The Weight of the World on Your Shoulders: Climate Anxiety and How to Cope

What keeps you up at night? The stress of your workday, the effects of inflation on your wallet, the fight you had with your partner, or your kid’s problems at school? Or is it something even bigger than all of those things? Bigger – as in, as big as the whole Earth? Maybe, with all of the dire news about the climate that’s constantly popping up in your newsfeed, you’re feeling the weight of the world, and what humans are doing to it, on your shoulders, and it’s doing a number on you. If so, you’ve probably been hit with what’s known as climate anxiety – so, with all of the very real and very serious effects of climate change, how can we even start to wrap our heads around it, and cope with this anxiety?

What Is Climate Anxiety?

Simply put, climate anxiety, also known as solastalgia, eco-anxiety, environmental distress, or ecological grief, is distress or anxiety related to worries about the effects of climate change. Or, to put it less simply, the American Psychological Association (APA) defines it as“the chronic fear of environmental cataclysm that comes from observing the seemingly irrevocable impact of climate change and the associated concern for one’s future and that of next generations.”

woman consoling another woman

The APA does not consider climate anxiety a mental illness – not yet, anyway – but it is very real. And not only that, but it doesn’t even necessarily only affect those who have already come in direct contact with the effects of climate change (the mental health effects they have felt are also a whole other story). In other words, you don’t have to have lost your house to a supercharged hurricane or an intense wildfire to feel like the world is quite literally closing in on you.

In fact, the number of people that are experiencing climate anxiety is huge: a study by the APA suggests that more than two-thirds of Americans experience at least some form of it. And, unfortunately, it’s taking an even greater toll on our young people. A study published in The Lancet found that 84% of children and young adults ages 16 to 25 are at least moderately worried about climate change, and 59% are very or extremely worried. That makes sense, considering that they will most likely inherit some serious problems if we keep going down the path we’re on. 

Are You Climate Anxious?

So does all of this sound familiar? Think you’re suffering from climate anxiety? You might be feeling things like: words shame and guilt

  • Guilt or shame surrounding what you view as your effect on the environment
  • Intense worrying about how your actions will affect future generations
  • Anger that not more is being done
  • Grief, which you might experience in the classic stages: according to Phoenix Smith, an ecotherapist, “It can be denial at first, and then you may have some fear and anger and then sadness.”
  • Chronic stress, which can lead (especially in children) to depression and anxiety, or a feeling of suffocation
  • Feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, or even fatalism 

Of course, some of these feelings can be related to other mental health issues, or to other stressors in your life, but if you feel like climate change and its effects are what’s giving you your special brand of anxiety, it’s time to find a way to cope. Unfortunately, we’re in this fight for our planet’s future for the long haul, but in the here and now, you can try to deal with your climate anxiety like other anxiety-related issues, by working on your resilience, recognizing your feelings, sitting with them, and hopefully, taking some action. After all, the source of this anxiety is pretty consequential for all of us, so the action you take to calm yourself can also make a difference for everyone.

How Can You Cope? 

Yes, things seem bad, but now’s the time to take a deep breath and get ourselves together so we can work on this. Start with yourself, and try the following ways to cope:

Feel all the feels

Negative feelings are necessarily going to be a part of a crisis, whether you’ve experienced the crisis first-hand or are worried about one hitting you – and this is a crisis. So you’re going to have to allow yourself to feel all the feelings that come to you, so you can learn to deal with them. In fact, according to Oregon-based environmental psychologist Thomas Doherty, those negative emotions aren’t inherently bad, because “we should be able to feel all of our emotions” in a healthy way. And once you feel them, and recognize them, you can then talk through your feelings with other people, which can be immensely helpful.

Then give yourself a break from the feels

It’s good to get charged up about a good cause, but if you’re sinking into hopelessness, it’s ok to give yourself a break from your negative feelings. Doherty tells us to try and take a step back from those feelings of hopelessness, which can mean “pulling off of the media, going outside, doing stress reduction, all of these kinds of things.” 

Focus on what you want to do

Psychologists already have a good handle on how to deal with anxiety-based disorders, and they can apply a lot of what they know to climate anxiety, with the twist being that the actions you can take might be more concrete. Penn State psychology Professor Janet Swim, who has authored several publications about psychology and climate change, puts it this way: “Anxiety is something people feel more and more when they get closer to an anti-goal, meaning a negative result, like the destruction of the planet.” The anxiety you feel might begin to make you feel avoidant, or you might feel like simply shutting down and no longer engaging. To ease this feeling of anxiety, turn it around. “Instead of focusing on the fear, you should instead focus on what you want to do,” Swim suggests. “If you get closer and closer to a solution, you can feel more pride and there is hope.”

