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How to combat climate anxiety

 April 9, 2024 at 1:46 PM PDT

S1: It's time for Midday Edition on Kpbs. Today we're demystifying eco anxiety and how to cope with it. I'm Jade Hyndman. Here's to conversations that keep you informed , inspired and make you think. It's described as a chronic fear of environmental doom.

S2: It just feels like we're screaming into this void , like , this is the biggest issue facing us today and nobody's listening.

S1: It's most common among youth and young adults. We'll tell you how they're moving the fear and anxiety around climate change into action. That's ahead on Midday Edition. Across the globe , more people are grappling with a phenomenon known as climate anxiety or eco anxiety. The American Psychological Association describes it as a chronic fear of environmental doom , ranging from mild stress to clinical disorders like depression , anxiety , post-traumatic stress disorder , and even suicide. That fear is especially common among young people. A 2021 study found that nearly 60% of youth and young adults worldwide are extremely worried about climate change. A big part of that is frustration over inadequate government response to the climate crisis , too. For young activists , though , the only solution is to channel that anxiety into action. Joining me now are two teenage environmentalists. They're both part of youth for climate , a program out of local climate nonprofit San Diego. 350 Emma Viable is an intern with San Diego 350 and co-leads their Eco Club coalition. She's also a junior at La Jolla High School. Emma , welcome.

S2: Thank you.

S1: Also , Abby Deckert is an intern with San Diego. 350 she leads their youth vocal campaign. Abby , welcome to you as well. Hi.

S3: Hi.

S1: Glad to have you both. So how did you all get involved in environmental advocacy ? Emma , I'll start with you.

S2: Environmental advocacy , for me , comes from a very long like legacy of social justice activism in my life , where I've always been involved in some way in like a very wide range of different social justice movements , mostly because of my family. We've all been very involved for much of my life. But then my mom was like , I think you should pick one thing because that would be the most effective. And to me , environmentalism was the intersection of all of these social justice issues that I care so much about. And then from there , I started a climate club at my high school and joined the Eco Club Coalition , which I now lead. So it's all come kind of full circle. But I don't know , once you start , it's kind of hard to not get involved with everything. And so that's how I've got to this point. Yeah , yeah.

S1: I love how you're moving in purpose. That's great. Um , Abby , what about you ? Yeah.

S4: So my whole life , I've been really passionate about caring for the planet. I tried to start , like , an eco club at my elementary school to plant more trees in our playground. And I've always felt like a sense that I needed to do something about it. And especially like being surrounded by other people who may not , like , understand what we're going through , I guess with climate crisis. But then I found youth for climate and this incredible community through one of our youth climate summits. And from then I got involved and started an eco club at my high school as well.

S1: And you kind of just touched on it. But , you know , the topic of the show today is climate anxiety.


S1: Well , tell me about that and I'll start with you.

S2: I am , if you ask anybody who knows me , a very anxious person , but I would say that my climate anxiety is probably the one that I feel the deepest , because so many times in like therapy you're taught to like , deconstruct the worry , um , get to the bottom of it. Like it's not as bad as it seems. But the thing about climate anxieties that it is as bad as it seems , um , in fact , sometimes it's even worse. It's hard to , like , understand the complexity of this issue. And so for me , it was really , really hard to fight in the same way that I've thought a lot of my other anxiety , because it's so real and it's so big , it just feels like we're screaming into this void , like , this is the biggest issue facing us today , and nobody's listening. And it's very hard to deal with.

S1: Yeah , I mean , Abby , it's like , you know , there's all of this mental anguish and this frustration around it. Um , do you ever experience anything on a physical level , like any anxiety that comes out physically ? Yeah.

S4: So similarly with Emma , I feel like I'm definitely an anxious person. And when I get anxious , I get really bad stomach aches. And there's been a lot of times where we're like organizing some big event or like doing some action at my school and it doesn't go well. Or maybe people don't show up and it just like fills me with this anxiety that like , nobody cares. And it's really difficult when like you're surrounded by people who you're like trying to convince , like this is an issue , like we should care about this. And it seems like nobody cares. And it can feel like really alone. And then , yeah , that just starts the whole like physical sensations of anxiety in your body , like your stomach and things like that. Yeah.

