Soul Articles

Eco-Anxiety - How to deal with the climate crisis healthy

Reading time: approx. 3 minutes

In coaching sessions, we at Soulchat repeatedly encounter deep consternation and shock about the situation of our environment. My colleague Leonie said the other day that it was time for us to write about it. To look more deeply into the matter of our planet can be overwhelming and also frightening. At the same time, it can strengthen us and bring us closer together. Quite charmingly, the co-initiator of Psychologists for Future, Lea Dohm, asks in the news program Tagesschau whether we "can't also solve these problems with connectedness" [1].

The question for this article is: How do I, first take good care of myself – my shock, my dismay – when I turn to the problems of the climate crisis?

The article offers perspectives that can help you frame what the climate crisis means for our mental health and what inner (and outer) handling can be a skillful response.

Eco- or Climate Anxiety

By the summer heatwave of 2018, it was already becoming apparent in Europe what climate change means for us. Like in other parts of the world, droughts, forest fires, and glacier melting  are also reaching new records here. Scientifically, Eco-Anxiety (sometimes used synonymously with the term Climate Anxiety) is defined as "the generalized sense that the ecological foundations of existence are in the process of collapse" [2]. Eco-Anxiety is not a psychological disorder, though it can cause severe suffering for some people and be a factor in developing mental illnesses. 

Exchange instead of isolation 

The psychotherapist Patricia Hasbach has specialized in Eco- and Climate Anxiety and describes how many of her clients assume that other people are not affected by these feelings. In reality, up to 84% of all respondents share these feelings about the environment and our threatened future. In a Lancet study, six out of ten young people (up to 26 years) said they were very concerned or even extremely concerned [3]. Hasbach says that getting in touch with other people and talking together about fears and worries is a crucial relief for many. As with other fears, good emotional regulation is key in dealing with Eco-Anxiety. Whether this happens in conversation with friends or partners, in a professional setting (like in our coaching), or even alone in a personal comfort zone: when we deal with topics like the climate crisis, we need places and times to recharge our batteries - and our feelings to be empathized with.

Because feelings want to be felt

Deliberate distraction can be an essential breather, especially from even more "bad news" and gloomy forecasts. But for more space to emerge within us in the long run, our feelings want to be felt (benevolently). And, in fact, all of them. The more fear, dismay, or grief is allowed to emerge as an inner experience within you – preferably in a supportive situation – the greater your personal freedom and flexibility in dealing with the climate crisis will be. So the goal is not to become fear-free but to develop more “psychological flexibility”. A first step to tolerating more feelings can be to become aware of your personal and social resources: What people or spaces support you? Where do you feel comfortable, strong ,or effective?

Choosing a different path 

Another way to deal with anxiety is...anger!? That is what Stanley et al. [4] found in their study of Eco-Anxiety and Eco-Depression. More specifically, individuals who experienced feelings of anger related to climate change had fewer experiences of anxiety, stress, and depression in their daily lives. Experiencing anger was also associated with higher collective engagement. The research group's conclusion is that anger is, in fact, a skillful emotional response to the crisis we are experiencing. 

The "Emotional Compass" by Vivian Dittmar describes that we feel anger when we interpret something as "wrong" [5], in the sense of "that doesn’t feel right." This fuels our inner fire and releases energy to change something. Anger can give us clarity about what we find "wrong" while strengthening our ability to act upon this gut feeling. If you usually prefer to avoid doing business with this thing called anger, here is an invitation for you to get curious. A phrase that I once picked up on this goes: "Anger is clarity in too little space". This means that when anger is allowed to expand, move and breathe within us, clarity and lucidity emerge about what we actually want. We get in touch with our power and initiative for creative projects that our world desperately needs.

Coming into action

For the world, and our mental health, experiences in which we feel active, capable and self-effective are enormously important. 

Usually, our everyday life, work, and interests offer plenty of starting points to experience this kind of self-efficacy. Caring for our Earth and taking action to protect its ecosystems strengthens our relationship with the planet and ourselves. Taking action gives us strength and hope for a challenge that is new to humanity on this scale. If you want to learn more about what opportunities there are for you to actively shape our future in the climate crisis, I recommend reading the continuation of this article. 

This topic is close to our hearts at Soulchat, and while we are always learning ourselves, we are more than happy to support you in your individual journey. We look forward to hearing from you.

Author: Joseph Ronicke


[1] Tagesschau. (2022, November 9). Psychologin im Interview: Der Klimakrise im Alltag begegnen. Retrieved December 14, 2022, from 

[2] Panu, P. (2020). Anxiety and the ecological crisis: An analysis of eco-anxiety and climate anxiety. Sustainability, 12(19), 7836. 

[3] Hickman, C., Marks, E., Pihkala, P., Clayton, S., Lewandowski, R. E., Mayall, E. E., Wray, B., Mellor, C., & van Susteren, L. (2021). Climate anxiety in children and young people and their beliefs about government responses to climate change: A global survey. The Lancet Planetary Health, 5(12). 

[4] Stanley, S. K., Hogg, T. L., Leviston, Z., & Walker, I. (2021). From anger to action: Differential impacts of eco-anxiety, eco-depression, and eco-anger on climate action and wellbeing. The Journal of Climate Change and Health, 1, 100003. 

[5] Dittmar, V. (2017). Gefühle & Emotionen: Eine Gebrauchsanweisung. edition est.