Join in

So it’s important to take a break from those feelings of hopelessness, talk about things, and also to do something. To get yourself ready to join in the fight, focus on more energizing and motivating emotions, like anger at injustice, which can spur you into action. Then, consider getting involved by:woman speaking on a mic in a protest

  • Getting a group together and persistently writing to your representatives
  • Attending protests
  • Joining an urban cleanup
  • Advocating for more green spaces in your neighborhood

Make changes in your life

They might seem like little things that won’t do much, but making small changes to your lifestyle can help, especially if you encourage others to do the same -and making these changes could also help to relieve some of your feelings of helplessness. Some ideas include:

  • Signing up for a home energy visit, and performing your own energy audit of your home to see how you can make your home more efficient
  • Cutting down on carbon emissions by walking, driving, or taking public transport to work
  • Eating a plant-based diet
  • Buying used clothing
  • Focusing on reusing as opposed to relying on recycling (but continue to recycle what you can)

Look for positivity

You don’t have to turn a blind eye to climate change, and pretend that everything is hunky-dory, but you also don’t have to constantly wallow in negativity, which will end up taking a big toll on your mental health. Stay informed about what’s really going on (burying your head in the sand won’t help!), but don’t forget to seek out all the news, including the positive stuff! For example, Alaina Wood, a sustainability scientist, has taken to TikTok, delivering positive news about climate developments. Checking out accounts like hers can help with all those hopeless and fatalistic feelings. And the other good thing about finding positive stories: you might just get inspired and find new ways to act!

There’s no sense in sugar coating things: climate change is real, and poses a very real threat to us. And the anxiety surrounding this is very real, too, and can affect our lives and our mental health in some serious ways. But now is not the time to shut down, or retreat into our fears: it’s the time to act, both for our own well-being and that of our planet.

Are We Still Paying the Pink Tax?

We’re all about equality in this country, right? We even have a whole holiday to celebrate the noble idea that  “all men are created equal,” as laid out in the Declaration of Independence. But there are still so many little things (and yes, big things, too) that can make us feel like it’s just the men that are created equal around here. And while it might not be the most important thing, the fact that women have been paying more for products for a very long time – a phenomenon known as “the pink tax” – is one of those things. 

Sure, a few extra bucks here and there might seem like a small thing, but these little upcharges can add up. Not only that, but the fact that women are treated this way can be frustrating at best, and part of the reason women can feel like the perpetual and unequal “other” at worst. So what is this pink tax? What are women paying more for? And is there any way to avoid the pink tax? 

What Is the Pink Tax?

pink razor silhouette
Women’s hygiene products are still being taxed more than men’s.

You know what most women would like freedom from? Their periods. But adding insult to injury is the fact that, unless they are using a form of birth control that causes them to have fewer or no periods, they have to buy some sort of product or products to keep things under control. And shockingly, period-related products are still taxed in 30 out of 50 states, despite calls to ban this practice at the federal level, and despite the fact that most other necessities are not taxed.

But if you’re thinking that period products are the only thing that women have to shell out extra money for, you’re sadly mistaken – and the tax on tampons is not even the actual pink tax, it’s just the tip of the iceberg. The pink tax actually refers to the price difference between any product marketed to women and comparable gender-neutral products or products for men. 

These products might or might not be wrapped in pretty pink packaging, but that doesn’t make the pill any easier to swallow. So, not only do women make, on average, only 82 cents for every dollar men make (and that’s if those women are white, statistics are even more dire for women of color), many companies also expect them to pay more for products like: 

  • Body washes
  • Razors
  • Lotions
  • Deodorants
  • Anything packaged in “feminine” packaging: for example, in 2012, Bic marketed a two-pack of pink and purple “Bic For Her” pens for $5.60, while selling a four-pack of the exact same pens in black and blue colors for $3.37.

And this is not just us grumbling while we stroll down the aisles of our local drugstore. This is a problem that has been recognized by The Joint Economic Committee of the United States Senate (JEC), who wrote an entire report on the implications of the Pink Tax in 2016. They found that there was absolutely a markup on personal care products: in fact, the markup in that category alone was 13%! And in addition to these markups, they also found that manufacturers also markup toys, clothing, and senior care items. Overall, 42% of women’s products cost more, while only 18% of men’s products are more expensive. And guess what? You’re not imagining things if you think that you’re being upcharged for certain services: pricing differences were also observed in service-based industries such as auto repair.