S1: Yeah.

S4: And. That's something that helps me a lot. Yeah.

S1: Yeah. Is it the same for you , too ? Yeah.

S2: Very similar. I think that the single most effective thing to helping me combat my climate anxiety is feeling , like , empowered in my community , feeling like there are other people that care and turning that into direct action and turning my anger into something that can make real change. Yeah.

S1: Yeah. So , I mean , it really sounds like your climate anxiety fuels your passion for direct action. Tell me more about that.

S4: That's definitely the biggest thing that fuels my action , because in my mind , it doesn't feel like a choice of whether or not that I'm going to do all of these things and be involved. It's like something that I have to do. And even when things feel overwhelming or I have a lot going on , it feels like no one , nobody else is working on it. Nobody else is at least like not the people who should be people in power. It feels like it's our responsibility because no one else is doing it. Although that's definitely like a scary thought that like , you're putting all of this pressure on yourself , but it is the thing that helps me feel passionate about everything and like , get involved.

S1: Yeah , yeah. I mean , Abby , you live in East County. How do your surroundings impact your feelings around climate anxiety and your advocacy work.

S4: In East County ? It's definitely a big issue where I feel like in the rest of San Diego , in my work through like youth , the oil and everything , we're always focusing on , like helping people to take climate action and like take that next step to get involved. Um , once they understand the issue of the climate crisis , which you , you feel like most people at least know what climate change is. Um , and it's surprised me how much people in East County don't know what climate change is , or they have been misinformed about it , or that they know what it is and don't know how serious it is. And it definitely makes me feel really alone trying to do things through , like my eco club and things like that , where there's people like during your events coming up to you and like harassing you about that. Climate change isn't real , and that is definitely one of the biggest factors that drives my climate anxiety. Yeah.

S1: Um , Emma , what about you ? You're over in La Jolla.

S2: Um , but I also think that La Jolla is also very uniquely privileged. There's a very big range of people living in very , like , different conditions. Um , but in , in general , it is a very privileged community. Um , and I think that one of the side effects of that is that while the people know that climate change is the thing , they don't care. Like , I don't honestly believe that there is many people in my community that would come and like stand against us , but most of them don't care enough to stand with us.

S1: Yeah , it's like privilege in many ways insulates , um , people from the impact of climate change.

S4: And I also think that's a big factor that like , stops people from getting involved because of how big of an issue it is. And like I talked to adults and they'll tell me like , oh , I'm so glad that you're doing something about it because somebody needs to do something about it. I'm like , it's not our responsibility , it's everybody's responsibility. And I think that older generations , maybe they're passing it on to us. And that's definitely a big issue and a big weight on your back.

S2: Yeah , I , I agree I think I think there's also a difference in like the way that we've grown up , we've kind of always grown up with the climate crisis. And it kind of has shaped our worldview in a way that I feel like older generations have not had even people that like , care and know. They're always like , yeah , but I have to have a car because I can't get around. I have to use single use plastic because that's what I've always done. This kind of like feeling like there's the status quo and that you have to continue in the way that people have been living for. Um. Their entire lifetime , at least how they saw their parents living. But I think that we are kind of uniquely in this place where the advocacy is around changing that status quo , and for us , it doesn't seem as impossible. And I feel like there's just kind of that feeling of , yeah , you know , I care about this issue and I like for adults that they care , but they're like , I can't change my whole life around this. Well , because we've grown up with the idea that we need to live in a different way to actually have a future , it's a little bit more heavy on our shoulders , like , we do need to make this change. Like we can't continue to live this way.

S1: Yeah , well , you you both have certainly channeled that anxiety into action , and you've been very hands on. Uh , Abby , I understand you recently pushed a resolution through Encinitas City Council related to oil restrictions. Can you tell me about that ? Yeah.

