How to Help Teens Overcome Anxiety About Climate Change

From Greater Good Magazine comes this story on “compassion practices” that can help adolescents channel their anxieties about the environment into action:

“The solutions to climate change are self-evident. Opportunities for change within our systems, countries, and institutions have been clearly defined, and yet political forces stifle systemic climate action as well as individual agency. This inability to change what is right in front of us—coupled with the catastrophic outcomes that are here and that are to come—is what drives ‘climate anxiety.’

Climate anxiety is especially becoming prevalent among adolescents, who are more likely to be aware of and concerned about climate change than previous generations. . . . For example, studies have described climate anxiety as a “slow-burn” stressor that can accumulate over time and increase the risk of mental health problems such as anxiety and depression. Similarly, one systematic review noted that climate anxiety may interact with other stressors and amplify their negative effects on mental health.

Climate anxiety may also be described as a hidden or silent stressor, as it is often not recognized or acknowledged by health care providers or society at large. This can lead to a lack of appropriate support and resources for individuals experiencing climate anxiety, which can further exacerbate their distress. Fortunately, the research also suggests ways that we can help adolescents to navigate these negative feelings and turn toward hope and positive action. . . . 

Research has found that compassion-based interventions can be effective in reducing anxiety and depression symptoms, increasing positive emotions, and improving overall mental health outcomes. In the context of climate anxiety, compassion training may help individuals to feel less isolated and overwhelmed by creating a sense of shared concern and connectedness with others.

There are several examples of compassion-based interventions that have been developed specifically for adolescents with climate anxiety. For example, one intervention involves group-based mindfulness and compassion training, which combines mindfulness practices with compassion-focused exercises to help adolescents develop a more supportive relationship with themselves and others.”

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