Climate Change Anxiety

What is Climate Anxiety?

Climate anxiety is a relatively new term but the feelings associated with climate change have been impacting people for decades. According to Generation Dread author, Britt Wray, “Climate anxiety is an assortment of feelings that a person can experience when they wake up to the full extent of the climate and wider ecological crisis.” She explains further that anxiety is an aspect of it but there are several other emotions that arise for people concerned about the climate crisis including:

  • Grief
  • Rage
  • Helplessness
  • Hopelessness
  • Sorrow
  • Overwhelm

If you have been experiencing similar feelings regarding climate change, know that you are not alone. A recent study surveyed a group of people aged 16 to 25 about climate change and anxiety. Nearly half of survey participants shared that their thoughts and feelings about climate change are negatively impacting their daily lives. 

Recognizing climate change and prioritizing it as a real problem and identifying solutions is a healthy way and normalized response. However, if an individual is losing the ability to function and take care of themselves, it may be time to seek help and/or channel your feelings into action. 

Who does Climate Change Impact?

It’s important to recognize that climate change impacts us all in big and small ways. Hurricanes, wild fires, drought, and floods are instances that are newsworthy but we can also see it in smaller, more-subtle ways like withered gardens, receding lakeshores and changes in temperature each season.

Research has shown climate change especially affects those in the Black and Latino communities and Indigenous nations.

Climate change directly threatens human health in a variety of ways:

  • Storms, wildfires, flood
  • Drought
  • Rising temperatures
  • Rising sea levels
  • Housing displacement
  • Food insecurity
  • Spread of disease, especially through animals/insects

Steps to help Manage and Channel Climate Anxiety

  • Recognize your feelings are valid and normal. Your feelings are a sign that you care about our earth and the people and ecosystems in it.
  • Surround yourself with support. Wray’s research has shown that people impacted by climate anxiety find their anxiety gets worse when they try to talk about their frustrations and climate change with those that brush it off. This can lead to isolation and loneliness. Finding a community of like-minded individuals willing and committed to taking action against climate change can help channel your anxiety into action. On the other hand, it’s also important to steer clear of those with a “dooms-day” mindset who believe it’s too late to enact change and make a difference. While climate change may not be reversible, there are many things that can be done to stop it in its tracks. 
  • Take meaningful action. Taking action around an issue we care deeply about can help overcome feelings of powerlessness, helplessness and anxiety. There are small and big things that can be done every day to combat climate change. 
    • Here are some smaller-scale ideas to help get you started:
      • Use a reusable water bottle/cup regularly
      • Keep lights off in the house and use them only when necessary
      • Turn your commute into a walk or bike ride
      • VOTE!
      • Cut out food waste and consider composting
      • Reduce your use of plastic as much as possible – reusable grocery bags, snack/food bags, utensils, etc.
      • Pay attention to personal care, cleaning and household products. Research led by NOAA and including UC Davis scientists found that the volatile chemical products in things like shampoo, cleaning products and paint contribute as much to urban air pollution as tailpipe emissions from cars.
  • Practice self-care. It can be helpful to take a break from the topic for a short period of time and/or use cognitive reframing to destress. This might look like avoiding the news or social media. Other traditional methods of self-care could also include exercise, meditation or journaling. While this individual break will not directly address the larger issue, it can help you clear and refresh your mind so that you can be more effective as an activist in the long term. 



  3. Generation Dread: Finding Purpose in an Age of Climate Crisis by Britt Wray
  4. ADAA Webinar: Climate AClimate Anxiety What We Know So Farnxiety What We Know So Far