S4: So our resolution is supporting SB 1137 , which was a law that got signed by Governor Newsom in 2022 that would have implemented 30 20 foot setback zones between oil extraction sites and communities. So this is very important because there are a lot of negative health impacts that go along with living near oil extraction sites , and it also disproportionately affects frontline communities and Bipoc communities. So although there isn't any oil drilling in San Diego County , this is such a big issue because it affects fellow Californians , and we need to make sure that communities can have , um , safe and healthy neighborhoods. So we're asking other cities to stand with us and to help support upholding SB 1137 and keeping the law. Um , and last year , the big oil companies spent millions of dollars turning it into a referendum , which means that it can't go into effect until voters vote on it.

S1: Yeah , well , San Diego City Council is voting on a similar resolution today.

S4: I think one of my favorite moments of my whole life would probably be when our resolution got passed at Encinitas , because it just it feels so gratifying. And all of this work that we're doing , and it feels like like you can hold actions and like help people like send letters and all of these things , but you don't actually see the direct impact. And to be part of a campaign and a movement that is making direct change where you can see it and like engaging voters and helping educate them about why they should vote to keep the law is so important. And I think it's definitely helps me a lot with like having hope for things and like seeing all the people show up , all of the council members vote to support , and it's just it gives me hope about the future.

S1: That's excellent. And what actions would you recommend listeners take to do their part for the climate , even those that might seem small ? Emma.

S2: There's such like distinct intersectionality of all of these issues to creating like a just future that I think that anybody can bring climate issues to the table. Anybody can start advocating in their place of work , in their life for more sustainable measures. And I like am very serious when I say that joining one thing will like spiral you into joining everything. Like there was nothing that we did to get to the rules that we are now. Besides like just going to the next zoom meeting , going to the next protest , you know , like that community builds from just like the first zoom meeting , you just keep going to the next one. And that's like how our activism journeys , like , came to be. Like it's very reachable for everybody to do.

S1: Open so many doors.

S4: So that's one thing. And just being involved in voting for people who are going to support climate action , um , while the importance of grassroots organizing and local action is so important and definitely what we're most involved in , um , but also we need to make sure that we're holding the people in power accountable and voting for people who are making the change that we need. Yeah.

S1: Yeah. Earlier you talked about how seeing this tangible impact in your community really gives you hope.

S4: I'm not alone in this issue by far.


S2: Kind of like reinstall my faith in , like , humanity and in this world. Um , I think for me also , especially , I always say my place in this movement is behind a megaphone , because when I can use my voice , that's when I feel most empowered. And I also think one thing that I , I say a lot because one of the big things that I struggle with , with my climate anxiety is like my faith in humanity. And just like being able to distinguish these terrible things that are happening with like. Just people trying to live their life. Like it's not just because so many bad things happen. It doesn't mean that all of humanity is doomed or whatever. And I think that one thing that like , helps me maintain hope is that , like with all absolutes , you can disprove them with a counter , like with counterexamples. Right ? And so youth for climate is a counter example like the SEC is a counter example , but it'll also be things like my books that I love reading. Those are my counter examples , like my history class at school is my counter example. Music is my counter example. And so because my climate anxiety is so like intertwined with with like my faith in humanity , a lot of that like empowerment and hope also comes from things that are totally unrelated , but they just make like remind me that humanity is not like , doomed. We're not all bad , um , and that we truly have the power to make incredible change. Yeah.

S1: Yeah. I mean , the weight of this is heavy on both of your shoulders , but I think you all are both handling it with such grace and activism. So thank you very much. I've been speaking with Emma Bible intern with San Diego 350 , and co-lead of their Eco Club Coalition. She's a junior at La Jolla High School. Emma , thank you.

S2: Thank you so much for having me.

S1: Also , Abby Deckert is intern with San Diego 350. She leads their youth vocal campaign. She's a junior at Santana High School. Abby. Thank you , thank you. Coming up , more on how to cope with anxiety about climate change.

S5: I think hope is a verb in some ways , and it's something that you you do and something that you make happen because of what you do.

