Eco-anxiety: how to find hope in a climate crisis

Feeling worried or angry about climate change is normal. But when these emotions overwhelm us, it can affect our health. Here’s what we learned from an expert on how to dance (not fight) with our feelings.



While Greenpeace pieces are fact-checked by subject experts, our writers are not medical professionals. If you’re struggling with your mental health, it’s important to get support. Try Mind for mental health support or Climate Psychology Alliance for eco-anxiety help. You can also find other options listed on our climate anxiety resources page.

Facing the reality of climate change is tough. Realising that we’re seeing the environment break down brings out all the feelings. 

We might try to pretend it’s not happening, or sink into hopelessness. Or become so worried about the future, we can barely sleep. We might even run ourselves into the ground fighting for change.

However it looks, eco-anxiety, eco-doom, eco-anger, eco-despair and more can grip us all. When they do, doing things to feel better might feel like one step too many. But learning to live (and even ‘be ok’) with these emotions is vital as the climate crisis unfolds before us.

Climate psychotherapist and researcher, Caroline Hickman, spoke to Greenpeace volunteers and staff about eco-anxiety. Here’s our top five takeaways.



What is eco-anxiety?

Eco-anxiety (or climate anxiety) is a feeling of distress that comes from thinking about environmental breakdown, based on what we see happening around us. It also covers the distress we feel when people around us don’t get it, refuse to take action, or attack, shame or silence us for how we feel.

1. Your feelings are a healthy response to the climate crisis

The hard truth first: the climate crisis is the biggest existential threat humans have ever faced. Human actions are destroying our only home. People in power seem slow to act, undermining our trust in them. And for some communities, loss and damage from climate change is already piling up.

Caroline reminded us that it’s natural to feel a range of emotions when we consciously or unconsciously realise this. Climate change is too big to see all at once. So it’s important to understand that what we feel is a healthy emotional response. We only feel climate-anxiety because we care. It shows that we’re seeing what’s happening and it doesn’t sit well with us. 

Upcoming eco-crisis listening circle events

Faced by the climate and ecological crisis, it's normal to feel all sorts of emotions, including eco-anxiety. Sharing our thoughts and feelings can be a great way to build resilience. A listening circle creates a safe confidential space for us to speak and be listened to. Greenpeace is hosting a series of online listening circles for Greenpeace volunteers and supporters – on 23rd January and 22nd February. These are free events online with limited capacity. Sign up to secure your space.

Join a listening circle event
“We’ve woken up in the middle of the story, but it’s not too late to change the end.”
Caroline Hickman Tweet this

2. You’re not alone

It’s a bit of a cliche to say, but you’re really not alone! If we aren’t often around people who accept or understand how we feel, it can seem like we’re the only one experiencing eco-anxiety.

But according to the stats, 84% of young people across the world say they feel worried about it. And 2021’s census reported that 75% of adults in Britain are worried about its impact. So it’s very likely you already know someone who has similar emotions to you.

Learning how to talk to family and friends about climate change and anxiety can help us process it. If you don’t feel able to talk to anyone you know, consider finding other ways to connect with like-minded people – such as at a climate cafe or volunteering for Greenpeace

3. We need to learn to ‘dance’ with our eco-anxiety

Forget the language of battle. As Caroline puts it: eco-anxiety is not something to fight with – it’s something we need to learn to ‘dance’ with.

If  we get stuck in difficult emotions, we might find it hard to transform that feeling into action. But like all dances, nobody knows the moves straight away. It takes practice to build up the muscles and moves that you need. 

Dancing with these feelings means being okay with not being okay; learning to accept how we feel; and letting the emotions run their course. We come to understand that even though we’ll see them again, they will pass.

“Visit all your feelings, but don’t live there.”
Caroline Hickman Tweet this

4. Make space for your emotions

It’s tempting to run from your eco-anxiety for fear that it will completely overtake you. Instead, Caroline suggests making space for it. 

So what does this mean practically? It could look like setting aside 30 minutes each day to think about climate change and process how you feel. Writing, drawing, talking and walking are some of the many ways you can do this. Or it could look like getting support from a trained climate therapist, particularly if eco-anxiety is badly impacting your life.

By carving out space for it, we can set ourselves up to better navigate life alongside eco-anxiety.

5. ‘Radical hope’ can help shift eco-anxiety towards action

We cannot hide from the climate crisis, which means learning to transform eco-anxiety into action. Showing up for things we care about means caring for ourselves and each other too. 

Radical hope makes hope into something we do and practise. It makes us active in how we think, feel and act. By choosing to befriend our emotional responses, we can slowly lower our emotional defences and connect with what our feelings are telling us to do. You do not have to like the situation we are in, but we do have to find a way to face it together

Practising radical hope doesn’t have to be complicated. Find big and small ways you can start adding more hope into the world on Greenpeace’s Take Action page.

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