To feel is one of the most courageous things in this world. The people who I have come across in the climate movement are the deepest feelers. It can seem easy to close one’s eyes to the suffering of this Earth and turn away, refusing to feel empathy, refusing to acknowledge the climate crisis, refusing to care at all.
Yet, climate activists do the opposite. We keep our eyes open to the sea level rises, to the withering forests, to the smoke in the air. We care so deeply about addressing the level of suffering of the Earth that we dedicate our lives to helping it heal. So many environmentalists burn themselves out trying to prevent climate change from burning this Earth. Because, with the entire world at stake, is sleep worth it?
With Stress Awareness Month in mind, I find myself grappling with climate grief, burnout, and ecological anxiety. Fighting this climate crisis can feel exhausting. Each morning, I feel like I have to prep myself for a seemingly never-ending battle. When examining my emotions, I realized that by refusing to give myself compassion amidst my grief, burnout, and anxiety, that I was contributing to the broken system that birthed this climate crisis. Our climate emergency is happening because of humanity’s inability to think about, and give compassion to, each other and this Earth. By refusing to give compassion to myself, I was continuing the harmful cycle that currently harms this world.
This introspection enabled me to see that prioritizing self-care is just as important as doing work to help the world heal. By taking care of myself and nurturing my well-being, I am able to approach my work with greater resilience, creativity, and effectiveness, which in turn allows me to leave a more positive impact on the world.
If you have also been struggling with climate grief of anxiety, here are some tools that have been helping me navigate my emotions around climate change:
Find a sense of community – Finding a supportive network of individuals who share similar concerns and goals can help individuals feel less alone in their concerns and provide opportunities for collaboration and collective action, leading to a greater sense of hope and purpose. ACE provides many opportunities for young people to connect with a like-minded community, including its Youth Action Network and ACE Action Teams
Find tangible ways to take action – The weight of climate anxiety can often lead individuals to falsely believe that they are powerless to address the urgent issue of climate change, but this could not be further from the truth. In fact, taking tangible climate action can be a powerful way to find agency, hope, and renewed motivation in the face of helplessness, inspiring individuals to become part of the solution rather than feeling overwhelmed by the problem. You can find all the actions you can take with ACE here.
Practice mindfulness – Mindfulness has been a proven tool to help regulate and calm one’s nervous system. Mindfulness practices such as meditation and yoga can help alleviate climate anxiety by allowing individuals to cultivate present-moment awareness and address their concerns with greater clarity and perspective.
Talk about what you are feeling – ACE created a storytelling initiative called #ClimateTruth to encourage youth to voice their anxiety and fears about climate change, with the goal of building a community of support and breaking down the stigma behind climate anxiety. Share your Climate Truth here.
You can find a list of ACE-compiled mental health resources here
Saiarchana Darira is the Policy Co-Chair of the U.S. Youth Advisory Council to UN Ocean Decade and works with ACE’s campaigns team.
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