S1: You're listening to Kpbs Midday Edition. Welcome back to Kpbs Midday Edition. I'm your host , Jade Hindman. On the show today , we are talking about a mental health issue that's becoming more common , especially among younger people. It's called climate anxiety. You just heard from two youth activists here in San Diego. Now we turn to another pair of guests active in climate work. Their podcast is all about tackling climate change without giving into despair. Joining me now are the co-host of Kcrw , the Anti Dread Climate Podcast. Kayleigh Wells is a climate reporter for Kcrw Radio in Los Angeles. Welcome , Kayleigh.

S6: Thank you so much. Glad to be here.

S1: Also with us is Candace Dickens Russell , president of friends of the Los Angeles River. Candace , welcome to you as well.

S5: Thank you so much. So happy to be here.

S1: Glad to have you both here. So I want to start with the background on the Anti Dread Podcast.

S6: We were discussing what we wanted our The Climate Beat to be in the next year. And um , we were just talking about the need for helping people , like everyone that frequently listens to these stories or are interested in climate , but they are struggling with this feeling of like , I'm freaking out and I want to do something about it. And we kind of started rolling from there , knew that we needed a co-host that could sort of speak as as an educator , and Candace was the first person we thought of , and we've had nothing but positive reviews of her as a co-host ever since. And so we've just been doing that , answering listener questions ever since.

S1: And Candace , on the podcast website you have in the description for the show , hope won't solve it , but neither will hopelessness.

S5: They want something tangible , something real , something that is going to move the needle , as I always say , and that's going to make a difference. And so hopelessness is inactive , right ? It's just it's it's just throwing up our hands and saying there's no there's no sense in trying. And so I think hope is a verb in some ways. And it's something that you , you do and something that you make happen because of what you do.

S1: Well , I want to talk about both of your backgrounds and how they affect your perspective here. Kaylee , you report on the climate every day.

S6: I mean , I , I guess I , I compartmentalize. There's definitely there is definitely this ability when you are a reporter to be in reporter mode , like when you are having to interact with this big scary thing. But it is my job. Like that is way easier. I've noticed that if I go to a really a gnarly protest or like a really sad , you know , memorial or something like that , like that would hit me a lot more if I weren't there with a task to do. Um , I mean , that's true in any sort of emergency , if you have something that you have to go , do , you do a lot better ? Um , I recognize that a lot of people don't get to have that privilege when they are interacting with the climate crisis. Although I would argue that if you give yourself a job that it makes it a lot easier.

S1: Yeah , yeah. Candace , I want to know the same from you. But first I want to hear about your your climate advocacy through friends of of the Los Angeles River.

S5: So friends of the L.A. River we call a Fuller for short , um , is an environmental nonprofit that's focused on , you know , building capacity for people to advocate on behalf of the river in terms of nature , in terms of equity , in terms of biodiversity. And so when I think about climate , I think about the river , because we know that the 52 miles , 51 point something miles of the L.A. River , if that was a green , thriving , biodiverse , uh , fecund , beautiful place where trees and nature were happening , we would have carbon sequestration. It would be a cooling corridor for the city of LA. It would be a total game changer for climate change. So that's a big part of what we talk about at LA. Um , this idea that the river is a climate solution , a very important climate solution for Los Angeles. So that's a big part of it. And then it ties really well with the podcast , because I am an environmental educator first and foremost. That's my background , um , formal education and sustainability and social justice , which is all about getting people out to do things. And so that all dovetails really beautifully together with a podcast that's about helping people feel a sense of agency.


S5: I am a natural born , solar powered optimist. I'm an up at five. Let's go , let's fix it kind of person. And I've always. Kind of been that way. And so it's never off. I don't I don't have a box that I put it in. It's , it's it's not what I do. It's who I am in so many different ways. And so there aren't any boundaries because this is just kind of this is my life , right ? This is everything from where I live to what I drive , to what I eat , to what I feed my kid , to what we do on the weekends , to how she thinks about the world. I have a 12 year old and her greatest passion is , you know , ocean , plastics and animals. And that's what she spends her time thinking about and working on. And so , um , it's just a big it's just my life. It's an extension of my life in so many ways. Yeah.

