Reading the news and keeping up to date about the changing climate can make it difficult to maintain a positive attitude. Climate anxiety has become a very real thing, particularly among young people who will have to one day carry the torch of environmental stewardship. The American Psychological Association even published a report showing the relationship between mental health and climate change.
For those coping with climate anxiety and looking for ways to adapt to future challenges, the APA has some tips for personal practices, beliefs, and social connections to build resilience:
“Build belief in one’s own resilience.”
The first step is believing you have the ability to rise to the challenge. Having higher amounts of self-efficacy, the positive belief in one’s ability is linked to fewer mental health problems and greater persistence to face challenges.
It’s important to believe that there can be positive outcomes. The right balance of realism and optimism increases positive emotions in difficult moments, fostering adjustment and growth.
“Cultivate active coping and self-regulation.”
We all benefit from a support system. Skills of active coping (seeking support and solutions) and self-regulation (focusing on long-term gratification rather than immediate) are both associated with highly resilient individuals.
“Find a source of personal meaning.”
Whether it be personal faith or mindfulness, having a sense of purpose promotes personal well-being and will give you something that keeps you active.
“Boost personal preparedness.”
When creating an emergency kit, incorporate items with personal value to aid mental health recovery after a disaster.
“Support social networks.”
Strong social support and connection not only decrease psychological distress after a disaster, but these networks also can provide physical and material assistance.
“Encourage connections with parents, family, and other role models.”
Parents, guardians, and caregivers help their children’s mental health. They serve as a “buffer” against trauma, can give children context and clarification, and offer comfort at difficult moments.
“When possible, uphold connection to place.”
Reinforce a positive connection to where you live or a place you cherish. This creates a stronger desire to affect it with positive actions and to maintain it.
“Maintain connections to one’s culture.”
Especially among refugees and immigrants displaced from their homes, maintaining connections to one’s culture and past is beneficial to protecting one’s mental health.
What all of these have in common is connection – with ourselves and with others we are emotionally close to. Although the changes to our climate can seem frightening, with the right tools and social support anyone can promote greater resilience in themselves and their communities so we can overcome these challenges together.