What you should know about climate anxiety
Apparently, climate change is now affecting our mental health, too. As if it wasn’t doing enough damage already, people are getting climate anxiety.
It’s no news that climate change is bad for our health. It can be responsible for air pollution, food and water contamination, wildfires, floods, temperature extremes and diseases. But did you know that we can get climate-stressed, too?
Not just physical
The CDC puts Mental Health and Stress-related disorders among the national health topics related to climate change.
The stress can be a reaction to extreme weather events like the witnessing of natural disasters, the loss of one’s home or, worse, relatives. Nevertheless, climate-stress can hit you even in your office.
Commonly called climate anxiety or eco-anxiety, the feeling is related to the global climate crisis and the threat of environmental disasters.
Recent studies have been talking about the psychological effects of climate change, specifically in young people.
Younger generations are more likely to feel more pressure as not only they will have to deal with the outcomes of it, but are also in a more critical spot of their psychological development and therefor more vulnerable.
Eco-anxiety is increasingly common. According to a study conducted at Yale University, in the past 5 years the number of Americans “very worried” about climate doubled, getting to 26%. In 2020, a research from the American Psychiatric Association found that more than half of Americans are concerned about climate change’s effects on their mental health.
The topic is so hot, that someone even started a newsletter.
These eco-emotions can affect not only our private lives, but are likely to manifest at work, too. Employees can see their job and performances affected by emotional exhaustion, burnout, disengagement and loss of creative potential.
Now I’m asking this to you. Have our priorities towards work changed? Are we less stimulated in working for a company that does not take active part in addressing today’s most urgent challenges? Do we need to have an alignment in values with the company we work for? Have our values changed or has our awareness?
Guilt, frustration and a sense of betrayal can become oppressive at the workplace. How do we manage these overwhelming sensations?
Being open and active can be the solution. Tolerance plays a critical role, too.
Just do it
Sustainability is a path rather than a goal. It’s about being open and honest rather than perfect. We come from a society and an economy which not only did not take the environment into account but has not considered each other either. We have the complicated task of bringing these realities together, make them collaborate and find the sweet spot between the three of them. It’s no easy thing to do and being open minded is critical.
Action then can be relieving, too.
Initiatives like Force of Nature help young people to have a voice and create change. They aim to develop the emotional strength to face tomorrow’s challenges while addressing climate anxiety.
Action is key but you don’t need to save the world alone or become the next Greta Thunberg. Take your steps and start your journey towards a balanced and more sustainable lifestyle. Read, ask, be curious and aware of the impact of your everyday choices. Small changes in how you shop, what you eat or how you commute can be meaningful.
Dr. Kennedy-Williams, clinical psychologist from Oxford says: […] the cure to climate anxiety is the same as the cure for climate change – action. It is about getting out and doing something that helps. Nobody is too small.”