London Climate Action Week
London Climate Action Week – Managing Climate Anxiety
Kensington & Chelsea Council are partnering with London Climate Action Week (LCAW), which takes place from 24 June to 2 July 2023. Founded in 2019, LCAW is one of the world’s largest independent climate change events. The annual event brings together the city’s world-leading array of climate professionals and communities and creates space for participants to come together and find global solutions to climate change.
We are seeing more and more news reports about environmental catastrophes around the world. This can be very upsetting and cause us to worry, particularly if we have loved ones amongst the most affected and vulnerable populations and areas.
In the UK we are not exempt from direct impacts of climate change (such as flooding or wildfires) and we also experience the secondary impacts, such as disruption to food supply chains. For those of us who struggle with anxiety already, it can make us feel even more stressed and worried.
It is a totally normal response to experience anxiety (often called ‘eco-anxiety’) – it shows that you are engaged and care about the world.
For this LCAW, we have some tips and advice on how to manage any anxiety you might have about climate change.
What is anxiety?
Anxiety is a natural human response when we feel that we are under threat particularly about things that are uncertain in the future. It can be experienced through our thoughts, feelings and physical sensations. (Source: Mind)
We might also make the anxiety worse than it needs to be by jumping to conclusions, imagining worst case scenarios, or by searching for threats online.
Sometimes, we might not even be aware that we are anxious, but might find we are more irritable, tired or automatically distract ourselves with work, scrolling, or other addictions. Learning to recognise how shows up anxiety in your body and allowing the feelings to pass through is key to managing it.
Although feeling anxiety in your body can be off putting initially, the more you do it, the more you realise that feelings come and go. It has been shown that a physiological feeling actually only lasts 90 seconds if you let it move through you. Trying to ‘solve’ a feeling in your head, or resisting a feeling through distractions can tend to lead to a build-up of tension in the mind and body. What you resist persists.
Shift your focus – Do something that brings you back to the present moment, like looking out of the window, or the ‘5,4,3,2,1 method’ – noticing 5 sights, 4 sounds, 3 sensations, 2 smells, 1 taste.
Try a breathing exercise – Breathe deeply into your stomach, then breathe out slowly. Make your out-breath longer than your in-breath. Notice any areas of tension in the body – where the anxiety is held and see if you can let it be there and eventually relax.
Get out into nature or parks when you can.
Reassure yourself – Tell yourself that all the symptoms you experience are caused by anxiety – it is not dangerous and it will pass. You are safe in this current moment & it’s ok to let your body get back to balance. Trust yourself that it is possible to remain aware of the climate crisis, while feeling calm. Anxiety isn’t necessary for action, it actually hinders our thinking.
Notice any unhelpful thoughts. ‘All or nothing’ statements are often not true and future fatalistic fantasies are not reality. Just because you feel afraid it does not actually mean you are in danger.
Sit with uncertainty. A lot of anxiety can be down to the uncertainty of not knowing. Try to pay attention to where this shows up in your own life and see if you can practise being ok with ‘not knowing’. Start small, e.g. with
Join a support group – Peer Support can be a useful way to meet people who are experiencing similar feelings to you. You can share your feelings and discuss ways of coping. You can join our Peer Support service in Kensington & Chelsea or see Mind’s online service, Side by Side.
Trust in the power of social comparison – although social change may seem unlikely at first, we are in a transition period, where more and more people influence each other, the government and big business to make sustainable changes.
Talk to someone – many people are probably feeling the same way as you, so talk to a friend, family member or colleague about how you’re feeling. Sharing your experience can help reduce the worry.
Staying informed but not overwhelmed
Of course it is important to keep informed about what is going on around the world, but it’s also important that you take care of yourself.
Here’s some advice on how you can stay informed but not overwhelmed.
Limit your news intake
Reading or watching every single news report can cause anxiety and fear. Set yourself a specific time of day to check the latest headlines, and then switch off. Lunchtime might be a good time, as first thing in the morning might spoil your day, and in the evening might affect your sleep.
Take a break from social media
People tend to use social media to share extreme stories and opinions. This might cause you to feel angry, upset or scared. If you do browse social media, stick to following people or profiles you know, and limit your time scrolling.
Get balanced information from reliable sources
Unreliable or incorrect reporting can increase our distress. Get your updates from the main media outlets. It can also be helpful to pay attention to the positive changes that are already taking place as these are sometimes underrepresented in the mainstream media. Search: ‘positive climate news’.
If you’re feeling helpless, there are some things you can do to make a difference and getting involved can help relieve feelings of distress. Here are 5 top tips for reducing your carbon footprint and tackling climate change:
- Cut down on flying or car-use where possible, instead walking, cycling, or using public transport to get from A to B. This not only reduces your carbon footprint but can also improve air quality and your health by incorporating more active travel into your daily life.
- When considering your food and drink choices choose local or seasonal products and reduce meat and dairy where possible. This can support local businesses while decreasing your carbon footprint by reducing the food miles and resources needed to get your food to your plate.
- Try to avoid sending waste to landfill by reusing, repairing, upcycling or recycling where possible. For example, you can reduce single-use plastic by using refillable bottles, cups and containers. By getting creative with what we have already we can learn new skills and often save money too.
- Reduce your energy consumption at home when you can, for example by switching off appliances when they are not in use, replacing old light bulbs with energy-saving LEDs and drying your laundry outside instead of using the tumble dryer when it’s warm if possible.
- Look for environmental charities to learn from, volunteer at, donate to or support however you can that are working on climate action.
You can find more information and resources by exploring Kensington & Chelsea’s Council’s website or contacting [email protected] to learn about climate change, what the Council are doing for climate action and how you could get involved too.
Don’t forget to have a look at their full Climate Action program of events for CAW, including this free event with Mind at the Nature Shed on Monday the 26th of June (do reserve a place as there are limited spaces).
Remember, be kind to yourself
Focus on you, your life and your surroundings. You should never feel guilty about putting your own mental health and wellbeing first – that is how we stay healthy enough to face the challenges of climate change. Try to notice if you feel overly responsible for ‘saving the world’ and remember taking responsibility for your own part is enough.
Author: Stewart Gillespie
Posted on: 20th June 2023