How To Cope with Climate Anxiety

How To Cope with Climate Anxiety

Climate anxiety is a heavy topic for teachers to navigate with their students. The climate crisis can unpack a variety of emotions, from grief to sadness, to feeling powerless and even vulnerable. So how do we teach our students how to cope with climate anxiety? By educating and teaching students how to process their feelings and empowering them to take action. We have collected lesson ideas to teach students how to cope with climate anxiety and navigate this topic. 

“Anxiety and despair can stem from young peoples’ feelings of powerlessness in the face of the climate crisis. It is helpful to remind your students that they are not, in fact, powerless. Tell your students that they have immense capacity to make change when they organize within their communities to fight for what they believe in. Point your students towards specific, meaningful actions they can take to address the problem, whether that’s attending a protest, starting an environmentalist club, or creating an art piece,” StC collaborated with Earth Warriors to create the blog, From Climate Anxiety to Climate Action: How to Empower Your Students.

How to Cope with Climate Anxiety

Grade: 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th

Subjects: Science, Social Studies, Health, Social-Emotional Learning

Resource Type: Video

In this video How to Cope with Climate Anxiety from NowThisEarth, there are many helpful tips for students on how to process their feelings and how to cope with climate anxiety. Mitch Prinstein, the Chief Science Officer of the American Psychological Association, encourages students to help alleviate climate anxiety by processing their feelings and making changes in small ways. 

“Approximately 67% of Americans have some level of anxiety when it comes to the impact of climate change on the future of our planet, according to an American Psychiatric Association poll.”

Teachers can use this video as an introduction to discuss small ways to cope with climate anxiety and also help students unpack their feelings towards climate change.  The video can be shown as the hook of the lesson. Afterward, students can work in groups to identify common fears about climate change before coming together for a whole group discussion on small ways to mitigate climate change.

We've Ignored Climate Change for More Than a Century

Grade: 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 10th, 11th, 12th

Subjects: Science, Social Studies, Earth and Space Sciences, History

Resource Type: Video

To help understand climate anxiety, this video dives into the origins of climate science and why humans find it difficult to act on climate change. This engaging PBS video presents a succinct history of climate science over the past 200 years. Teachers can use ideas from the video as interesting discussion points. The chart below shows how this resource can be used.

Why Humans Are So Bad at Thinking About Climate Change

Grade: 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th

Subjects: Science, Social-Emotional Learning, Climate Action

Resource Type: Video

Thinking about climate change can cause anxiety, but it can bring up other feelings such as guilt, grief, and sadness. This video shows students how behavioral scientists at UCLA developed experiments to determine the best way to get people involved and interested in solving the climate crisis.

“We need to change the way we talk about climate change. This doom-and-gloom messaging just isn’t working; we seem to want to tune it out. And this fear, this guilt, we know from psychology is not conducive to engagement,” Why Humans Are So Bad at Thinking About Climate Change.

Throughout the video students will see how collective action can make a big impact, and also some interesting energy conservation experiments. Vox takes a look at the efforts that energy-saving companies are taking to take advantage of human psychology and help change our behavior to reduce electricity usage and carbon dioxide emissions. It is important for teachers to note that this video contains advertisements. Overall, this video is an amazing resource with great visuals and insightful information. The chart below provides ideas on how to integrate this resource.

Feeling Guilty About Climate Change

Grade: 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th

Subjects: Science, Social Studies, Justice, Social-Emotional Learning

Resource Type: Video

This engaging video, Feeling Guilty About Climate Change from Hot Mess, focuses on how feelings of guilt can influence the way people think about climate change and what they can do to cope with their climate anxiety. Teaching students to reconcile their complicated views on things like fossil fuels, which have made life better but have also hurt the planet, is more beneficial than ignoring reality.

Students will need to have a basic understanding of the role that fossil fuel emissions play in creating climate change prior to watching the video. In the chart below, we have broken down ways you can teach about this topic and other resources if you would like to dive deeper.

Additional Resources

Healthy Environment, Healthy You

Grade: 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th

Subjects: Science, English Language Arts, Health, Social-Emotional Learning

Resource Type: Lesson Plan

This amazing outdoor journaling activity is a great way for students to help cope with their climate anxiety. Teachers take their students outside to a local community or on school grounds to observe nature and their surroundings. This activity helps students to grow their understanding of the relationship between the environment and human health. 

This low-prep lesson can help break up the usual indoor routine. After their independent journaling, students can work in groups to discuss their observations. Additionally, students can learn through their observations about ecosystems and their influence on human health from this website. This activity is also ideal for cross-curricular lessons, such as journal writing in ELA. Another great resource to consider is The Most Important Thing You Can Do to Fight Climate Change: Talk About It.

Hope After Hurricanes

Grade: 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th

Subjects: Social Studies, Social-Emotional Learning

Resource Type: Lesson Plan, Video

This is a great lesson plan to not only help students share their emotions and feelings about climate anxiety but also to connect your students with youth across the country. The video provided with the lesson plan features young people who survived Hurricane Sandy and offers encouragement to others who have experienced heavy emotions due to extreme natural disasters.

Teachers could show this video after a natural disaster happens to help students cope with their anxiety. This video highlights that we are all in this together, that we share one planet, and that all of us must take care of the planet and each other. This lesson can also help students understand empathy and develop their social and emotional skills. Other resources about the human toll of climate change include this image gallery of climate impacts from around the world, this SubjectToClimate lesson plan about storm narratives, and this NASA article about the effects of climate change.

This video is available to view without an account, but teachers must sign in to access the lesson plan. It is also important to note that students who have experienced trauma may need additional support from a school or outside counselor.

Coping with climate anxiety starts by teaching our students how to communicate their emotions and feelings in a manner that is conducive to action. Helping students find their voice and take action empowers them to make impactful change. For more resources and learning materials related to climate anxiety, review this curated search. If you or someone you know needs help, contact NAMI HelpLine or Climate Awakening for more information. 

"Children worldwide worry about the future and feel let down by governments, a huge study on attitudes towards climate change has found," Young people’s climate anxiety revealed in a landmark survey, from the website Nature

About the Author

Amanda is a stay-at-home Mom of two boys and two beagles. She has a diploma in Journalism from Sheridan College and certificates in Animal Care, Shelter Operations, and Wildlife Rehabilitation from Georgian College.