The reality of climate change, and the threat to our future if it isn’t addressed, affects different people in different ways. Most of us are concerned, but some people are really frightened and anxious.
It is worth learning how to deal with it.
Climate grief is something that psychologists have identified and they have developed ways of dealing with it. It is more likely to be felt among the young, who will inherit the earth and the problems older people leave them, yet have little political or economic clout to do anything about it.
Studies show that a large number of people feel distress about climate change. You may know someone who is affected by climate grief and you may be concerned for their wellbeing. You may even be feeling deeply anxious yourself.
Feeling fear, anger, guilt, shame, grief, loss or helplessness, some people avoid or deny the issue, or maybe try to feel optimistic via wishful thinking. While these responses may help cope with the distressing feelings, they are generally not helpful because they tend to lead to inaction, when some form of action is needed and beneficial.
Negative responses can lead to burn out and feeling overwhelmed, so that we can become less able to deal with everyday life and certaunly less likely to be part of the change that is needed.
Helpful responses can include:
- Behavioural strategies: things we can do to manage distressing feelings. Taking action, taking a break, having fun & feeling good, maintaining healthy routines, focussing on only a few issues.
- Relational strategies: ways we can use our relationships with others to help us cope. Social support, share our concerns, work together to take action.
- Cognitive strategies: ways we can use our thinking to help cope with distressing feelings. Stopping self blame and guilt, balancing action with reflection, cultivating hope, restoring ourselves mentally.
- Emotional coping strategies: ways we can work with emotions to help cope with distressing feelings. Acknowledging how we feel, being kind, getting in touch with our body, recognising patterns or cycles of emotion.
I have written about these strategies in a little more detail in Coping with climate grief.
Let’s look after ourselves and each other, while continuing the urgent fight to take decisive action against climate change!
The information for this post was taken from Coping with Climate Change Distress prepared by the Australian Conservation Foundation; The Climate Reality Project, Australia; the Australian Psychological Society and Psychology for a Safe Climate.