What is climate anxiety?
Unsurprisingly, many of us are growing anxious about the state of the planet we call home. We see news about disastrous floods, out of control wildfires, and unpredictable weather every day, with this year reaching record-breaking weather extremes and hot temperatures even in the UK. You may feel uncertain about your family's future or the lack of control you have over the situation or you may feel shame and anger about the world's slowness to respond.
Climate change can elicit a variety of emotions including grief, anger, shame, loss, guilt, hopelessness and fatigue, among others.
It is no wonder then, many of us are feeling extremely worried about climate change. Psychologists have coined the term climate anxiety as a way of describing this new phenomenon. Climate anxiety is distress related to worries about climate change. Climate change is an incredibly real and dangerous threat to us all, and it is normal to experience guilt and worry about what is happening.
In the Isle of Man, 64% of residents are worried about climate change, with a majority amongst younger age groups - 40% of people aged 16 - 39 indicate they are very worried.
Isle of Man Climate Change Research 2023
This aligns with global studies that report 75% of individuals between 16-25 fear the future. There is also evidence that climate anxiety, while itself a normal response to climate change, can exacerbate depression and anxiety, especially in young people.
How can we deal with it?
There are ways to deal with climate anxiety. Talking with others about our concerns can help, whether that is your friends, family or even GP. A fantastic way to deal with negative feelings is to join local groups and get involved. Even small actions, like tree planting or cleaning up our local beaches, can contribute and help the environment and reduce your anxiety. It is important to remember doom-scrolling can make you feel worse and while it is important to keep up with what is happening, we all need to take a break from climate-driven accounts or news posts about climate change to avoid feeling so overwhelmed. Spending time in nature is another great option, and we are spoiled for choice on the Isle of Man.
Practise Compassion - it's okay to feel worried about climate change. Beating yourself up about not being able to do more can cause more emotional turmoil. Know that you can make a difference, and that big changes can take time.
And importantly, remember that you're not alone. There are lots of people working to solve this issue. Positive change can, and will happen. Connecting with others who feel the same can help you cultivate some hope for the future.
Go Forest Bathing
Forests are incredibly helpful in the fight against climate change as they absorb carbon and reduce emissions. However, they can also be beneficial in reducing our anxiety. The Japanese Shinrin-yoku , forest bathing is about experiencing the forest with all five senses. It’s not just taking a walk through the woods; it’s immersing yourself in the sights and sounds of the space around you. Just two hours of mindful exploration can reduce our stress levels.
Here are some tips to get you started:
- Turn off your phone – this will help you to not be distracted and to focus on your surroundings
- Take your time – two hours is the recommended time for forest bathing
- Go while it’s quiet – it's best to try forest bathing when there’s fewer people around
- Any green space can be used – while the name implies a forest is needed, forest bathing can be done in any green space available.
World Mental Health Day
World Mental Health Day provides an opportunity for us to recognise that climate change won’t just damage the world around us – it also has potential to affect our mental health. It gives us a chance to look at these mental health impacts and support each other during this turbulent time.
If you need someone to talk to...
If you or someone you know is in need of mental health support on the Isle of Man, there are several resources available to help. You can start by reaching out to your family, or local GP, who can provide guidance and referrals to appropriate services.
Learn more about the services the Isle of Man Government provides by visiting the Community Wellbeing Service website.
Remember that seeking help is a sign of strength, and there are caring professionals and organisations ready to provide the assistance you need during challenging times.