Written by Prabhjot Grewal

In today's world, it's hard to escape the looming specter of climate change. The facts say it all— from devastating wildfires to record-breaking hurricanes, the signs of our planet in distress are all around us. In tandem with these existential environmental threats and the lack of concentrated mobilization from leadership, climate anxiety, the unique distress related to the impacts of climate change, is rising. 

An American Psychological Association survey reports that more than two-thirds of Americans experience some climate anxiety. Furthermore, The Lancet published a study that found 59% of children and young adults ages 16 to 25 are very or extremely worried about climate change across ten countries. Adults are feeling the pressure as well. 

So, what can be done against this emerging mental health phenomenon? 

The Good Grief Network, a nonprofit organization focused on metabolizing eco-distress, offers some guidance. Their 10-step program starts with emotional work:

  • Accepting the severity of climate change
  • Developing awareness of one's biases and personal perception
  • Practicing gratitude
  • Acknowledging the importance of rest

Calming the central nervous system by grounding oneself in the present through mindfulness, meditation, breathing techniques, or walking in nature is crucial for returning to baseline. 

A good conversation centered on understanding and validation helps, too. The vulnerability in these discussions leads to connection and solidarity, commiserating on this shared experience and grief around ecological deterioration. The Terra.do community is a great way to meet like-minded people that are passionate about climate solutions and actively support each other.

Nonetheless, the best method to tackle climate concerns is action. Anxiety, in a climate context,  typically develops in an emotional or physical “flight” or “freeze.” Leaning into action, into the “fight,” drives toward strong, lasting self-empowerment and growth. 

Reframing the anxiety from "paralyzing" to "practical" is incredibly powerful in changing behavior and renewing interest in information around new environmental developments. Action can manifest as participating in ecological justice protests, conducting an energy audit of one's home, cutting back on flying, converting traditional lawns to biodiverse alternatives, joining "buy nothing" groups to reduce waste, voting in politicians who are eco-aware, and even volunteering in collecting environmental data. The individual contributions are endless and adaptable to fit each person's capabilities and capacities. 

Unfortunately, engaging in action without an emotional understanding as support can be an urgent, problem-focused coping strategy instead of an empowering movement toward progress. It is essential to be intentional when doing the needed work. 

Community and collective action are ultimately at the heart of confronting climate change. A study led by researchers from the Yale School of Public Health found that those engaged in group activities such as community outreach, peer education, and advocacy group participation were not associated with depressive symptoms compared to those who only focused on individual actions, which lack social support. The crux of the Good Grief Network's program is to be a part of a support group. Virtual climate cafes are online spaces for like-minded comfort and peer assistance. 

Transform your climate distress into coordinated, focused action through Terra.do's Learning for Action (LFA) program. LFA is a gateway to a robust, committed community with members worldwide who work personally and professionally to help solve environmental issues. Register for an upcoming information session today to learn more about the program!