S1: Yeah. I mean , so in the Anti Dread Climate podcast , you cover a variety of everyday topics , from parenting to gardening to food , and you put those topics in the context of their environmental impact. Tell me more about your approach. And this is for for either one of you.

S6: It's it's just based on the things that people ask about. We don't broach a topic unless we have received a question from a listener to answer that topic. Um , so we have a big old master spreadsheet with about 200 questions in it right now , and we sift through it and we try and figure out , um , questions that are specifically about things that people can do. You know , I've had people ask like , well , how are we supposed to feel about nuclear energy ? Like , I don't know , but that's not something that you can , like physically do every day. So something that someone can physically do every day. Um , and then we seek an expert that can sort of actually put that together in a concise answer for them. All of a sudden , those couple hundred questions that I just mentioned , now we've narrowed it down to a couple dozen that we can actually put into an episode. Um , so that's kind of a bit of a peek at the process. But the good news is we're getting more questions the more episodes we put out. So , uh , we still have that steady trickle of questions that fit that mold. Yeah.

S1: Yeah. A big topic in your podcast is parenting. And for those of us with young kids , climate change can certainly be a source of stress. And as a journalist , I can say that that compartmentalizing that you mentioned earlier becomes more and more difficult for me now that I'm a parent.

S5: Well , we always tell them the truth , but the truth is different depending on how old they are. It's like , where do babies come from ? You answer that question differently when they're six and when they're 16. And so , um , when you're talking with kids , it's important to know what it is that they really want to know. Like , what are they really asking ? And you can ask them that. Are you asking about how things are warm or are you asking about air quality ? What are you asking about ? And then you can answer the questions that they're actually asking. So something I always say to people is you do so many things for the environment. Most of us do things for the environment every day that are part of who we are. We grab that reusable bag , we go to the grocery store , we fill it up , we bring it home , we unload it , we throw it in the back of the car for next time. And our kids watch us do this , but they don't know why we do it , and we never tell them why we do it. And so if we can take a second , take a step back and look at the things that we do and explain them to our children as values , then those things stay with them.

S1: Another episode tells us how to avoid being a climate cop.

S6: And it was really fun because I liked the way that the listener was like , I don't want to be the bad guy at my office , like I am the bad guy at my office sometimes. So I recognize what that feels like. Um , but it was this whole idea of making people identify with being like someone who cares about the climate. Like , hey , I love that you bring your water bottle every time you come to work. Do you think I could count on you to print less paper ? You know , things like that and be like , we're on the same team here. Um , or the idea of creating , like , a a an environment , like a committee , an environment committee and getting people to sign up for it.

S1: And you have to wonder about who's really responsible for bearing this eco anxiety.

S6: But that's sort of that's one of the biggest pushbacks I'll receive is well , but policy would get way more done than I would. And yes , but it's kind of like we've all been tasked with moving.

S3: A mountain.

S6: And at the end of the day , like , no matter how well the other people in this group project do like the mountains gotta move , we're all going to get graded on whether or not it happens. And yes , sometimes , like the government shows up with a bulldozer and takes a big chunk out of the mountain , and that feels really good , and it makes it look like you and your shovel aren't getting a whole lot done. But like , the mountain has to move , so you gotta pick up a shovel and try. And I think so much of this is like getting people on board with that concept.

S1: Candace , do you want to add anything to that ? No.

S5: I totally love that. We all have a responsibility. Do some people maybe have a bigger responsibility ? Sure. We can argue that til the cows come home , we can argue about who should be doing what. But let's talk about who could be doing what and what you could do and what I could do , and let's do that thing.

S1: All right. Well , I've been speaking with the co-host of Kcrw Radio's The Anti Dread Climate podcast. Kayleigh Wells is a climate reporter for Kcrw radio in Los Angeles. Kaylee , thanks for joining us.

S6: Oh , anytime. Thanks for having me.

S1: And also , thank you to Candace Dickens Russell , president of friends of the Los Angeles River. Candace , thanks to you.

