Practical ways to cope with climate anxiety

What is climate anxiety?

'Climate anxiety’ and ‘eco-anxiety’ are terms that have been coined to describe the growing phenomenon of chronic stress, sadness and anxiety related to climate change.

Young people are experiencing high rates of climate anxiety. The intense emotions you can feel include fear, grief (also known as ‘solastalgia’ when related to climate degradation), uncertainty, powerlessness, and a sense of hopelessness about the future.

For most people, climate anxiety is rooted in concerns about how climate change will affect both their own future and the future of the world.

climate change activists holding signs at rally

Students at School Strike 4 Climate in Sydney. Source: ReachOut.

Do I have climate anxiety?

Climate anxiety looks different for everyone, but there are some common feelings and emotions that many people experience.

Signs of climate anxiety can include feeling:

  • sad, disappointed or low in mood

  • anxious

  • irritable

  • stressed

  • grief-stricken

  • angry or frustrated

  • fearful or scared about the future

  • guilty or ashamed

  • powerless

  • hopeless

  • pessimistic

  • like making major life decisions on planning for the future is pointless

  • guilty or confused about whether it’s responsible to have kids

  • worried about natural disasters, such as the major bushfires and floods Australia has recently experienced

  • angry that people in power and people around you aren’t doing enough to help

  • anxious that everything is out of your control.

Climate anxiety isn’t itself a formal mental health diagnosis, but some people who experience it can have mental health conditions such as depression or an anxiety disorder.

How to manage climate change anxiety

If you’re feeling stressed out about climate change and fearful of what it means for your future, here are some tips to help you manage your stress and mental health.

Statistics on climate anxiety show that you’re not alone

Rates of climate anxiety have increased dramatically in recent years, so know that you're not alone with how you’re feeling. In fact, climate anxiety is extremely common in young people.

In this study, 75 per cent of young people (ages 16–25) said they were frightened about the future, due to climate change, and nearly half said climate anxiety/distress was affecting their daily lives and functioning.

It could be comforting to see how many young people feel the same way you do, by taking a look at the protests held in recent years. Since December 2018, thousands of young people around Australia have participated in major School Strike for Climate protests to demand that the government do more to address climate change.

girl holding sign that says temperature is rising so are we

Students at School Strike 4 Climate in Sydney. Source: ReachOut.

There’s also plenty of advocacy and climate activism groups you could take a look at to see how many people are feeling affected by climate change. The Australian Youth Climate Coalition (AYCC) has over 150,000 members, and School Strike 4 Climate has over 44,000 followers on Instagram.

Alleviate your eco anxiety by taking personal action

If you’re feeling discouraged by the lack of action that’s being taken to address climate change, doing something yourself can feel super-empowering. Remember: every little bit counts when it comes to preventing climate change.

There are lots of ways you can take action as an individual to live a more environmentally friendly life:

  • Use a reusable coffee cup.

  • Take reusable bags and containers to the shops with you instead of buying plastic bags.

  • Use energy-efficient light bulbs and water-saving shower heads.

  • Only use air conditioning and heating when absolutely necessary.

  • Reduce, reuse, recycle.

  • Use public transport or car-pool.

  • Try your hand at growing fruits and veggies.

  • Buy vintage and op-shop and minimise buying fast fashion.

  • Try an environmentally friendly diet, eat less meat and compost your food waste.

There's plenty of other simple changes you can make to your everyday life that can lessen your climate anxiety by helping you to feel more in control. Here’s 101 things you can try to take action on climate change.

Advocate for change through climate activism

It’s important to remember that your voice matters. If you’re already taking individual action, there’s still plenty of other ways you can advocate and make your voice heard.

You could:

  • Attend a climate change protest, and/or share the details on social media to encourage friends and family to attend.

  • Write emails to politicians, local Members of Parliament or your local council, asking them what they’re doing about climate change or urging them to take action.

  • Talk to your school or workplace about what they do to be environmentally friendly. If they’re not doing anything, perhaps you could lead a change!

  • Lobby big businesses to change their everyday practices to become more environmentally friendly. Do this by writing emails, calling their office or posting to social media.

  • Vote with your values, or talk with your family or friends who can vote.

  • Join Seed Mob, the AYCC or the Australian Student Environment Network (ASEN), which organise campaigns and volunteering opportunities.

Take a break for some self-care

It’s vital to take care of yourself when you’re feeling overwhelmed with climate anxiety. It might seem counter-productive, but taking time out for yourself can stop you from burning out and help give you a perspective on the best way to take action.

Here are some things you could try:

its so bad introverts are here sign at rally

Students at School Strike 4 Climate in Sydney. Source: ReachOut.

Remember what’s already been achieved

It’s common to feel a sense of hopelessness when you have eco anxiety, but there is good news among the negative stories. In addition to the impressive student strikes and protests held in recent years, check out these positive news stories about climate change, or The Climate Optimist newsletter.

When you feel like everything is out of your control, take a moment to write down one great thing that you’ve done, or somebody else has done, for climate change. This is kind of like practising gratitude, which has been proven to be an excellent mood-booster.

Be kind to yourself

It’s important to remember to be kind to yourself, to take care of your mental health and wellbeing, and to give yourself time and space to feel. It’ll help you do more for climate change in the long run, anyway. You could try using the following affirmations:

  • ‘It’s okay to feel stressed about climate change.’

  • ‘It makes sense that I’m nervous about taking a break, because I really care about making a difference.’

  • ‘I can create change, but change takes time.’

  • ‘Most scientists say that there’s still a window of time to limit greenhouse gas emissions. There is hope.’

Read up on climate anxiety

Educating yourself on climate change anxiety and why climate change is causing these emotions and feelings can also be a good idea.

In addition to our ‘Everything you need to know about climate anxiety’ factsheet, here’s some resources to help you with your research:

Talk to others about your feelings of climate anxiety

Finding people to share your experiences and feelings with can really help you to manage climate anxiety.

Talk to a loved one

You could chat with a friend or family member who shares your values and concerns about the environment. Talking to a loved one can help to break things down, and help you to regulate stress. Learn more about why talking helps here.

Connect with other people experiencing climate anxiety

You can also find peers who are experiencing climate anxiety to speak with. Sharing with people who understand what you’re experiencing can be really validating and create shared empathy, as well as a sense of solidarity. If you’d like to hear from other young people about their experiences with climate anxiety, and to share your own story, check out the ReachOut Online Community’s thread about coping with climate anxiety.

See a GP

If anxiety about climate change is having an impact on your day-to-day life, it can be a good idea to visit a doctor to discuss how you’re feeling. A GP will be able to work with you to figure out what’s going on and help you with managing the stress you’re experiencing.

Speak to a mental health professional about your climate change anxiety

If you’re feeling like you need someone to talk to now, here are some useful contacts:

  • beyondblue: phone support available on 1300 22 4636.

  • Kids Helpline: phone and online counselling for young people ages 5–25 on 1800 55 1800.

  • Lifeline: online chat counselling is available seven days a week, 7 pm to 4 am (AEST), or telephone counselling is available 24/7 on 13 11 14.

  • headspace: phone and online support for young people ages 12–25, available every day 9 am to 1 am (AEST) on 1800 650 890.

  • 13YARN: for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people of all ages, available 24/7 on 13 92 76 or

  • Embrace Multicultural Mental Health: culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD)–focused mental health service that offers mental health information for CALD people translated into a range of languages.

  • QLife: national mental health and peer support service for LGBTQIA+ people of all ages, available 3 pm to midnight (AEST) on 1800 184 527.

If you’d like to see more options for national and local support services for mental health, you can find a detailed list here.

What can I do now?