Image: Unsplash
Image: Unsplash

How climate change is affecting the mental health of students

Climate change is frightening. It’s drastically changing the world around us at an alarming rate and sometimes it feels as though not enough people care about it to prevent it. The ice caps are melting, animals are becoming increasingly endangered and temperatures are rising across the globe, with little sign of decrease. However, in what can only be described as the worst of times, it is important to always take care of our mental health.

The concerns of climate change are felt especially amongst students. On top of deadlines and exams, the last thing any student wants is to be crushed by the weight of their planet’s future. Student living doesn’t necessarily allow the luxury of always acting with the climate in mind, as not many of us have the money to make big changes. This can become another source of stress, as if contributing to the climate crisis. We might also ask whether the university has a responsibility to maintain a responsible level of eco-friendliness, in consideration for the mental health of students. After all, it can be incredibly discouraging for a student to walk through the Piazza every day only to be greeted by a giant screen which has the sole purpose of increasing electricity bills. If the university is truly dedicated to the welfare of their students, then surely they should aim to be as environmentally friendly as possible to prevent such climate anxiety? Should the university not be cutting costs on behalf of the students who cannot? Especially considering the vast sums of money that the university makes from the student body.

On top of deadlines and exams, the last thing any student wants is to be crushed by the weight of their planet’s future

So how can we deal with this stress ourselves? Firstly, it’s important to remember that any contribution towards a more positive future for our planet is a valid contribution. Rather than being discouraged when action feels too insignificant or irregular to make a change, keep in mind that if enough people make that choice, change is possible. By extension, the reality that others are experiencing the same concerns and actively making the same decisions should be reassurance – this is not one person’s problem, it is a struggle to be felt and dealt with by everyone. The mere fact that this is a talking point shows that others understand this issue and that action is being taken to prevent it. The fact that this article itself is within the climate section of a university newspaper should also give you hope as things are changing and people are aware of the issue. 

It’s important to remember that any contribution towards a more positive future for our planet is a valid contribution

Another useful way to deal with such mental stress is to keep yourself busy. Instead of spending your time worrying and stressing about potential impacts, try using that time to do something productive. Keeping yourself active and engaged with a range of activities will save you from the mental gymnastics of repeated self-evaluation. You could do anything from indulging in a hobby to being social with friends or even taking some time to get some extra work done. One of the best things that you can do as a student is to workout. With busy student life, sometimes it can just feel like an extra chore and struggle to fit a workout into your day, but it’s a fantastic way of clearing your head and re-focusing yourself. Whilst some students may have chosen not to pay towards a gym membership, they can still make use of the space in their rooms with the right exercises. Doing exercise little and often will keep you physically fit and do wonders for your mental health as well. Another great way of achieving a positive outlook through staying healthy is by having a balanced diet. Whilst we all go through phases of eating the bare minimum or tons of junk food, a clean diet can be perfect for dealing with stress. Getting a reasonable amount of sleep is a trial for every student but make sure you achieve a regular and reasonable sleeping schedule rather than working through the night and taking several naps. If you aren’t letting your body rest, then you aren’t letting your mind rest.

Keeping yourself active and engaged with a range of activities will save you from the mental gymnastics of repeated self-evaluation

Whilst it is important not to take climate change lightly, it is also important not to let the threat of it drag you down and interfere with your daily life. Remember, the best way to fight for a better future is to do so with a clear and unburdened mind; before taking care of the planet you must take care of yourself.  

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