S5: Thank you. Thanks for having us.

S1: Coming up , a therapist talks about how she incorporates the environment into treatment for her patients.

S7: We have a synergistic energy , just like nature does , to respond in increasingly meaningful ways when we are in community.

S1: You're listening to Kpbs Midday Edition. Welcome back to Kpbs Midday Edition. I'm your host , Jade Hindman. Today we've been covering eco anxiety. And to help us understand how to move forward , let's talk about healthy coping strategies. Joining me is Amy Lajeunesse , San Diego based licensed therapist and eco therapist. Her work merges psychotherapy with nature. And Amy , thanks for being here.

S7: Thank you for having me. It's delightful to be here.


S7: I simply either work from my computer , seeing clients virtually. And since Covid hit , I have let go of my office space and only see clients that way or outdoors.

S1: Well , first I want to know why.

S7: I think the , you know , the top ones that come to mind , one is that it kind of equalizes the power dynamic of therapy a little bit. So those who might be a little bit uncomfortable with coming into an office space that's not yours and kind of looking face to face with their therapist , might find it a little bit more approachable to just have a walk , be in a beautiful space with their therapist. And the other reason , main reason is that it nature provides a really lovely kind of container , um , a sense of comfort , a sense of coping. And it provides some beautiful symbols in therapy as well. Ebbs and flows , the cycles of life. Um , so it provides , you know , these , these little joyful interludes and therapy just lightens the load a little bit for a lot of people to be outdoors. Wow.

S1: Wow.

S7: Something that's close to the clients that perhaps they can visit directly from their home , that it feels approachable. That's not it doesn't have to be this big wilderness expedition , but instead they can find a space that feels like home to them in nature and learn to connect with that space in our therapy time. Wow.

S1: Wow. I mean , do different locations have different effects on your practice ? Absolutely.

S7: In fact , you know , part of my training was how do we match these different environments with clients and are there contraindications , you know , for example , somebody who might have some social anxiety might have a difficult time on a crowded beach in summer , whereas they might feel really supported and held by visiting an oak grove that's quiet and peaceful. And someone else might have the opposite , uh , experience , right where that oak grove feels kind of closed in and uncomfortable for them. And so depending on what the client is needing and honestly , just where they naturally feel that sense of connection with nature , a lot of us have favorite spaces , favorite types of nature. And so to match a client with , with an environment that feels special or supportive to them is an important part of my job.

S1: And all parallels.

S7: Yes , absolutely. Yeah.


S7: Um , but I had never heard of it before. I literally woke up one morning and thought , you know what ? I feel so much better when I've spent time outdoors. I know that for many of my clients , they have reported that as well. There's got to be some science to this. There's there have to be others who are also incorporating this into therapy in some manner. And it turns out after a quick Google search , that that was in fact , the case , um , there's quite a large eco therapy , um , base in the UK and a lot of research coming out of Japan and South Korea. That's very compelling as well. Um , and in the United States , a huge number of eco therapists relatively up in the Bay area and , uh , Boulder , Denver areas in Colorado , but not many around here. So I just got into it. Um , I kind of nerd it out on some , some books. The research that already exists. And , uh , after a clinical training , um , started incorporating it more into my own practice as well. So.

S1: So. Okay , let's talk about eco anxiety or climate anxiety. Can you define that for me ? Yeah.

S7: So , you know , it's interesting because it has a clinical term in it as well of anxiety. But when we're thinking about it in the colloquial sense , it's when people feel some sort of dread , nervousness , unease or dis ease around the changes that they see happening in the world related to climate , related to extinction , related to global warming , those types of things , and people feeling often very flooded and overwhelmed with the data and not really often knowing what to do with it. And so , in fact , there's even a term called climate dread or climate despair that I think encapsulates when climate anxiety kind of almost. Drops off the cliff into climate depression and becomes this very heavy topic that people feel like they they don't have a response to , they can't have a meaningful response to. And that's obviously not a healthy place for us to be about anything in our lives.

