Dealing with anxiety about climate change

| October 6, 2021
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Note: this post was updated in January 2024 to reflect new resources.

Have you found yourself feeling overwhelmed lately about the climate crisis?

If so, you are not alone. Climate anxiety is real, and many people experience some level of concern or anxiety regarding our environment every day. A survey from the American Psychological Association found that “two-thirds of American adults said that they felt at least a little ‘eco-anxiety.’”

This anxiety, like all others, is real and valid. It is important to recognize these emotions, thoughts, and reactions and take steps to prioritize your mental well-being.

The positive news is that there are ways you can cope with these feelings and start to improve your outlook.

1. Spend more time in nature. Getting into natural green spaces has been shown to improve mood and reduce stress. (Check out these NIH studies about green space and adolescent well-being and the effects of forest bathing.) If you’re in Baltimore, check out the 4,000 acres of parkland and public space in the city. You can also schedule an outdoor trip with Experiential Education, which is open to all Hopkins affiliates. If you’re not in Baltimore, search for similar local resources. Just googling the name of your city or county and the word “parks” is a great way to get started.

2. Spend less time online, especially with unreliable outlets. Not all Internet sources are verified, and you could be consuming misinformation. Stay informed through reliable, trusted, and verified sources to gain factual knowledge about the problem. This list curated by the UN compiles some trustworthy sources you may want to check out.

Secondly, even if you stick to reliable sources, the overwhelming amount of online information may only worsen your feelings of doom. Avoid obsessively looking online to minimize the amount of upsetting content you see. Constant information consumption can increase your sense of helplessness. Try setting a time limit for engaging with climate-related content to avoid making your anxiety worse.

3. Consider what you can do about the climate crisis. It is important to be aware of your own limitations and capabilities – you alone cannot stop or reverse climate change, so you shouldn’t expect yourself to do so. However, identifying ways in which you can contribute positively may improve your mood and feelings of capability.

Joining a group of like-minded people who also feel a sense of urgency about climate change may help you learn more about the issues and validate your feelings. The Center for Social Concern, SOURCE, Center for a Livable Future, and the Office of Sustainability are good places to get started at Hopkins.

4. Seek professional help. Talk therapy is a valuable tool for supporting your mental health, including finding a place to discuss anxiety about climate issues. A good counselor will treat your concerns about the environment as valid; if you feel dismissed by a provider for this (or any other) reason, it’s time to change providers. While there is not yet any official training or professional designation for climate anxiety, there are self-identified climate-aware therapists.Talk therapy resources at Hopkins include the following:

  • Mental Health Services. Accessible, equitable, and quality mental healthcare for all Hopkins students and trainees.
  • TimelyCare. This free mental telehealth service includes options for scheduled counseling with mental health professionals. It is available to all Hopkins students and trainees.
  • ThrivingCampus. Students and trainees can access a directory of mental health clinicians near where you live to set up and initiate ongoing mental health treatment. The directory includes search filters based on location, expertise, insurance, and various identity-based options. Fees vary by practitioner.

5. Keep everything in perspective. Positive changes have occurred on individual, local, and global scales (check out this TikTok!) and there is no reason to believe that they won’t continue, especially with your help. You have the power to influence others with your own positive attitude. You can advocate for change, write representatives, or simply help educate and involve others around you. Take on whatever role you feel comfortable with and remember to prioritize your own mental health in whatever path you choose.

Additional Resources

The All We Can Save Project
How to Save a Planet podcast
Intersectional Environmentalist