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Apr 25, 2022
Make a difference
COP26

Eco-anxiety: What it is and how to manage it

Lucy O'Connor
In partnership with

Feeling overwhelmed by the climate crisis? You’re not alone. Over 70% of 18 to 24-year-olds reported experiencing eco-anxiety in a national YouGov poll. But what exactly is eco-anxiety? And how can you manage it? Keep reading to find out.

From social media to newspaper headlines, we are constantly being reminded of the climate crisis. 

While we’re happy to see climate change in the spotlight, the fear surrounding our planet’s future can become overwhelming. And give rise to eco-anxiety.

Eco-anxiety is a term that has gained traction in the past couple of years, thanks to incredible activists like Daze Aghaji.

Daze worked with Psyche Declare to get the Royal College of Psychology to recognise anxiety related to climate as a real thing and a threat to young people.

In our climate series Cogo Sessions, Daze Aghaji speaks with Alice Aedy about her experience of climate anxiety, her journey into climate justice activism, and how this helped her manage eco-anxiety: 

Or keep reading for a deeper dive into eco-anxiety.

What exactly is eco-anxiety?

Psychology Today defines eco-anxiety as “a psychological disorder affecting an increasing number of individuals who worry about the environmental crisis.”

People with eco-anxiety might have concerns about their mortality, the mortality of their loved ones and how the environment will impact their future.

What are the signs of eco-anxiety?

The symptoms of eco-anxiety are the same as those brought on by any other anxiety condition. The trigger may be different—the topic of the environment, climate change and the planet—but the physical and mental feelings are the same.

Mental symptoms of eco-anxiety:

  • Excessive worrying
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Overthinking/catastrophising
  • Clouded thinking

Physical symptoms of eco-anxiety:

  • Increased heart rate
  • A change in temperature
  • Chest pain
  • Tiredness

Eco-anxiety disproportionately affects young people

A survey of over 10,000 16-24 year olds across ten countries found that 60% of young people feel very worried or extremely worried about the climate crisis. With three-quarters of them saying the future is frightening.

Daze’s research with Psyche Declare revealed young people are more affected by eco-anxiety because they are extremely clued up about the climate crisis, yet, they don’t have much support on how to deal with it, and they have a lack of agency in society.

How to manage eco-anxiety

Take action

The helplessness that comes with feelings of existential dread around climate can leave you feeling like there’s nothing you can do. But it's not true. No matter how young you are, you have a voice and the power to drive change.

You could start small by making more sustainable choices each day—whether it’s the food you buy or the clothes you choose not to buy.

Or you could take it a step further and turn your emotions into action. In the interview, Alice Aedy shared that joining an activist group helped lessen the weight she felt on her shoulders. And Daze said that grassroots organising was what helped her out of the dark place she was in.

“I was suffering from depression that was linked to the climate and my feeling of hopelessness in the system. When I started grassroots organising, that was when things changed for me.”

Reimagine the future

In this movement, we often focus on the devastation and the sacrifices we have to make. We don’t talk about the opportunity to build something better, fairer and safer. But it can be exciting to imagine a more sustainable and fairer world, where we live more simply and are more connected. Hold onto that hope. And let it fuel your activism.

“I have still had immense levels of joy within this world, and I’ve had it when it’s bad. So what about when it’s good? When we solve this, when we have equality, when we learn how to care and love each other rather than abuse each other. There’s so much to fight for!” Daze Aghaji, Climate Justice Activist.

Tailor your newsfeed to include positive stories

….and funny animal videos. Being exposed to global disasters and negative news stories all day every day can leave us feeling like there are more problems than solutions. But the solutions, and the people working on them, are out there. So follow inspiring climate activists, limit your news intake, and join online communities of like-minded people.

Get outside

Go for a walk, swim in a lake or sit on a park bench and connect with the natural world. Spending time in nature not only has positive mental health benefits, but it is a reminder that we are not apart from nature but a part of it.

Talk it out

Talking about how you feel can be a simple but very effective way to ease the pressure. Choose someone you feel comfortable opening up to and who you think will be a good listener. And please remember to speak to a professional if you are struggling!