S1: It seems like a lot of this anxiety is dealt with in isolation. Um , how can connecting with nature help us build community ? Yeah.

S7: So when we are managing anything in isolation , I mean , you mentioned Covid at the beginning of this. Jade. We were in isolation dealing with a lot of the stresses of that. We couldn't rely on others , for example , for childcare , for education , for bouncing ideas off of each other about how to solve these problems like we normally do. And we become sort of these echo chambers when we're when we're trying to manage things on an individual level. And so just like nature is connected intimately , there's all sorts of very fascinating research on , for example , the mycelial network , the fungal network underground that connects different trees and plants and how they communicate with one another. And not only that , but they offer one another resources , they offer one another nutrients. So when one is one being one , when plant is depleted , or even when one plant dies , they can offer these beautiful nutrients and offer even warning signals to other beings , uh , plants or fungi that , uh. Hey , watch out ! Or hey , here's some nutrients , and we actually can do that with one another , too , right ? That's the beauty. I think we all inherently feel it when we're with others , where we're benefiting from the wisdom of other folks. And we are , um , we have a synergistic energy , just like nature does , to respond in increasingly meaningful ways when we are in community. Hmm.


S7: I mean , it goes without saying that it's a beautiful place to be. Um , but you know , what else is really unique is we have this diversity of ecosystems and diversity of people here. Diversity of language , diversity of food , diversity of , um , you know , what types of activities were were able to do outside ? I mean , I have I have colleagues that practice eco therapy in other parts of the country , for example. And during winter. It's not that they can't do it. It just takes so much more to get out there in the snow or the rain or the cold. And here I really can , you know , practice year round. Um , we , you know , we don't have these , uh , seasons as intensely as other places around the globe do necessarily , but it's just such a beautiful place with a diversity of plants and animals that are honestly just waiting for us to connect with them. And we receive from them in the same way that we can give back. And so , you know , that's another really beautiful thing about San Diego. And eco therapy in general , is that we have this ability and this gift of reciprocity. It's not just about what can we do to to fix this , it's about what can we receive , what can we offer back ? And then what does that what does that gift ? It's kind of this beautiful cycle , um , that we can engage in once we are able to release some of the I would say , you know , panic or eco anxiety , that can be , um , you know , honestly kind of hold us back in , in creating meaningful change if we're not knowing how to steward that properly.


S7: So it's the beautiful thing. The wonderful thing is that it's so accessible to us. Some of us get stuck in the trap of , oh , I need to go out to a national park. Oh , I need to go camp. And those things can be really fun for some of us. And so even people who aren't , you know , quote , outdoorsy folks can , can enjoy this nature benefit. So , you know , there's all sorts of physical benefits and mental health benefits to nature , which , um , you know , there's so much research around that about our blood pressure , our heart rate , our cortisol levels , our immune system even being impacted positively by nature immersion. So in terms of , you know , your physical health , it's a huge benefit as well as , you know , reduction in anxiety and depression when you spend time outdoors , a couple of other , you know , specific ideas. One is just doing some nature grounding. And this is not as woowoo as it sounds. It's just about basically being mindful in nature. Essentially , it's a walking meditation. So if you have a meditation practice or if you aspire to one , but find it intimidating or unhelpful to just sit and be in silence , you can try walking around and and often at a slower pace. I find to be the most helpful , but it can literally be right in your own neighborhood. Um , even if you're somewhere more urban , there are going to be some trees are going to be some little flowers or weeds coming up through the sidewalk. There's going to be birds flying around. So you can literally do this anywhere. Um , and you're just noticing , you know , what you're seeing. You might notice five things that you are observing. You might notice four things that you hear , three things that you're feeling , two things that you're smelling , and one thing that you can taste if that is available to you. But it's it's a very simple way. It's called five senses grounding. Um , to not only connect and enhance your awareness of the of the nature , the natural world around you , that that you are in fact , a part of as an animal yourself. Um , but it does calm the nervous system as well. It kind of takes you out of any racing thoughts , any , um , nervous system , hyper arousal that might be uncomfortable for you or difficult. And it brings you back to the present moment. It brings you back to your body , and it brings you back to the environment that you're a part of.

