing your clothes more often instead of buying new clothes. It could be something bigger, like attending a march or setting up a green committee in your school, college, or workplace. Whatever it is, try not to put too much pressure on yourself, and remember you cannot change everything, but you can make changes in your way.

Take a climate news break

Being informed about climate issues and new developments around the topic is great for staying abreast of what is happening around the world but spending too much time scrolling news sites or following climate accounts on social media can weigh down on your mental health. Take some time out. The news and updates will be there when you return. Taking a step back from all the drama for a few hours or a few days will not change what is happening in the world. You do not need to be plugged into the news 24/7.

Think about the positives

It is easy to get caught up in negative news and worrying statistics when it comes to climate change, but it helps to remember that there are lots of people working to solve this issue, and there are positives out there.

Remember that you are part of a community. Follow accounts that share updates from climate leaders making a difference in their communities, and try to visit websites that only post positive climate news.

Take time for self-care

Take time to check in with yourself. Make sure that you set aside time and space in your week to do things that bring you joy. It could be going out for a hike with a partner, grabbing midweek drinks with some friends, working on a hobby, reading a book, or just lazing on the couch binging Netflix all day. Whatever your self-care routine is, just make sure to do it as often as possible. You cannot help take care of the climate if you are not taking care of yourself.

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