How to cope with eco-anxiety, from a psychologist

The Earth shaved 1.59 milliseconds off its rotation on June 29, 2022 and became the shortest day recorded since accurate daily measurements using atomic clocks first began in the 1960s.

The length of day is measured by how fast or slow the Earth is spinning, and data from recent years show that Earth is spinning faster than it ever has, according to scientists who study the Earth’s rotation.

Twenty eight of the shortest days ever recorded were in 2020, but June 29 and July 26 this year surpassed the shortest day in 2020. Simultaneously, days are mysteriously getting longer, according to scientists who wrote about it in Science Alert. It’s unclear what accounts for the change, but scientists have predictions about potential causes like changes in weather systems, major earthquakes, melting ice caps and more.

For many, these new findings — coupled with the severe heat we’ve been experiencing around the world and the extreme flooding in Kentucky and Missouri — are triggering feelings of climate anxiety.

Climate anxiety is a state of heightened anxiety which can include feelings of guilt, grief and desperation about the state of the environment, according to Thankfully, there are psychologists who devote time to helping people cope with the fear that comes with the planet’s changes.

How to cope with climate anxiety

Understand that climate anxiety is normal, says Patrick Kennedy-Williams, co-founder of Climate Psychologists, based in the UK, and author of Turn the Tide on Climate Anxiety.

It may even be good to welcome a bit of climate anxiety because it often leads to more conversation, which can result in more action and change, he says.

More importantly though, you should strike a balance and know when it’s time to take a step back.

“We don’t want to completely remove ourselves from thinking about it,” says Kennedy-Williams, “But, at the same time, we know that too much climate information can overwhelm.”

Kennedy-Williams suggests these tips for finding a balance:

  • Try a news detox. Designate a time or multiple times throughout the day when you don’t consume any news. Instead, use that time to do something for yourself.
  • Find a community. Talk to others about what you’re feeling and consider ‘climate cafés’ — these are groups that meet up to discuss the state of the world.
  • Spend time in kind. Consider taking a walk, visiting a park or working remotely in a natural space like a garden. Activities like these will allow you to take in nature’s beauty and could possibly improve your mood, too.
  • Take some action. Channel the emotions you’re feeling into spreading awareness about climate change by encouraging others to recycle or getting involved in local grassroots campaigning.

“The caveat with climate action is that it has to be sustainable. But by that, we mean it’s action that’s sustainable for the planet, sure, but also sustainable for your own mental wellbeing,” says Kennedy-Williams, “Really invest heavily in self-care.”

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