Health and Wellness

How to keep up with distressing climate news and take care of your mental health, according to experts

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Sometimes the news about the state of the world, particularly the climate, can be triggering and frightening, and understandably so.

Over 60% of Americans were somewhat or extremely anxious about the impact of climate change on the Earth in late 2020, according to a poll done by the American Psychiatric Association. With more than half being concerned about climate change's impact on their mental health.

And climate news is all around us - in the local news, on podcasts, even in your social media feed.

Anxiety about climate change is completely justified, says Margaret Klein Salamon, executive director of Climate Emergency Fund with a PhD in clinical psychology and author of Facing the Climate Emergency: How to Transform Yourself with Climate Truth.

Acknowledging and voicing your feelings plus affirming that they are normal responses to a major concern can actually be helpful for your mental health, Salamon tells CNBC Make It.

"When you read climate news and you feel scared and enraged and overwhelmed by sadness and grief or whatever it is ... you need to remind yourself with an attitude of self compassion that all of these feelings are normal," she says, "You're not all alone in how you feel."

How to consume climate news with care

  • Take action. The ideal way to consume climate news with care is to balance news consumption with activism, Salamon says. Taking action can be your own form of an antidote for the anguish you're feeling, she says.

    If you're not sure where to start, think about donating to organizations that provide funds for climate activists like the Climate Emergency Fund.
  • Fact-check first. It can also be helpful for your mental health to fact-check the news you come across before reacting, especially if you're unsure about its accuracy, according to Patrick Kennedy-Williams, co-founder of Climate Psychologists, based in the U.K., and author of Turn the Tide on Climate Anxiety.

    "Confusion, of course, breeds anxiety. So, the more uncertain we are about whether something is a myth or a reality, the more anxious we are because we just don't know what to believe," Kennedy-Williams says.

    He recommends double-checking the news you see using NASA's website because the agency commonly breaks down popular myths for the general public.
  • Strike a balance with positive news. Also, consider seeking out positive climate news stories, especially if you're starting to feel hopeless about what's happening in the world, as Kennedy-Williams has before.

    "We've had wildfires just in the valley right across from where I live, this past year, so we could see the flames outside our window. We had serious flooding, too, years ago. These things, when they land at your doorstep, are really hard to manage," Kennedy-Williams says.

    In those moments, he made sure to avoid things that triggered him and looked to the positive efforts made by climate activists that were benefiting the world. 

    "There's all kinds of progress happening around the world. People are coming together and making a huge difference," he says, "Yes, this is a really urgent issue. Yes, we all need to be doing everything we can and hold governments and businesses accountable, and we need to do it now. But, there are people doing amazing things all around the world."

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