Why “Climate Anxiety” Is Normal and What You Can Do About It

Tales from the Anthropocene by Jessica Kashdan-Brown

Climate anxiety is a serious issue affecting an increasing number of people in the world today. In the current landscape of uncertainty for the future, it’s spreading faster than you might think. If you’ve read any of my previous blog posts (read my previous one here), you’ll know that I’ve mentioned both my own personal sense of climate anxiety and a more general understanding of it. But what exactly is climate anxiety and what can we do to cope with it and keep it from disempowering us? Well, that’s what today’s blog is all about.

What is Climate Anxiety?

Climate anxiety, also known as ‘Ecoanxiety’, is defined by the American Psychological Association as: “A chronic fear of environmental doom.” In essence, climate anxiety is a kind of anxiety, stress, or fixation born from a feeling of frustration or helplessness in the face of the seemingly overwhelming threat that climate change poses. It can take root as a kind of duality in your day to day life; you are aware of the situation and want to, to the point of feeling stressed about it almost constantly, do something about it, but you also feel helpless or powerless to do enough to make a difference. It can feel like being stuck in a ‘double bind’, where whatever you do you cannot stop a negative outcome from taking place. It’s not an uncommon feeling — I know it well, and it’s a response that can be initiated by a huge range of things:

  • Experiencing the effects of climate change via a traumatic event (i.e. flooding, ice or snow-melt, natural disasters, etc.)

The effects of climate anxiety vary from person to person. Symptoms range from:

  • Post-traumatic stress after experiencing the effects of climate change (meaning physical environmental and ecosystem changes) and/or the climate crisis (meaning the ethical, political, racial, and human/civil rights issues associated with climate change)

These mental symptoms can lead to physical symptoms like an inability to sleep, a change in appetite, or difficulty concentrating, as well as other common symptoms linked to grief, as explored in the works of Dr. Kriss Kevorkian. Climate anxiety or ecoanxiety can be overwhelming to the point of being immobilizing for many people, but it’s important to know that there are many, many ways to help alleviate this kind of anxiety and to work through it.

Coping with Climate Anxiety

The first thing you should know about climate anxiety, especially if you think you identify with any of the symptoms mentioned above, is that it is completely and utterly normal. In fact, there are many psychologists and mental health specialists who would call it a healthy response to such an existential threat. Sarah Niblock, for example, said something to this effect in her opening speech for a UK Council for Psychotherapy meeting in 2019 and Dr. Kriss Kevorkian has been working for years to help people through their environmental grief, understanding it to be a common response to climate change and the climate crisis.

The first step to coping with climate anxiety or ecoanxiety is to acknowledge the feeling in yourself and to accept that you are not alone in feeling it. From young schoolchildren to professional climate scientists, climate anxiety is affecting many people all across the world. It is not an illness or anything to feel ashamed of — it is a shared worry. In fact, it’s such a widespread feeling today that even our language is evolving to acknowledge it. Terms and phrases like climate anxiety, ecoanxiety, solastalgia, eco-trauma, and environmental and ecological grief (coined by Dr. Kriss Kevorkian in 2001), are all tools for expressing how we feel about the climate crisis, and these terms are becoming universally understood. They are words that are enabling us to communicate more effectively with each other about the topic, providing us with an all-important sense of community in acknowledging their place within our shared language.

Accepting and acknowledging your anxiety connected to climate change and the climate crisis does not mean that it’s something unchangeable in you. Feeling powerless or immobilized because of your anxiety is a symptom of fear, but as in all situations where we’re scared, we can move past that fear to action if we take the time to put ourselves in the right place mentally and feel supported in doing so. It’s for this reason that I love so much Caroline Hickman (a psychotherapist studying children’s attitudes towards climate change in the UK)’s use of a scuba diving mantra as a way of coping with climate anxiety: “Stop. Breathe. Think. Connect. Act.” These are important steps towards preventing climate anxiety from disempowering you. It’s about taking the space to settle your thoughts and breathe, looking after yourself and making sure you are not feeling overwhelmed by information or traumatic experiences, and reaching out for help and support and sharing your experiences with others. All these things will help you move from a state of anxiety to taking meaningful action.

Steps You Can Take

I would like to suggest some small steps you could take in order to reduce anxiety, better attune yourself to your own feelings surrounding the environmental crisis, and to protect yourself from feeling overwhelmed or hopeless. These things might help you to see what kind of practical changes and pro-environmental behaviours can help you move through the stages of “Stop. Breathe. Think. Connect. Act.”— ultimately turning your anxiety into action.

  • Talk about how you’re feeling — By putting it into words, it will help you to process your thoughts and make sense of them, making it easier to break out of negative thought patterns later. This will also bring you closer to the people you choose to confide in and may end up helping them as well.

While inaction and worry can make your anxiety worse, taking action will help you to feel less anxious. However small it may seem in the context of a global crisis, it can hold huge meaning and significance for your mental health and can help you move towards bigger forms of action and change. Climate anxiety stems from awareness and awareness is key for creating change. If you can balance awareness with self-care and wellness, you have the perfect recipe for taking meaningful and positive action.

If you would like to talk to someone regarding your experiences with climate change or environmental and ecological grief, feel free to reach out to…

Check out CJP’s latest podcast with Dr. Kriss Kevorkian available now on our IGTV and available soon on Spotify.

Join other environmental activists and the CJP network by following us on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and LinkedIn.



A space, practice and journal to help alleviate environmental anxiety & fears.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Climate Journal Project

A space, practice and journal to help alleviate environmental anxiety & fears.