3 amazing ways to deal with climate change

A few years ago, Britt Rye was overwhelmed by ecological concerns. Fielding questions from family about whether she and her husband would have children, Wray pondered the grim future they might inherit. At the time, Rye was a communicator of science and could not ignore predictions of species extinction, crop failure and increasingly extreme weather events. Wray, who studies the mental health effects of living in the current planetary crisis Climate changeShe was struck by “a great sense of despair” and found herself crying openly on the train ride home one night.

Of course, Rye is not alone. In America, A study by the American Psychiatric Association(Opens in a new tab) They found that more than two-thirds of Americans are somewhat or extremely concerned about climate change. When of The Lancet It featured 10,000 young people between the ages of 16 and 25 from around the world.(Opens in a new tab) Researchers reported that more than half felt sadness, anxiety, anger, helplessness, helplessness and guilt. (Wray was a member of the research team that published those findings.)

The problem with ecological stress, the blanket term commonly used to describe the problems associated with climate change, is that there is no easy solution. As Ray points out, anxiety is a normal response to situations, but this despair can be so debilitating that a person may need professional mental health help. Even if high-quality treatment is available, it still doesn’t change the fact that the planet is headed towards ecological chaos like politicians. Corporations fail to function meaningfully..

In her book. Generation Fear: Finding Purpose in an Age of Climate Crisis(Opens in a new tab), Ray attempts to chart a way forward for those who are stressed or dealing with ecological stress. Wray’s approach is holistic, combining disciplines from psychology and public health to help readers develop the resilience and emotional intelligence they need to fight for the planet—and survive the dangers that may come.

These capabilities are not only important to people’s long-term security, but also serve as a bulwark against extremism such as ecofascism, a problem faced by a growing number of racial and ethnic groups who view environmental degradation as a threat. In the year The shooter who targeted and killed several black people at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York in 2022; He mentioned ecofascism in the manifesto(Opens in a new tab).

“People are feeling insecure and scared because of what happened,” Wray says. “While some are focused on compassion for other people and other species and wild places because of their environmental values, some interpret this with their own values ​​and beliefs, and organize violence to make them feel more secure.”

Wray covers multiple, often overlapping coping strategies. Generation fearShe shared three strategies with Mashable that people find incredibly useful.

Use eco-stress as ‘super fuel’

Climate change prompts people to feel more than just hard feelings. Existence in nature forces people to think about their mortality, the widespread deprivation and chaos, and the possibility of survival for many. It is not surprising, then, that some initially try to suppress their anxiety and sadness. But Wray offers a different, more nuanced approach.

“If you can have compassion for yourself [those feelings] “Being there and then having to deal with grief related to loss and mortality and start doing hard, uncomfortable work, or worrying about how bad it’s going to be, teaches us things,” says Wray. to the meaning of existence”.

Rather than a crippling burden, ecological stress can be the “super fuel” that helps people learn how to cope and respond. Climate changePerhaps through activism, community building and making different consumer choices, such as driving and using less energy. But first, struggling with the painful emotions associated with climate change, for example, can prompt a person to visualize their deathbed and think about what’s important to them, Wye said. Would they be happy to spend a lifetime chasing money instead of purpose? Do their daily activities match their values?

Wray says this “massive clarification exercise” will help people get into “climate travel”. What that looks like depends on the person, but Ray says he uses his skills, talents and passions to respond to the problem, which helps them stay motivated in their work while giving them opportunities to find meaning and live with purpose.

Don’t skip the ‘inner movement’

Some eager to start their climate journey may want to channel all their efforts into activism, but that can be a mistake, says Rye, without “psychological and emotional resilience training” to help stave off discouragement and burnout. Wray calls this a term he coined “internal motion.” Climate-conscious psychologist Carolyn Hickman(Opens in a new tab) To express the work of being with difficult feelings, without self-evaluation, and learning to integrate them into one’s life instead of trying to avoid or bury them. That, when combined with self-care, can lead to flexible thinking, which is critical to responding to the challenges of climate change.

Critics of this approach call it navel-gazing, or argue that there’s no time to do anything but organize politically, but Rye describes such complaints as a “tired binary.”

“When we are good at taking care of ourselves internally, we can be much better external activists.”

Ray argues that people need to develop such skills A dual view(Opens in a new tab)A concept she borrowed from psychoanalyst Shiri Weber Nicholson. Wray describes this ability as a focus on “the chaos of extreme climate change,” opening up a vision of “imaginative possibilities for a better future.” With that ability, people can hold two opposing thoughts at once, a flexible mindset that makes it easier to gain strength and take action.

Rays also support one’s stretching.Tolerance window(Opens in a new tab)“The psychological space in which to live and feel fulfilled. That window narrows when people feel over-stimulated, which can happen through trauma, stress and depression and other experiences. Despair happens when people are created. It makes it very difficult to fight climate change.” They lose their resilience.

On the other hand, that window is widened with recovery practices that help manage difficult emotions, says Rye. Such strategies include meditation, gratitude journaling, yoga, quality sleep, and spending time with loved ones—basically anything that calms the nervous system.

“When we’re good at doing self-care internally, we can be much better external activists,” says Rye.

Prioritize social relationships

Coping with environmental stress can feel very individual. People will focus on their consumer choices, perhaps buying an electric car and ditching single-use plastic products. Or they may work with a therapist on their feelings. While these aren’t bad tactics, Wray says there’s a lot to be gained from social networking. Of course, it is important to be part of collective efforts to pressure governments and corporations. But when climate change brings any number, relationships also change Accidentsincluding severe weather events.

Rye points to studies of how communities with high levels of social cohesion and social trust cope after a crisis. That Research shows that strong relationships and the ability to achieve common goals together(Opens in a new tab) It produces more positive outcomes in societies where social capital is low. When people come to help each other, it provides immediate and sometimes lasting levels of psychological relief. Maybe that’s why. People with higher relationships may have less(Opens in a new tab) To develop a mental health disorder after a disaster.

Wray tries to imagine a future in which people can use strong social connections and mutual support to rebuild quickly after a disaster and thus experience post-traumatic growth rather than trauma or chronic stress. That might look like using community and religious centers, schools and civic spaces to bring people together to solve problems like how to protect the vulnerable during a heat wave.

“If we continue to ignore this aspect or just ignore it, we’re not serving ourselves well,” says Rye. “We can go back to the old way of life in the community and root with others and do what is necessary to support and respect each other in the way we organize our social life.”

Update: April 11, 2023, 5:00 am EDT This story was originally published in May 2022 and was updated in April 2023.

Update: May 22, 2022, 8:40 am EDT This story is updated because Britt Wray was a science communicator before she started researching the mental health effects of climate change.

If you are feeling suicidal or experiencing a mental health crisis, please talk to someone. 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline You can reach 988. Trans Life Line at 877-565-8860; or The Trevor Project at 866-488-7386. At 741-741, type “START” into the crisis text line. Contact or email the NAMI Helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI Monday through Friday, 10:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m. [email protected]. If you don’t like the phone, consider using the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline chat crisischat.org(Opens in a new tab). Here a List of international resources(Opens in a new tab).

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