Conquer climate anxiety through self-efficacy

What is self-efficacy and how can it help you reduce climate anxiety while making a difference?

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes 

Self-efficacy is the way we talk about climate action at Soapbox Project. It’s the powerful idea that taking action helps you feel better! Verywell Mind defines it for us: 

“Self-efficacy is a person's belief in their ability to complete a task or achieve a goal. It encompasses a person's confidence in themselves to control their behavior, exert an influence over their environment, and stay motivated in the pursuit of their goal.” 

So, how can we practice self-efficacy in our everyday lives?

Here’s what we’ll cover step-by-step: 

  1. READ: How can self-efficacy help us cope with climate anxiety?
  2. WATCH: We can solve climate change…with games?
  3. ACT: How can self-efficacy create powerful climate action? 
  4. REFLECT: How can you continue inspiring yourself and others to make an impact?

If climate anxiety and the uncertainty that comes with climate change keeps you up at night, we’re here to help! 

Fight climate change in a way that works for you.

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"The info is always timely, actionable, and never stale." - Aishwarya Borkar,
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"Making social change always felt so overwhelming until I started reading this newsletter." - Meghan Mehta, Google

Climate anxiety is real. Here’s where to start

🎯 Action step 1 of 4: READ — Let's start by looking at a few articles together.

The impact of climate anxiety on our mental health has been in several ongoing conversations. It’s now important more than ever to practice self-efficacy in building resiliency and reducing anxiety. 

You’ll see that: 

  • 🏛️ Governments are starting to be sued for psychological harm because of their decisions (or lack thereof) on climate change. This Grist article reports that European lawsuits are alleging that climate inaction is even violating human rights. This is a huge deal, because Europe’s human rights courts and conventions don’t mess around. We may see serious policy changes as we continue talking about climate anxiety as a public health and human rights issue
  • 🌎 In a large global study of youth worldwide, 75% described the future as frightening. Check out this World Economic Forum article to see more details on the study. 83% of respondents believe that people have failed to take care of the planet. What a 💩 situation we’ve been handed! No wonder we’re all a walking bag of mental health issues. In the article, 19-year-old climate activist (at the time of writing) says: “It's so damaging to put this problem on the shoulders of young people. Hope needs to come instead from palpable structural action.”
  • ❤️‍🩹 We can feel better by doing better on a personal level. Thankfully, Fancy Scientists are doing important work on unpacking climate anxiety and its implications. This Nature article talks about reducing personal risk to reduce climate anxiety — “While citizen participation in mitigation and institutional adaptation efforts is critical, in the specific context of reducing personal climate anxiety, an arguably more effective recommendation is to plan and undertake personal- and/or household-level climate-risk-reduction-framed climate adaptation. It is this self-perception of control over one’s own situation that anxiety research highlights as a particularly influential lever when it comes to personal anxiety management.”

​In less jargony terms: even if saying no to one plastic straw, for example, “doesn’t really matter” in the grand scheme of things, it does matter in reducing anxiety, which can free you up to take more meaningful action!  🎉

Staying motivated in the pursuit of our goal — in this case, a healthy, safe, joyful planet — is critical. When we don’t have a strong sense of self-efficacy, we are more likely to give up. And when we give up, well, we’ve seen the damage done to our planet even in our own lifetimes thanks to the Bad Guys winning.

Taking on little personal responsibility “quests” in your climate action journey (like composting, bringing your own cup to a coffee shop, or saying no to a straw) can go a long way to building self-efficacy. 

In the meantime, read this article on self-efficacy to learn more about why believing in yourself matters, how to evaluate your self-efficacy, and how to build this into your life. WE CAN DO THIS!

🏁 Checkpoint: This is the end of action step 1 of 4: READ.

Games can heal your climate anxiety

🎯 Action step 2 of 4: LISTEN — we'll watch a short video or listen to a podcast to further expand on our topic.

Let’s talk about extending your life. The little voice in your head may be asking, “What the heck does this have to do with social change?”


Just kidding. This is not (for better or for worse) a pro-immortality article. Instead, we’re going to talk about how to design your life as a game, maximize your self-efficacy, and take control of your choices. 

In this TED talk below, Jane McGonigal, a game designer, talks about how she emerged from a life-threatening brain injury with her new healing tool: a game she invented called SuperBetter.

We HIGHLY recommend the book; the TED talk is basically a condensed version.

Essentially, games can have incredible benefits to our mental health, relationships to others, and our own sense of self-efficacy.

You’ll learn that: 

  • 🎮 Clinical trials conducted at East Carolina University showed that online games can outperform pharmaceuticals for anxiety and depression. Just 30 minutes of online game play a day was enough to create dramatic boosts in mood and long-term increases in happiness.
  • 🫂 There is vast scientific literature to illustrate that when we play a game, we tackle tough challenges with more creativity, more determination, more optimism, and we’re more likely to ask others for help. Anyone know of any tough challenges we might be facing as a society?
  • 💪 Willpower gets stronger the more you exercise it. It works like a muscle. Tackling even a tiny challenge without giving up is a scientifically validated way to boost your willpower. Something as “meaningless” as saying no to a plastic bag can help you build the willpower to eventually run for political office! Who knows!