S1: How do you cut through so much of what we consume between the news , between The Last of Us , between The Walking Dead , between Leave the World Behind , I'm ready to go build a bunker. I've been searching for prices on that. You know , it really doesn't do much for my anxiety except raise it right. How do you cut through all of these things that that we consume ? Yeah.

S7: Honestly , this is something I talk about a lot with my clients. And I will admit , my response to this might be controversial for some people , so I'll lead with that. But my my perspective is that our brains and our nervous systems have not evolved to deal with the onslaught of the 24 over seven news cycle , um , or the the intense amount of information that is available to.

S1: Us on demand.

S7: On demand. Right. So when we have anxiety about something , we Google it and we it feeds our anxiety instead of actually helping us move through it. So it's a great question. And , um , you know , honestly , my my approach to that with my clients is , yes , it is great to be informed. It is great to be proactive about the things that we care about. We want those things. However , when it crosses a certain threshold , taking in more information actually doesn't help us , and it doesn't even help us be more responsive in terms of what we can do to protect the Earth. Um , so there's almost sort of like a bell curve. There's a sweet spot for many of us , and it's going to be different for different people. Some people can tolerate a great deal of information and actually be quite responsive with it. Some other folks , um , myself included in this category , can tolerate less amounts of information before it feels very flooding and overwhelming. And it leads down sort of this , um , rabbit hole of anxiety and distress. And so if you're able to give yourself permission to whittle down what you are taking in , it could mean that you're unfollowing some accounts. It could mean and I feel bad saying this in a news station , but it could mean listening to the news a little bit less , or being thoughtful about what type of news you are consuming. Um , for some people , that's deleting certain apps off their phone. For some people it is saying , you know what I really care about ? Like I said earlier , these 1 or 2 issues I care about , you know , plastic in the oceans and I care about , um , reforestation. And they focus both the input and their output into those areas , and they give themselves permission to let go of or have less involvement with other aspects of , um , eco anxiety that might bring eco anxiety , knowing that other folks are going to pick those up. Just like the Earth. You know , a single tree can't do everything by itself. A single animal can't do everything by itself. We are all connected to one another. We are all. You know , I just saw a butterfly before I came here. It's the. It couldn't exist without the flowers. The flowers couldn't exist without it. And so when we all come together. And that's why it's so important to engage in this work in community , we actually find that we're able to , to engage in this work of , um , impacting the world of , of protecting the Earth in ways that are sustainable for us when we partner with others who can , uh , can , can fill those other roles in the ecosystem , so to speak.

S1: Well , that is a hopeful note to end on. Uh , Amy , thank you so much for joining us.

S7: Thank you so much for having me. It's been a real delight to be here.

S1: That's our show for today. I'm your host , Jade Hindman. Thanks for tuning in to Midday Edition. Be sure to have a great day on purpose , everyone.

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Children take part in a climate protest in Hong Kong.
Kin Cheung
Children take part in a climate protest in Hong Kong in this undated image.

Across the globe, more people are grappling with a phenomenon known as “climate anxiety,” or “eco-anxiety.”

The American Psychological Association describes it as a "chronic fear of environmental doom, ranging from mild stress to clinical disorders like depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and even suicide."

That fear is especially common among young people. A 2021 study found that nearly 60% of youth and young adults worldwide are extremely worried about climate change.

A big part of that is frustration over inadequate government response to the climate crisis, too.

So, how do we cope with eco-anxiety without becoming complacent about the climate crisis?


  • Abby Deckert, San Diego 350 intern and junior at Santana High School
  • Emma Weibel, San Diego 350 intern and junior at La Jolla High School
  • Caleigh Wells, co-host of KCRW's "The Anti-Dread Climate Podcast"
  • Candice Dickens Russel, co-host of KCRW's '"The Anti-Dread Climate Podcast" and president of Friends of LA River
  • Amy Lajiness, San Diego-based psychologist and eco-therapist