The pink tax can be obvious, like in the example of the Bic pens: sometimes companies simply markup items that are marketed towards women. In other cases, it’s a little bit sneakier: companies will offer a package of items marketed towards women for the same price as a more neutral package or a package marketed towards men, but the package will contain less of the product. So women will end up paying the same as men, but getting less. 

So why are all of these markups a big deal? Not only is it insulting to women, but it also means that they can end up paying more than $1,300 more than men on products every year.

Why Do We Have a Pink Tax?

The tempting answer to why there’s a pink tax is: the patriarchy. And, ok, that might be true, but we’ll have to smash that another day. There are actually a few reasons why women are charged more for certain items, however unjustifiable they might seem. For example, women are charged more for products marketed to them because:gold money symbol with cash next to it

  • Tariffs on women’s clothing tend to be higher than those on men’s clothing: about 15.1% compared to 12.9%, respectively, and that difference is passed on to consumers.
  • The concept of price differentiation dictates that the product which is considered the “standard” is produced at a higher volume than more “specialty” products, like the pink alternatives for women. As a result, pink women’s razors, for example, cost more to make, and that cost is once again passed on to consumers. 
  • Price fixing is a problem. Price fixing means that lack of competitiveness in the market allows large companies to dictate the price of goods and services, since they prevent companies that would potentially drive down the cost of products and services from entering the market.
  • Price discrimination is also an issue. Companies price products differently (less) for people who they want to entice to buy – they assume they’ve got a lock on women, so they charge them more because they think they will buy anyway. “I think that if the consumer is willing to pay more for a certain color, then it’s in manufacturers’ and marketers’ best interest to charge more,” said Christine Whelan, a professor of consumer science at the University of Wisconsin Madison and director of the university’s MORE (Money, Relationships, and Equality) program. “But I do mind that people don’t know about this.”

We mind, too, and we think you should know about it, so you can make the best decisions for you. But is there any way to avoid the pink tax? 

Avoiding the Pink Tax

The pink tax is so ingrained in the way that companies sell, and the way that we buy, that it can be hard to completely avoid it. But there are some things you can do to reduce its impact, like: 

  • Buy products that are gender-neutral, or marketed to men – This might be tougher if you’re married to a certain scent of deodorant or lotion; otherwise, don’t hesitate to sniff around. In addition, we urge you to try men’s razors: even the ones marketed as “one-time use” will tend to last longer as razors for leg skin than as razors for delicate facial skin. Just be careful: you’ll have to do the math to see how much you’re getting for the price when you choose between men’s/gender-neutral products and women’s products. 
  • Buy clothes that don’t require dry cleaning – Some states have tried to outlaw service providers like hair salons and dry cleaners charging more for women customers, but in most cases, you’re going to pay more for these kinds of things. clothes on a rack
  • Buy used clothing – You can help the environment and avoid those silly tariffs and upcharges for women’s more “complicated” clothing.
  • Look into companies that are anti-pink tax – Some companies, like Billie (which sells women’s razors), Boxed (an online retailer that sells items in bulk), and Brandless (which sells its own products to reduce markups) are committed to creating and selling products to women at a fair price, and they’re worth a look.
  • Buy gender-neutral items for girls when possible – Sometimes you just can’t get away from the unicorns, but you might be able to persuade the littles to go for a red scooter or helmet, for example, instead of a pink one, which could save you some money.
  • Try reusable period products – There are some great options on the market nowadays, like cups, reusable pads, and even period underwear. Think of all the money you could save on that monthly expense!

Finally, you need to speak up! Call out the companies who you see marking up items marketed towards women, and complain to the highest-up person you can reach. That means calling their corporate office, not just speaking to a customer service rep. And don’t stop there: shame them on social media, and tell your friends as well as your local consumer protection agency. According to Whelan, “The more people we can get to say, ‘No, I’m not going to pay extra for these products,’ then the companies won’t make them — or they won’t charge extra,” Whelan said. “This is about supply and demand.”

In addition, don’t forget to advocate with your local government officials for banning the tampon tax – nobody should have to pay more for such a necessary product!

We’ve got a lot to fight for, but don’t get tired, and don’t think that little things like the pink tax aren’t worth your time. It all adds up and it all makes a difference in women’s lives!