As a bonus, when we play games, we can boost our physical, mental, social, and emotional resilience. There’s evidence that people who regularly boost those four types of resilience live 10 years longer than everyone else! So let’s live long, prosper, and save the earth. 🌍

🏁 Checkpoint: This is the end of action step 2 of 4: LISTEN.

Here's how YOU can take powerful action on climate change with self-efficacy

🎯 Action step 3 of 4: ACT — Now it's time to do something. Let's go!

Remember: self-efficacy is a fancy word for our belief that we CAN make a difference. Here are five things you can do without waiting for anyone else to get on board! 

1. Join a community of people who care about climate action.

​Our community is waiting for you! When you join a cohort at Soapbox Project, you get an experience that helps you figure out your personal action goals, build accountability, and work towards collective change, all while having a great time. If you’re looking for a friendly, welcoming space that meets you where you are, learn and take action with us!

2. Go to an Hour of Action: a policy advocacy session with Climate Changemakers.

Soapbox isn’t the only climate community out there. Contrary to what capitalism might think, we love recommending other communities! Climate Changemakers is an absolute menace to fossil fuel companies — during their Hours of Action, we band together to dismantle harmful legislature, push for clean, justice-forward change, and take policy action in a non-scary way. Learn more here.

3. Start a journaling habit. 

You can even get a free weekly journaling prompt through The Climate Journal Project, an organization that focuses on helping people cope with climate grief and anxiety. In your journal, you can even document one small action you’re taking every day towards a healthier planet, even if you think it’s too tiny to make a difference!

4. Take 2 minutes to become a micro-philanthropist. 

There’s no easier way to take small, committed actions than to hook up your wallet to save the earth! Download Gen E on your phone to round up every purchase to support environmental causes. If it’s not available in your country, the solution is simple: set up recurring monthly donations to an org of your choice!

5. Brag about your daily actions. 

The most important thing you can do is talk about the climate crisis and what you’re doing about it. You don’t need to change anyone’s mind or confront people to create change — all you have to do is plant seeds of inspiration. Started composting? Share a picture on IG explaining why! Followed a new awesome newsletter? Tell your friends! Got your wedding dress secondhand? Tweet about it until large publications offer to cover your wedding (true story). Remember, you can always tag us @soapboxproject when you want to share something planet-friendly.

Remember, no action is too small. We are building our collective muscle to feel better while doing better, and there’s something so magical about that. 🪄💕

🏁 Checkpoint: This is the end of action step 3 of 4: ACT.

Inspire yourself and others to make an impact

Before we go any further, it's time for you to pledge your commitment. It takes less than 30 seconds to pledge and we can bother you about it in a friendly way, so we can hold each other accountable. Pledge here!

🎯 Action step 4 of 4: REFLECT — what can you commit to? What fresh perspectives can we look at?

While it may not seem like it, you’re an inspiration to us and others around you. Even reading this article is a first step! To get your brains flowing, here’s a quick and easy journal prompt for you to reflect on your climate impact. Step 1) think of ANY climate action you have ever taken, and step 2) write it down.

Step 1: Some examples can include… 

  • Smiled at a flower
  • Learned the name of said flower
  • Planted some flowers in an urban garden
  • Emailed management to ask if you could indeed take over the random plot of land outside you house and thankfully they said yes (which is great because you already did it)
  • Brought a collapsible cup to the bar for water

Yes 4/5 of those are about flowers but our point is ANY action is valid!

Step 2: Submit your action and share it with our community! Click here or on the image below.

This takes less than 2 minutes — unless you’re writing a whole essay, which we would love as well. It’ll be an AMAZING way for us to see what other Soapbox readers are up to, get some inspiration, and share these ideas with our community to create our personal climate action checklists!

We’ll leave you with a parting link to 7 resources to help you cope with climate anxiety by Dr. Britt Wray and Dr. Katharine Wilkinson. Remember to be kind to yourself and give yourself space to feel. Please know that you’re not alone — your voice and individual actions matter! 

🏁 Checkpoint: This is the end of action step 4 of 4: REFLECT.

Check out our membership community for more resources like free weekly events with social justice experts, sustainable product discounts, pre-written email templates, a social impact job board, and in-person hangouts with new friends. Thanks for taking action with Soapbox Project!

Fight climate change in a way that works for you.

💌 Thinking about sustainability can be overwhelming after a busy workday, so we're here to help. Join over 7,000 other busy people and subscribe to Changeletter, a bite-sized action plan that'll take you 3 minutes or less to read every week.
Headshot of Ash Borkar (a woman with glasses and a cardigan)
"The info is always timely, actionable, and never stale." - Aishwarya Borkar,
Headshot of Meghan Mehta speaking at Google with a microphone in her hand
"Making social change always felt so overwhelming until I started reading this newsletter." - Meghan Mehta, Google

We're ready when you are.

Get our free bite-sized climate action plans before you go!

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