Protecting Your Mental Health When the World Is on Fire

Where were you when you heard that the effects of climate change will be irreversible by 2050? Most won’t remember, but I can recall sitting on my couch watching CNN, waiting for them to tell us this was all just an elaborate joke. Like most, it shocked me. I felt this wave of panic wash over me as they listed everything that would occur by 2050 if we didn’t get a grip on the rising global temperature. 

Climate change, now more than ever, has become an increasingly pressing issue globally. After a while, just thinking about it brings this impending feeling of doom and helplessness. The feeling of pressure weighing on your shoulders can become overwhelming, but the most important thing is not to let that feeling fester inside you. Instead, use it to do your part. Here are some tips about how to protect your mental health and not spiral.

  1. 1. Separate the things you can immediately control from those you can’t.

    light up globe levitating over a person's hand

    Most of what makes talking about and addressing climate change so difficult is the increasing feeling that you’re running out of time to fix it. The thing is, fixing climate change won’t happen overnight, so don’t beat yourself up over something that is going to take years of global effort to correct. You can’t directly control what big corporations are doing, but you can aid in holding them accountable for their greenhouse gas emissions. You can’t control where your house’s electricity comes from, but you can control how you use it. Frankly, there’s no use stressing out over something you can’t do much about. Instead, focus on what you can control; your day-to-day actions and how you use your voice to fight climate change.

  2. 2. Don’t let the big and scary headlines drive you crazy.

    A wrapped up newspaper with a picture of Joe Biden on it

    One anxiety-inducing component of climate change is the deeply depressing stream of headlines that show up in your news feed. They bring about a sense of urgency and make it seem like the world is ending tomorrow. Unfortunately, that is essentially what they are trying to do. The more alarming the headline, the more likely it is to be clicked on. Many of these headlines are just conveyed in a way to make you panic and result in you either reading the article or sending the headline to your friends and family without further investigation. In order to combat this, I highly recommend doing your own research upfront instead of automatically assuming that the baseline information is true. Some organizational websites I use include the IPCC, NOAA, and the UN Climate Action page.

  3. 3. Look to the future in a hopeful way.

    people marching with sign that says "climate justice"

    Another way to prevent yourself from spiraling is to look at the future with realistic hope. That means, instead of assuming the worst of the situation, try to think of the progress that's already been made and use that as a metric for what is coming. Be hopeful that we as a society will solve climate change and expand upon the agreements and advocacy of the past and present. For example, renewable energy is becoming more accessible as the technology becomes more advanced and inexpensive, so more industries will be able to switch to cleaner practices. And, governments have reached agreements like the Montreal Protocol and the Paris Agreement to increase global cooperation on climate change action. The world is understanding the mistakes of the past and trying to change their outcomes, so it’s more beneficial to put some level of trust in their efforts.

  4. 4. Find little things you can do in your day to day that help the overall cause.

    recycle only

    For fighting climate change, it’s more important to focus on the small things you can do day to day, like eating less meat or turning your lights off whenever you’re not using them. As previously noted, there are certain things that are within our control and those are the things we should primarily concern ourselves with. And good thing for us, there are many small things we can do. Among these being, using less water, reducing how much food you waste, or even unplugging devices when they aren’t in use. Believe it or not, these small actions add up.

We can’t change the past, but we can change the future. Although climate change is an important issue, don’t allow it to put a strain on your optimism for life and recognize the things you can do to help. If you want more starting tips, visit www.nrdc.org!