How to handle weather anxiety when it’s too much

CClimate change is best understood as a change in temperatures and weather patterns that has long-term consequences for the Earth, as well as for the mental health of its inhabitants. Climate anxiety is sweeping the planet.

Humans are living proof of climate anxiety in a period of uncertainty about the future of the planet and how we can continue our existence. “Direct impacts are already happening. For example, the prevalence of widespread wildfires, where the EPA indicates a longer duration of the wildfire season, as well as the frequency and area burned,” says Kassondra Glenn, LMSW, social worker and recovery specialist for Prosperity Haven.

Even those who are not yet directly exposed to the damages of the climate crisis can feel the physical impacts, simply by looking at the data and using it to create scenarios in their minds to increase the levels of stress and anxiety around them, and to deregulate the nervous system. “Dysregulation can manifest as muscle tension, digestive changes, racing thoughts, mood swings, fight/flight/freeze responses, and much more,” says Glenn.

And when this is chronically experienced, the fear and worry can be attributed to “climate anxiety”, which unfortunately can get worse and more cumbersome as the climate crisis worsens.

What is climate anxiety?

“Climate change anxiety is an overwhelming experience related to everything surrounding negative environmental changes on our planet, with humans being part of nature and therefore closely tied to the environment,” says Glenn. Both the data and the changes we see and can feel tend to play a role in creating and prolonging anxiety around climate change and the future.

According to Glenn, symptoms of weather anxiety include somatic signs, such as muscle tension, digestive changes, and changes in sleep patterns, psychological signs, such as racing thoughts, rumination, and difficulty concentrating, and lastly, relational signs, such as changes in the choices about having or not having children due to the state and prospective state of the planet.

And although some anxieties can lead to extreme or irrational thinking, the root cause and problem in relation to climate anxiety, how to help climate change and its effects on the planet and our way of life, is quite valid and rational in reasoning and thought.

So unless there is more information about what climate change is and how to prevent climate change from destroying the planet and impacting our future, the anxiety and mental anguish of climate change may take effect and be difficult to mitigate without such answers.

How to deal with weather anxiety

The best way to manage climate change anxiety is by first acknowledging the anxiety and addressing it as a problem, as well as being proactive in thinking of any ways to help climate change that might be practical.

You’re not wrong to be scared about it, so it’s important to take note before developing a field guide on climate anxiety and implementing practices to relieve anxiety and become more comfortable being uncomfortable.

“Anxiety is an uncomfortable experience that it can be tempting to reject, and we often think that ignoring anxiety will make it go away; however, what we ignore tends to grow,” says Glenn. So by acknowledging climate change anxiety and its presence, it gives us the opportunity to identify the underlying feelings and practice regulating the nervous system to better manage the symptoms and relieve any fear or tension.

After acknowledging climate change anxiety for what it is and why it is a problem, allow the pain to manifest and be experienced as part of the healing process. According to Glenn, one of the most common emotions underlying climate change anxiety is grief. “We are grieving for our planet, the future we thought we would have, and all that has already been lost to climate change,” says Glenn.

“If we’re just showing up for the anxiety itself, we’re putting a Band-Aid on the root causes, so it’s important to allow ourselves to cry, to allow ourselves to be angry or scared, and yes, to allow ourselves to cry,” says Glenn.

Adopt support groups or therapy and avoid isolation

Once we’ve grieved, we can create problem-solving action steps to alleviate climate anxiety and prevent further damage due to mental stress. “Look for connection, as mental health tends to deteriorate when we are isolated, where if we don’t have spaces to express our anxiety and everything that underlies it, it can get worse,” says Glenn.

Connection can be seen as talking to close and trusted friends, meeting with others who have similar interests or anxieties around climate change as part of a peer-oriented support group, as well as seeing a mental health professional to discuss how to manage climate change anxiety. and symptoms one by one.

Use mindfulness and grounding techniques

It is also helpful to practice grounding techniques. “At times when overwhelm is high, it can be important to have techniques for nervous system regulation on hand, which can resemble meditation, mindfulness, and/or coping skills,” says Glenn.

You can also benefit from doing it with the help or presence of others, which also promotes that sense of community and connection. “Engaging with people on a regular basis can also help widen our window of tolerance, which in turn helps increase the capacity of the nervous system over time,” says Glenn.

Consider DBT therapy

Glenn also recommends investigating distress tolerance skills, which are intended to ease anxiety and promote feelings of calm during times of intense stress. “Distress tolerance skills are meant to regulate the nervous system quickly and are based on a type of therapy called DBT (dialectical behavior therapy),” says Glenn.

While you may seek out DBT training and therapy through therapy, these DBT skills can actually be self-taught in nature, which can be especially beneficial for times when current access to a therapist is limited or unavailable.

A flowchart is helpful in choosing the appropriate distress tolerance skill as part of climate change anxiety management.

“As always, it’s a good idea to consult with a mental health professional about your individual situation, as everyone’s mental health challenges are unique and what may work for some may not work for others,” says Glenn.

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