How exactly is climate change impacting mental health? Climate change has negative impacts on mental health in two clear ways.
Feeling anxious about the future of our planet? You’re not the only one. Climate anxiety or eco-anxiety is described by the American Psychological Association as “a chronic fear of environmental doom.”Being aware of the current climate crisis is certain to spark at least some worry for the future. It makes sense when faced with news about melting ice caps, ocean acidification, and increases in extreme weather events. Most of the time this anxiety response is entirely normal and manageable. However, climate anxiety can become overwhelming and detrimental to your mental health. When climate anxiety is debilitating it can cause people to become paralyzed by fear, feel guilty about their actions, or result in numbing and avoidance of the issue. None of these responses are beneficial for mental health or helpful in responding to climate change.
First, extreme weather events impact the mental health of community members as well as the ability for mental health systems to operate effectively in affected communities. Our community here in the Okanagan was impacted by several extreme weather events in 2021 including heatwaves, wildfires, and severe flooding. The stress of being evacuated, witnessing the devastation of extreme weather, and losing a home or employment all have an impact on mental health. These extreme weather events can also prevent mental health services from being able to serve their affected community through closures and impacts to staff.
Second, climate change as a global environmental threat is creating emotional distress and anxiety about the future. Many people (young and old) are worrying more about their future. This can include how climate change will impact careers, communities, food systems, and future generations. Decisions about where to live, whether to have kids, and what career path to pursue can feel more complicated in light of the climate crisis. There is also an immense pressure on individuals to find solutions and take action.
So, what can I do to prevent climate anxiety? If I’m already experiencing it, what can I do to be less anxious about the climate? While we might not have big solutions for climate change, the good news is that you can take steps to reduce climate anxiety.
It can be easy to fall into these unhelpful responses when we’re feeling overwhelmed by climate anxiety. One way to limit climate anxiety is to be aware of unhelpful reactions. Recognize these responses as unhelpful and choose a different response instead.
Thankfully, there are things you can do to reduce anxiety while continuing to engage with the fight against climate change.
Climate change is a daunting problem that all human beings are facing. The impact of climate anxiety is real but doesn’t need to be unmanageable. If you’re struggling with climate anxiety our counselors are here to help.
250 718 9291
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