As the threat of climate change looms large over the world, it’s no surprise that many individuals are feeling anxious about the potential impacts on their lives and the planet. This growing phenomenon, known as eco-anxiety, has become increasingly prevalent in recent years. In South Africa, the effects of climate change are already being felt, exacerbating existing issues of food and water scarcity, housing insecurity, and poverty. Unfortunately, the burden of these consequences is not distributed evenly, as historically marginalised groups are often the hardest hit. For example, residents of townships and unhoused individuals are more vulnerable to the effects of extreme weather patterns and temperature fluctuations than those in insulated homes, highlighting the unequal impact of climate change on society.

However, eco-anxiety is not only limited to people who have personally experienced climate change-related occurrences, but are also found in those who are regularly consuming climate news. Other emotional reactions associated with eco-anxiety may arise such as anger, guilt, despair and grief. Climate disasters are occurring non-stop throughout the world. It is difficult to remain unaffected, even if you may not physically be there.

Here are our tips on helping yourself through eco-anxiety

1. Focus on only what you can control. If that means for the moment only switching from using single-use plastic to reusable bags, straws, and cutlery then that is good enough. Ask yourself what you can concentrate on that is within your own reach?

2. If you have the mental capacity, seek local environmental organisations that work to combat climate change or support those who have been affected by it. This act, however small, may help you to work through your eco-anxiety as you will be making actionable, tangible change.

3. You may find that through these initiatives you can bond with like-minded people who share your worries and fears. Community and collective action is an important part of getting through difficult times as we are all interconnected. Find a space where your voice can contribute to the conversation about climate change and if you can’t find it, create it.

4. Focus on small signs of progress by looking for good climate news to hold on to. For example, seeking out an Instagram page such as @the_happy_broadcast will help you to remain hopeful and keep things in perspective.

5. Practise future-mindedness. Try and look to the future with pragmatism and optimism – see it for the opportunities that may arise instead of as a threat. This will also help you to find what you can (and can’t) control.

6. Lastly, make time for joy. Sometimes it is important to switch off from keeping updated with climate change groups or climate change news for a while. Doing so will help you to regain strength and continue. Have fun with friends, laugh and play – just be present.

These steps will help you to build core tools that you can return to in times of stress. You will find that over time, you have better coping skills, resilience, and adaptability – key components of maintaining the well-being of yourself and others in the climate crisis. It is time for South Africa to make eco-related mental health support part of their plans for climate mitigation and national health. What tips do you have for working through anxiety?

Resources for extra help:
@ecoanxious &
Climate Psychology Alliance
South African Depression and Anxiety Group
CIPLA Mental Health Helpline: 0800 456 789
CIPLA Chat Line (Whatsapp): 076 882 2775

Community programs in South Africa working to combat climate change:
Zandvlei Trust
SA Climate Change Champs
Good Hope Volunteers
Friends of the Lisbeek
Botanical Society of South Africa


Tell us: How do you cope with eco-anxiety?

If you enjoyed this article, read about the planet getting warmer here.