Top Strategies To Ease Climate Change Anxiety

Although not officially recognized as a mental health disorder, in 2017, the American Psychological Association and the non-profit organization ecoAmerica collectively coined the phrase "eco-anxiety" which refers to "distress caused by climate change where people are becoming anxious about their future," as defined in The Journal of Climate Change and Health. In just a few short years, eco-anxiety has affected the mental health of more than 50% of people in the U.S., according to a 2020 poll issued by the American Psychiatric Association.

Ecotherapist Phoenix Smith tells NPR that climate change anxiety can prompt feelings of loss. Citing emotions that often come up for those with eco-anxiety, Smith states, "It can be denial at first, and then you may have some fear and anger and then sadness."

If you find yourself experiencing anxiety around climate change, experts suggest that rather than resisting the feelings, mindfulness techniques and seeking community support can be effective ways to process and cope with these emotions.

Mindfulness practices and community support options

Grounding techniques such as breathing exercises and meditation can help alleviate anxiety symptoms in the present moment. Smith tells NPR that physically stepping out into nature can also be particularly helpful when it comes to eco-anxiety. 

Seeking support from friends, loved ones, or mental health specialists familiar with climate change anxiety can also help with processing and easing these emotions. Alternatively, people can seek community support through online forums specific to eco-anxiety in which people can relate to one another's concerns and feel less alone (via NPR). Such community engagement can also prompt creative strategizing to direct anxiety into action, such as getting involved with local environmental organizations.

Children and parents often deal with their own unique challenges related to climate change anxiety. As per National Geographic, conversations that are solution-focused and validate children's fears and emotions around climate change can be effective in easing their anxiety. Engaging in activities such as picking up neighborhood trash or creating plans for weather-related emergencies can also help kids feel a sense of control and security.