Climate anxiety isn’t a disease. It’s a normal response to a world on fire

Apr 12, 2022Anxiety, Depression, Loneliness

Climate anxiety is not primarily a disease. Instead it is an understandable reaction to the magnitude of the environmental problems that surround us.

What is climate anxiety?

Climate anxiety is a sub-set of eco-anxiety: a feeling of worry, nervousness or unease triggered by an awareness of the ecological threats facing the earth due to climate change.

How does this misunderstanding affect us? We receive invalidation or pathologization at every turn.

I have a dear friend who expressed deep, overwhelming anxiety about climate catastrophe and species extinction during a therapy session. The therapist shared that he thought she might be suffering from eco-anxiety, and recommended medication.

This is one reasonable response, I suppose… but does this framing as ‘disease’ really touch the indirect, often invisible impacts of our bodies? Sensitive, gentle bodies that are noticing and tracking the collapsing of our world’s ecosystem at an astounding rate?

I have many, many therapists and other healers as friends and I know there is a rising awareness and orientation toward non-pathologizing models for understanding anxiety.

But sadly, western psychology–especially over the past 30 years with the rise of the biochemical model–doesn’t have the best track record for fully honoring the spiritual, systemic and collective dimensions of health and well-being.

Climate anxiety is a sub-set of eco-anxiety: a feeling of worry, nervousness or unease triggered by an awareness of the ecological threats facing the earth due to climate change.

What are the symptoms we may not recognize as connected to the planetary crisis, such as depression, socio‐ethical paralysis, and loss of well‐being?

If you’d like to learn and practice a
 series of small, doable exercises for self-warmth and self-holding in these difficult times, you might like my 2020 webinar on Climate Anxiety.

How can we work with climate anxiety?

In order to really respond to climate anxiety, we need (a) enough time and space to be with our emotions and (b) enough constructive activity to help mitigate climate change. 

There are two central psychological challenges and tasks of climate anxiety:

  • adjusting to changing circumstances, i.e. remaining functional, and
  • accepting one’s own ethical responsibility and keeping a healthy perspective, i.e. living with ambivalence.   

Understanding the need for resonance and accompaniment is key to being with the hugeness, the massive grief and overwhelm, or truly holding planetary suffering.

What are the psychosomatic symptoms of climate anxiety?

  • serious insomnia, states of depression, clinically definable anxiety
  • difficulty maintaining functioning, especially when faced with news about climate change, its consequences and threat scenarios
  • difficulty maintaining functioning, especially when faced with news about climate change, its consequences and threat scenarios
  • compulsive behavior, this includes behaviors that have been called “climate anorexia” or “climate orthorexia”
  • compulsive behavior, this includes behaviors, for example, substance abuse and self-harming

What are some methods for coping with climate anxiety?

  • recognizing and naming emotions related to climate anxiety, and being caught by other humans or our own resonating self witnesses as we feel our feeling
  • understanding how guilt, shame and feelings of inadequacy play into climate anxiety, and using resonant language to be wth and move through those points
  • Using the good grief 10-step program!
  • Resonance. resonance. resonance.

Dive deeper

We are a part of the whole, and our bodies suffer along with our home.  In order to remain engaged, responsive and loving, we need support, otherwise, our inner resources become depleted.

To dive deeper into how to explore and build resilience to be with the truth about our world together, in community, as we practice how we can stay empowered and active in the face of overwhelm and hopelessness, the webinar below might be helpful.

Do you make efforts to comprehend the uncountable impacts of the climate crisis on our beloved earth, and does your mind boggle? Do you worry about the future? Do you struggle with helplessness and overwhelm? Do you sometimes feel so much tenderness for the world that you think you might burst?

You are not alone. This collection of feelings is often called climate anxiety, and it’s happening to people all over the world as we face what’s going on with the overuse of fossil fuels and resulting global temperatures and weather changes, and their impacts on species and ecosystems.

The very best remedy for climate anxiety is knowing that this a collective experience, not an individual experience. We need community, acknowledgement, collective mourning, collective education and collective effort. We need to be able to hold hands and look together. This year Sarah Peyton and The Resonance Institute are putting together a 12-month program to support looking, understanding, staying resilient and taking action together.

This series is offered on a sliding scale to support as many people being able to participate and receive the healing and support of resonance and combat the often lonely experience and alarmed aloneness in the face of the crisis we and our planet are facing.

Sign up for the full series for exclusive access to bonus Resonance sessions with Sarah Peyton. These bonus sessions will be warmly held to support healing, grieving, action, connection and integration.

Do you long to stay present to the reality of climate change, but find it increasingly anxiety producing? Join Sarah for an evening of resonance and to learn a series of exercises for self-warmth in these difficult times.


From the Blog

Guided meditation: Transform your brain with self-warmth

Guided meditation: Transform your brain with self-warmth

  My mission is to support self-warmth, joy and compassion by sharing the science of how our brains can change, I want to share a practice with you. Have you got 6 minutes? Find a spot to sit or lay down, and give yourself the gift of warm breath and sweet,...

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About Sarah

Sarah Peyton

Sarah Peyton

Sarah Peyton, international speaker and facilitator, has a passion for weaving together neuroscience knowledge and experiences of healing that unify people with their brains and bodies.

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