Health

How to Calm Your Climate Anxiety

Today, when the humidity drops, Mr. Kochanowski sees the anxiety on his neighbors’ faces. Hot days stretch across more of the year and dewy, cool mornings are rare. Sometimes, he wonders if they should move on.

“You realize the larger forces that have always been beyond your control,” he said. “That level of realization makes you feel a little helpless.”

Andi Poland, 49, a technical recruiter who lives near Denver, said she too experiences anxiety, grief and dread about a hotter planet. “I am glad that I am short for this earth,” she said. “I figure I have one-third of my life left. I am not upset that I only have that much time.”

But experts say those dark emotions can also be the basis for empowerment — and progress. Writing in The Lancet, researchers recently argued that climate anxiety “may be the crucible through which humanity must pass to harness the energy and conviction that are needed for the lifesaving changes now required.”

Anxiety is a rational response to the growing risks of climate change, according to Merritt Juliano, a therapist in Westport, Conn., and the co-president of the Climate Psychology Alliance North America. But we shouldn’t hide from it or ignore it.

“Our emotions are not something to be solved,” Ms. Juliano said. Rather than shove concerns about climate away, people need to identify them and realize they are there for a reason. “Embracing them makes us that much stronger.”

In one poll of 1,000 people by the American Psychiatric Association, more than half said they’re concerned about the impact climate change is having on mental health. You don’t have to survive a hurricane to experience climate anxiety, said Britt Wray, a post-doctorate fellow who studies the mental health impacts of climate change at Stanford University. Suffering a longer mosquito season in Pennsylvania, seeing orcas disappear from Puget Sound or simply reading about catastrophic flooding in Germany can prompt a deeper emotional reaction to changing climate.

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