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Feeling worried about climate change?

Feeling Worried About Climate Change?

As students, we learn a lot about how the climate is changing. The world is increasingly experiencing problems with floods, forest fires, air pollution and so on. It seems like it could be more hopeful. Logically, all these problems come with a lot of emotions: so-called climate emotions. In this article, I will explain more about these emotions and what you can do with them.

Before I continue, if you feel like distressing climate emotions are impacting your daily life and functioning, it might be wise to contact a mental health professional.

Climate change is a loaded topic, and it usually involves emotions. Not everyone feels the same climate emotions, and people may experience different intensities. You might have heard about terms like Climate Anxiety, Eco-Grief or Eco-Anxiety. I prefer to use the term Climate Distress (only negative emotions) or Climate Emotions (all emotions) since it doesn’t only focus on one emotion but includes all emotions you could feel about climate change.

Climate emotions are all the emotions associated with climate change. People experience emotions like worry, grief, shame, anger, guilt, dread, hopelessness, fear,  sadness, hope and trust. Of course, there are many other emotions you could feel, and it is important to be aware that not everyone feels the same emotions. It can also be that you are not even aware that you have feelings about this topic, or you have tried to push the feelings away.

These emotions may arise when you consider how climate change affects you or others, now or in the future. They can also come up when watching others respond to climate change or fail to respond in the first place.

Anyone can feel climate distress, but your risk of feeling these emotions is higher if you are more educated on climate change. So, the more you learn about climate change, the more likely you will feel distressed. Does that mean you need to stop learning about climate change? No, of course not! It is always good to know what is going on in the world and to think of ways to combat it. It may come with complicated feelings, but these feelings are also there for a reason. Emotions help us to evaluate what is happening. Distressing emotions indicate that something is wrong and that something needs to change. Besides that, they are thought to be essential in reasoning and decisionmaking.

Climate emotions can be challenging to deal with. I do not intend to help you get rid of these emotions, but I hope I can give you some guidelines on how to deal with them. So, what are some things that you can do?

  1. Talk about it with others. You are probably not alone in your worries and talking about it might make you feel less alone. Realizing that others feel the same way might also give you a sense of belonging and perhaps a feeling of empowerment.
  2. Take climate action that feels meaningful to you. You are probably already aware of the severity of climate change, so helping to combat this might make you feel empowered and may give you a sense of hope. An example of this could be joining a protest.
  3. Look at positive climate news. It is highly likely that you are overwhelmed with all the bad news about climate change. However, there are also a lot of good initiatives that help combat climate change.
  4. Look at what has changed already. A lot of things have changed already. Think for example about eating vegetarian: 10 years ago, that was considered weird and there were very few alternatives for meat, but now that is becoming more and more common.
  5. Allow yourself to take it easy sometimes. This might sound controversial, but it is okay to allow yourself not to live fully sustainable. Sustainable not only means good for the planet, but also long-lasting. If you cannot maintain green choices because you get overwhelmed by all the things you need to do, it is not helpful to anyone.

Climate emotions or climate distress is a new research topic, so much research about it is still being done. However, it is becoming increasingly clear that it is important to pay attention to the emotions that arise with climate change. I hope this article has made you aware of your climate emotions and how to deal with them. How do you experience climate emotions?

Climate emotions are currently not discussed in climate change education, a field where it should be especially important to include them. This article draws attention to climate emotions and is part of a project about including them in education. The project is done by Vonne Smit, Ilke Asal, and Carmen Heemsbergen in collaboration with the Climate Majority Project.

Do you want to see more underexposed topics within Climate Change?

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