Curious Climate schools
Curious Climate schools

Climate Feelings

You may be experiencing lots of different emotions around climate change. Any emotions that you feel about climate change are normal and valid. Many people feel concerned, anxious, frustrated and even distressed.

Strong feelings can be helpful: they can give us the energy and focus we need to act in creative and transformative ways. But we need a healthy balance. Anxiety is a feeling that lets us know that change is happening. It can help us take care of ourselves and the things we care about. Too much anxiety, though, can stop us from doing the things we enjoy or need to do. Distress can help us learn what we care about and want to protect. But feeling distressed all the time might make it hard to concentrate or to enjoy other things. Recognising how you feel, and why, is important to navigating these feelings. It can also help us to understand ourselves and even move towards climate change solutions.

How to recognise feelings about climate

Sometimes it’s hard to know exactly what you are feeling and that’s ok. You can use the Climate Emotions Wheel to help identify the feelings that you might have. For example, you might be feeling anxiety, which is like a nagging feeling that something is wrong. Or perhaps you have feelings of overwhelm, which can feel like your mind is racing. Distress might feel like you know something is wrong and you don’t know what to do or how to fix it. Maybe you are feeling hopeful about the future and can see positive signs of what is possible.

If you can identify your emotions, it can make it easier to work with them.

What can help?

You might feel overwhelmed by bad news. But there are still a lot of things that are great, good, or even just ok. This is the first step. Pay attention to the good news and acknowledge everything that is ok.
We often talk about the ups and downs of life – we do things that lift us up, and then other things come along and weigh us down. This graphic illustrates how we move through our life sometimes experiencing things that bring us down, and then uplifting things that make us feel better.
You can see how important it is, when you’re feeling low, to acknowledge how you feel and seek out activities that make you feel better. These might include going outside in the sunshine, cuddling a pet, or sharing your feelings with someone you trust.

What about taking action?

When things are not ok, it can help to take action – be the change you want to see. But trying to change things that you can’t control is very stressful. This is the source of much anxiety and distress, especially in young people. It helps to understand what you can control, what you can influence, and what you might be concerned about but have no control over.
The Circles of Control graphic illustrates how these three areas work.
Starting with the inner circle, the only things over which you have real control relate to your own thoughts, feelings, and behaviours.
Moving outside your inner circle, you then have a bunch of other things over which you have influence but not control.
The outside circle contains the many things over which you have no control but may be very concerned about.
The key to managing uncomfortable emotions is to match your efforts at any given time to the circles within your capacity.
When you feel overwhelmed, give yourself permission to focus on a smaller circle – attend to the things over which you have control. Do things for yourself, seek out activities that lift you up.
When you’re energized, tackle the bigger stuff – areas over which your control is lower, but you can have some influence. You can make a difference to the big picture by helping make changes in your own place and community.

Connecting with others

We hear a lot about the things we are losing because of climate change.
It’s important to remember there are many things that it can’t take from us…
The love we share with others.
The joy of being part of a team.
And the satisfaction of helping to support the planet sustain all life.
When we pull together, we can support each other, have fun taking action, and increase our influence – together, we can do anything.

For Teachers

Class activities

Print out the ‘Climate Emotions Wheel’ template developed by the Climate Mental Health Network. Ask your class to fill in the wheel with the emotions that they have about climate change. Validate all emotions and ensure understanding that there are no wrong emotions, and it is normal and reasonable to feel upset or concerned. Have students share and speak to their created wheels and use this to bridge a discussion toward self-care and addressing emotions, both of which are supported by the activities noted below.

Print out the ‘Ups and Downs’ template. Ask your class to fill in the things that lift them up, and the things that weigh them down. Talk about how they might experience these as oscillating ups and downs in everyday life. Ask them how they might be able to seek out things that lift them up if they are feeling anxious or distressed.

Print out the ‘Circles of Control’ template. Ask your class to describe the things that concern them and talk about whether these are things they can control, or things they can influence, or if they belong in the outside circle, of things that they can’t control. Ask them to think about what they think they might be able to influence, and what they can control. Remind them that if they are feeling overwhelmed by outside concerns, they can focus in on the things they can control.

Curriculum Connections:

Activities connect with Australian Curriculum V9 General Capability Personal and Social Capability (self-awareness/self-management).


Climate Feelings Toolkit developed by Karen Grant, Outdoor Counselling.

Climate Mental Health Network (2023). Climate Emotions Wheel Activity.

Margaret Stroebe, Henk Schut (1999) THE DUAL PROCESS MODEL OF COPING WITH BEREAVEMENT: RATIONALE AND DESCRIPTION, Death Studies, 23:3, 197-224, DOI: 10.1080/074811899201046

Who is behind Curious Climate Schools? Curious Climate Schools is run by climate change and education researchers at the University of Tasmania. It’s funded by the Tasmanian Climate Change Office, the University’s College of Science and Engineering, and the University’s Centre for Marine Socioecology (CMS). Curious Climate Schools builds on the first successful Curious Climate project which answered climate questions in communities around Tasmania.

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We acknowledge the Palawa/Pakana people, the Traditional Custodians of lutrawita/Tasmania. We recognise and respect their collective wisdom and knowledge about country and change.
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