Climate change is a pressing global issue and has only grown in the public eye. After many decades of suspicions and then confirmations of the negative impacts of humans on the environment, there are ever-increasing environmentalist movements that strive to bring awareness to the issue and try to stop and reverse these destructive forces.
The current generation is likely the most vocal and aware of the grave dangers of climate change. Because of the impact of the current environmentalist movement, increased education, and mainstream entrance, many young students are constantly thinking of ways that they can help the planet.
However, the weight of climate change remains heavy. Many young students report increased levels of anxiety and depression and cite global warming as a cause of their “climate anxiety”. Anxiety, especially climate anxiety, can be very harmful, and therapy or counseling as listed here may be a good option to help address it. Climate anxiety, and anxieties in general, should not be taken lightly.
Why are young students stressed about the climate?
For people who don’t experience climate anxiety or tend to think about the environment, it can be confusing and distressing to see young folks so distraught. Many people believe that young students don’t have much at all to be worried about, except maybe for school and their social lives, and so they shouldn’t be experiencing anxiety.
However, the truth is that this stress can show up in young people for a number of reasons, and should not be discounted. The feeling of responsibility for global problems many generations in the making can be intense, especially as many of the worse consequences of climate change are getting more obvious and are only expected to increase.
1. This is the first time they are learning about the environmental crisis
For many young students, this could be the first time they’ve heard about global warming or at least the first time they are truly aware of what that means. The crisis feels very imminent and scary to them. Science does not lie to spare feelings, and indeed an understanding of the gravity of the situation may be necessary to fight it.
2. Their brains are still in development
For any young person who is still developing, emotions may feel more intense. This does not mean that they are any less valid or that the stress is less founded in reality. This simply goes to show just how powerful the feelings of stress and anxiety can be for young students.
3. They perceive the impact on both their immediate and long-term futures
Many adults do not necessarily see the climate crisis as a large issue because the consequences seem as though they will only arise once their lives are over. This is not the case for young students who feel as though they will be personally impacted by the consequences.
What can we do about it?
Global warming and the anxiety and stress that individuals may experience surrounding it are not lost causes. Not only is it possible to develop coping mechanisms for the stress, but also to divert the negative feelings of stress and anxiety towards helpful practices that fight climate change.
1. Learn more about ways we can help in our daily lives
One major way for anyone to cope with anxiety is to learn and input concrete practices to counter that anxiety into their daily life. For climate anxiety, this may look like decreasing plastic waste, taking public transportation, or eating lower on the food chain.
2. Increase activism
Many young students look up to other youth activists, like Greta Thunberg, as role models in the fight against global warming. Allowing young students to participate safely in protests and strikes can help them to feel like they are part of the change. Parents can vocally support policies that aim to reduce the effects of global warming and may implement environmentally friendly practices and habits starting at home.
3. Attend therapy
Climate anxiety is a real aspect of general worry and can contribute to an anxiety disorder. Therapy can help young students establish personal coping mechanisms for their anxieties that can help them feel better in the long run. If anxiety does not seem manageable on one’s own, consider speaking with a therapist or setting an appointment for your child to do so.
Climate anxiety is a powerful emotion for a young student, but it is also a sign that this student is a caring, empathetic person. The awareness, engagement, and leadership visible in the next generation may in fact create a better world, free from global warming, for future generations. One must just remember that taking care of one’s own mental health is just as important as the health of the Earth, and self-care will make a more effective, long-lasting activist in the long run.
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