Join Us

Navigating The 5 Climate Emotions: Understanding the Spectrum and Finding Support

articles Oct 05, 2023
Climate emotions, climate distress, climate grief, strategies, mindfulness, practices

Empower yourself to navigate the emotional landscape of climate change with actionable coping strategies and a deeper understanding of the diverse feelings it evokes.

As we increasingly experience the impacts of climate change, many of us are feeling powerful emotional responses to the changes we see around us. Some people are more impacted than others, depending on their geographical location and ability to adapt, which can be affected by socioeconomic and political conditions.


Emotions experienced in response to climate change can vary, and some of these will be elaborated on here. What was initially identified as ‘climate anxiety’ is now often referred to more broadly as ‘climate distress’ to better encompass the increasingly recognized responses to our current climate crisis. 

Perhaps most importantly, many of our emotional responses to the climate crisis are understandable and reasonable, given the reality of the climate crisis. However, it is essential to note that these emotional responses can be exacerbated by pre-existing traumatic experiences or mental health challenges, and vice versa, emotional responses to the climate crisis can, over time, develop into mental health challenges that can become chronic or more acute after experiencing or witnessing events like climate disasters (like floods or forest fires, for example).

Types of Climate Emotions (Cianconi et al., 2023):

  • Climate anxiety: An increase in anxiety that results from existential threat due to human-caused climate change. This can be an understandable response to climate change and can range from a motivation for action to more debilitating symptoms that can prevent healthy functioning.
  • Climate trauma or climate-related trauma: PTSD or Acute Stress Disorder can result from experiencing climate-related natural disasters and extreme weather events.
  • Climate anger and/or rage: Anger or rage directed at those perceived as responsible for directly or indirectly causing climate change. There is some research to show this response can be adaptive in its ability to lead to pro-climate behaviour, and of course, it can also lead to a sense of deep frustration with others.
  • Climate grief or despair: These responses can be related to physical losses of species, ecosystems or landscapes, the loss of environmental identity and knowledge, including self-identification and culture, and grief associated with anticipated future losses.
  • Solastagia refers to distress associated with the gradual loss of one’s home and territory, or sense of ‘home’ or ‘place,’ which can lead to the loss of one’s identity and sense of belonging.

From this, we can see that there is a wide variety of emotional responses to climate change, and while this list is not exhaustive, it provides a sense of the mental health burden created by climate change.

What might be some ways to support ourselves if we are feeling climate-distress?

Coping Strategies for Climate Distress:

1. Manage Media Consumption: Limiting the time we spend consuming media related to climate disasters and climate change. While we want to be informed, ‘doom-scrolling’ can increase our distress and lead to feelings of being overwhelmed, and forgetting that there are also amazing people, organizations and groups that are working to change our systems to be more eco-friendly and who share our love for this planet we all live on.

2. Build Emotional Resilience: Learning ways to lean into our distressing emotions, a little bit at a time, in mindful ways to increase our emotional resiliency. Meditative practices that focus on being present with our suffering and that of others through self-compassion and other-directed compassion practices are effective ways to build the resiliency we all need to live in difficult times.

3. Identify How The Climate Crisis Affects You: Spending time identifying which climate emotions you are experiencing can be helpful for getting to know more about the parts of you that are holding distress. A climate emotions wheel is available, along with an activity sheet, at 

4. Join Climate Cafés and Socials: Attending a climate café to connect with others experiencing similar emotions to express your thoughts and feelings about climate without expecting activism or action. Based on the Death café model, the purpose is to provide a space to express these thoughts and feelings without any fear of judgment and to gain a sense of being in this with others who feel similarly. I host a monthly climate café online, and information and dates can be found here: Thomas Counselling

5. Creative Expression: Creative activities can also provide us with an outlet for emotional expression and create a state of ‘flow’ that can provide us with a sense of calm and focus. Drawing, painting, dancing, or other activities are all excellent ways to generate inner emotional resilience.

6. Connect With Nature: Spending time in nature or bringing nature indoors (think house plants and kitchen herbs) can heal and deepen our connection to life on Earth. Ecotherapy and Internal Family Systems approaches can help us connect with our ecological Self and provide a source of healing for our inner system, reducing our distress.

These are challenging times, and we are all facing uncertainty and fears about what the future holds. Some of us are more sensitive to eco and climate distress than others, and practicing self-compassion and building emotional resiliency and kindness towards others can help us heal ourselves and our relationship with the natural world.

Feel free to share this post with friends, family, or colleagues. Thanks for your ongoing interest and support!

 Natalie Thomas, PhD, RP (Q). Adjunct Faculty, Department of Philosophy, University of Guelph and Registered Psychotherapist (Q) at Thomas Counselling


Source: Cianconi, P., Hanife, B., Grillo, F., Betro’, S., Lesmana, C. B. J., & Janiri, L. (2023). Eco-emotions and Psychoterratic Syndromes: Reshaping Mental Health Assessment Under Climate Change. The Yale Journal of Biology & Medicine, 96(2), 211–226.


The content in our blogs is not intended to substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your health provider with any questions you may have regarding your mental health. 

Join our weekly newsletter for insightful articles and free events

Be the first to learn about upcoming FREE events, receive early bird pricing for courses and stay in touch with weekly newsletters!