Psychologist Claudine Dahms: Climate anxiety and mood of crisis: How young people can deal with their uncertain future

In addition to fear – in this case climate anxiety – there are also a number of other feelings that can arise when the threat is perceived.

Psychologist Claudine Dahms: Climate anxiety and mood of crisis: How young people can deal with their uncertain future

In addition to fear – in this case climate anxiety – there are also a number of other feelings that can arise when the threat is perceived. These include, for example, anger, sadness, hopelessness or frustration. Some also struggle with shame or guilt about their lifestyle.

Back to climate fear: How much information about the climate crisis, war and disease is actually healthy?

As mentioned before, fear can not only be negative, but also act as a protective mechanism. Fear can move and motivate us to act in a future-oriented and constructive manner. Here, as with many things, the dose makes the poison. It is important to stay informed and know about current events. I would recommend listening to yourself regularly – in order to recognize your own limits.

How do I know that a limit has been reached?

When you notice that your anxiety is increasing and symptoms like trouble sleeping, rumination, or mood swings are increasing, it's time to slow down. In this case it is important to take time for yourself, hobbies and social contacts. Relaxation exercises can help to find a better way to deal with the stress that has arisen and to take a break from everyday life. In addition, you should always keep in mind what you can realistically change or influence yourself and what you cannot.

Let's run through the worst case scenario: The fear of climate change persists and intensifies over the generations. What does that do psychologically to our society?

When worries and fears get out of hand and intensify, it can happen that dysfunctional fears and mental disorders develop for the individual. The probability of this is increased by the fact that natural disasters are becoming more frequent and the forecasts of scientists are taking on apocalyptic traits. Above all, poor prospects due to a lack of political decisions and measures and at the same time the perceived lack of opportunities to be able to do something on an individual level can lead to an increase in fear.

What can I do to establish a healthy way of dealing with fear and not slip into the negative spiral in the first place?

Dealing with this fear correctly begins with compassionate self-care by recognizing it and, for example, recognizing and respecting our own limits when it comes to our own commitment. Of course, it is also important to protect children and young people in particular by providing them with adequate information and support from their parents and also in the school context. Children shouldn't feel the responsibility of having to save their own future. This is where adults and, above all, those with political responsibility come into play.

Let's get a little more specific: I've noticed that the climate crisis is triggering acute anxiety in me. What can I do?

If fears arise, it can help to exchange ideas with like-minded people and to talk to friends and family about your own worries. Against the feeling of powerlessness, it can be helpful to become active in organizations, for example by joining local groups of the climate movement or getting involved in the political framework for climate protection.

Personal commitments, such as lifestyle changes, can also make you feel like you're actively doing something. It is particularly important to find the balance between actively dealing with the climate crisis and opportunities to relax. If you notice that the fear is affecting everyday life, you should take a break and, for example, visit your family doctor or seek initial therapeutic advice.

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