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April is here and it’s time once again time once again to honor Earth Month, a whole month dedicated to this complex, beautiful place where we all live. We are in a time where media coverage and scientific experts try to raise the red flag of global warming again and again. Living in the Sunshine State, many of us are keenly aware of the impact of more frequent natural disasters and coastal flooding. Climate change rightfully has a place in our collective awareness, and like all big problems without an easy answer, constant worry about climate change can significantly impact our mental health. 

Which brings us to Climate Anxiety. According to Harvard Medical School, “Climate anxiety, or eco-anxiety, is distress related to worries about the effects of climate change.” They go on to note that climate anxiety is not a mental illness, but rather a state of anxiety tied to worry and uncertainty about the future due to the impacts of a changing climate.

As with all things that impact our mental health, the most important first step is recognizing the problem or feeling. If you are experiencing climate anxiety, you are not alone and you are not powerless. To honor the Earth and ourselves this Earth Month, we have some tips to help you navigate this feeling:

  • Get outside: At this time last year, we wrote about the positive impact of getting outside on our mental health. If climate anxiety is impacting you, take some time to pause and care for yourself in nature. Reflect on what you love about your environment, what plants and animals you see, and your outdoor hobbies. Climate change may be scary, but it doesn’t need to stop us from appreciating and caring for the world around us right now.
  • Don’t let a big problem stop you from taking action: When faced with big, systemic problems like climate change, it is easy to feel disempowered or overwhelmed. An overwhelmed brain is a perfect place for anxiety to thrive. We can’t fix everything by ourselves, that’s true. But we can all do something. Think of (at least!) one small action you can take each day towards a sustainable future and commit to doing it. Ask a friend to join you and watch a small movement start to form.
  • Follow your passion: We each have unique skills and interests that can point us to our own best course of action. If you are looking to plug into a larger environmental effort, think about the skills and resources you can offer. Are you a writer who could help draft legislation or letters to elected representatives? A social media wiz? An excellent fundraiser or community organizer? Do you love teaching people about the ocean or growing vegetables? The place where your passion and skills meet is where you can be the most impactful.
  • Honor your feelings: Your anxiety is valid and may come with any number of feelings like guilt, shame, fear, and hopelessness. While the action steps above are helpful and important, they do not require you to bypass or ignore how you feel right now. Be kind and gentle with yourself and know that these feelings may come in waves. You may find it helpful to express yourself in a journal or through talking with a loved one or therapist.

Climate change is a huge challenge that we must face together. This Earth Month, we want to remind you that you are not alone in this. We would love to connect you with resources to support you through climate anxiety and any other mental health challenges you’re facing. Just dial 844-YOU-OKAY to reach our free, confidential support line for Tampa Bay. We’ll see you next month.

Until next time, 

Your Team at Tampa Bay Thrives

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