As Earth Day approaches, many of us are experiencing high levels of anxiety about the climate crisis. If you’re feeling worried about the future of our planet, you’re not alone: more than 60% of young adults say they’re struggling with “climate anxiety.”
Climate anxiety is a new term for those wrestling with the eco crisis. As we become more aware of the ramifications of climate change, it’s normal to deal with feelings of despair, grief, and anxiety. Nature can have a powerful impact on our physical and mental health - from stress reduction to mitigating symptoms of depression and anxiety to strengthening your immune system, nature helps us recover faster from the weight of life’s challenges and the burden of mental health conditions. Here are a few key facts about nature and how it relates to your mental health:
For a long time, scientists and psychologists have studied the link between nature and human health. It’s fairly undisputed that spending time outside can help create better cognitive balance and restore emotional energy throughout the day. From sunshine to earth connection, the concept of “biophilia” actually implies that physical contact and awareness of the earth is essential to our daily recovery.
Reconnecting with your natural habitat can bring soothing peace and restoration to your mind, and can help open up your senses to the bigger world around you. You can do this by spending time practicing mindfulness or grounding exercises outside (for instance, with your feet in the sand or on the grass), or simply by taking a walk and focusing on what you hear, feel and see.
In 2021, over half of the population reported that they have spent less time outside since the pandemic hit. With higher levels of social anxiety, greater effort to socially distance, and many communities becoming dense and overpopulated with limited access to real land, it’s harder than ever to be outside. Unfortunately, spending more time indoors is directly linked to greater rates of depression, sleep disturbance, and decreased libido.
With these powerful findings in mind, it is no wonder that many people around the globe are feeling overwhelmed and anxious about the climate crisis. A natural fear over the potential to experience traumatic climate events or breakdown has evolved from a concern for the state of our world.
As with most types of anxiety, you can benefit significantly from mindfulness techniques to soothe and calm your mental state. Use guided meditation tools, seek out support in online group therapy, or work with a psychotherapist to help you cope with climate anxiety. Bringing your mind to a place of peace is the first step.
With an ecological crisis swirling around us, the temptation can be to focus on all of the negatives, and to fall into a sense of disempowerment. When you feel yourself being caught up in a wash cycle of despairing news briefs, research or social media, take a break to redirect your attention toward positive information. Remind yourself you’re not alone and that millions of people just like you care about the bigger picture.
Coping with climate anxiety ultimately requires taking action to rediscover a sense of empowerment and control. Try to build connections with like-minded people to pursue change in support of the climate movement as a whole. You can also use your imagination to find new ways to live an eco-friendly lifestyle, advocate within your local community for change, and spend more time connecting to nature.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the weight of the climate crisis, and need help coping with climate anxiety, Grouport’s online therapy groups for anxiety are a great tool available right now for you from the comfort of your own home (or favorite nature spot!).