If that's how it sometimes feels in these troubling times, read on for some top tips for coping with "eco-anxiety" or "climate-grief".
Eco-anxiety and climate-grief are fairly new buzzwords that point to an age old catchphrase that captures how it feels to be living in a time of great upheaval and change. While some folks seem able to carry on with Business-as-Usual, for many of us the very real signs and symptoms of the Great Unraveling of 'the system' and eco-systems brings up great feelings of overwhelm, anxiety and despair.
But all is not lost! I've been delving into these realms for many years now and know from my research and my work with clients what helps bring soothing and solace to troubled souls. So here are my top tips for building personal resilience.
Top Tips for Reducing Eco-Anxiety
#1 Reconnect with Nature
Develop practices that deepen your connection with the natural world, with Life on Earth, with the place of humans in the circle of living beings.
There are many different ways to do this, from a simple daily or weekly 'sit-spot' practice (where you simply sit and listen and observe the living world around you) to gardening, tree-planting, permaculture, rewilding and restoration activities.
We protect what we most love.
Deepening our sense of connectedness with Nature ensures that our habits and behaviour patterns are aligned with regenerative ways of living. This also has the benefit of really nourishing the part of us that knows we aren't separate from the living world, that living in a more nature-based, interconnected way is enriching, soulful and enlivening.
In a sense, the way in which Western 'civilisation' drives everyone and everything to speed up and do more and more, in less and less time, has got us into this big mess. So slowing down is a radical act that will support us in our personal wellness, as well as in how we move and act in the world.
" The times are urgent, let us slow down" Bayo Akomalafe
Being in Nature offers serveral ways to support you in exploring where you are in relation to the natural world and how best to journey to where you'd like to be. It's really about learning to pause, slow down and simply BE, before moving into action.
#2 Re-connect with Others
Getting involved in community projects and events with other people, whether in-person (when it’s possible again) or online, is a great way to feel that you're not alone. A problem shared truly is a problem halved!
Our lives are full of rush, busy-ness and screen time, all of which contribute to our sense of isolation and separation. Getting together with others is a great antidote to this very modern phenomenon. Whether you join the allotment society, a tree-planting group, a community litter-pick, a food co-op, or something else, getting together with others (while spatially distancing within current lockdown guidelines of course) is essential if we are to thrive in the face of all the environmental,economic and social troubles that we face.
Being in Nature offers a number of community events and online gatherings, not least our Work That Reconnects workshops. These bring people together to face and share our individual and collective responses to the global crises we're in. We offer some evidence-based strengthening practices so that you leave with a deeper sense of connection, supported to make our own unique contributions to our community. See our Services & Events page here for details of upcoming workshops through the autumn.
#3 Reframe your Perspective
There are many possibilities that come under this Top Tip.
The field of Positive Psychology has proven that developing a regular gratitude practice is one of the most successful ways we can move from despair or hopelessness to happiness and peace of mind.
Other practices include things like mindfulness or meditation, self-compassion and avoiding listening to the news and reducing time spent on social media.
One of my favourites is developing a sense of authentic 'active hope' in which taking appropriate regenerative action helps to engender optimism.
Working with gratitude and active hope are core principles and activities for my work at Being in Nature. I offer services that work with these principles, in one-to-one and group sessions.
"Hope is not the conviction that things will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out" Vaclav Havel
#4 Learn about systems theory and the interconnectedness of all things
This is also re-framing your perspective but I think it merits a Top Tip of its own as it's so mind-blowing! And we can also reassure our conscious minds by understanding the fractal, holographic nature of the material universe.
The atoms and molecules of our bodies are made of what we eat, and all life on earth arises from the living soil (which is built from many organisms that have died). All the elements here on Earth literally came from stars exploding and then the elements of carbon, nitrogen, hydrogen and so on condensing to form our planet.
This short video illustrates this beautifully.
So we are made of Life that is 3.8 billion years old!
Systems Theory tells us that everything here on Earth (and further afield) is part of one whole living system. The micro actions we take, personally or together with others in our local place, literally have an impact on the macro level, across the planet, because we are not separate from the whole.
Learning about this has been one of the most inspiring and comforting things I have discovered. And it's not really new science, ancient indigenous wisdom keepers and the core spiritual teachings of the major religions have been telling us this for eons. We could say that science is just beginning to catch up with the wisdom traditions, or perhaps go full circle.
And knowing this helps us develop a sense of agency and response-ability. Every action we participate in really does make a difference.
#5 Lifestyle changes
My invitation here is for each of us to examine our own consciences and consider what changes we might make so that we live more lightly and harmoniously as part of our living Earth.
There are endless debates on social media about things like whether veganism is good or evil, whether flying does or doesn't burn more carbon per seat than driving the same distance in a car, and whether electric cars are actually all that carbon neutral, or whether the rare minerals and hidden embedded carbon costs make them problematic.
Rather than get into all that nitty gritty, I recommend researching, doing what you can afford to do and what feels possible and realistic for you in the areas of what you: eat, buy, emit (carbon wise), restore/regenerate (in Nature and/or in your community),create and dispose of.
As eco-philosopher and root teacher of the Work That Reconnects, Joanna Macy, says "we've been treating our Earth as if it were a supply house and a sewer". But the truth is the planet's resources are limited and there is no such place as 'away' to keep on dumping stuff. All that plastic, old mobile phones, unwanted clothes, broken cars and so on have to go somewhere and we're still a long way off a circular economy, in which everything is reused and recycled.
To summarise, I invite us all to watch what we consume and do so as ethically as we can manage, according to our circumstances and the constraints of the society and economy we're currently inhabiting.
#6 Be an activist
Whether or not you’re tempted to be involved in activist movements such as Extinction Rebellion, fracking protests, or anti-nuclear campaigning, there are many ways to make your views and voice count. And doing something to make a difference is a good antidote to despair.
I call this 'turning anxiety into action'
I encourage my clients to get involved in whatever causes resonate most and some actions you might also consider are: writing to or speaking with your MP about things you'd like them to propose or vote on; lobbying your local councillor; campaigning; signing petitions; protesting; civil disobedience (non-violent direct action or refusal to pay taxes, for example). See my previous blog post #BeautifulActivism for more ideas.
While we can each make a personal positive contribution, with some of the suggestions in the previous Top Tips, this one is focused on putting pressure on governments and corporations to act more responsibly. Ultimately, although people-power can transform society, the big players have so much leverage and could make whole-system change a lot easier for us all!
So, let's keep up the pressure on them to do the right thing too!
In a nutshell, connecting with Nature and taking action are great antidotes to the overwhelm and anxiety that is rife in these turbulent times. If you'd like to explore the ways in which I can support you in your own explorations of all this, please get in touch here, or book a complimentary coaching session with me directly here.