There is little use in denying that we’ve reached the point of crisis when it comes to the climate. Every day there appears to be fresh evidence of the inevitability of irreversible environmental damage or alteration. This isn’t just what we receive from news reports or scientific research, either. There are aspects of drought, wildfires, and natural disasters increasingly impacting us or the people we know.
It is no wonder, then, that you may find yourself experiencing climate grief. Also known as ecological grief, this is a sense of preemptive loss you feel for the environment. In many cases, this grief is associated with many of the symptoms you might experience from the loss of a loved one. Depression, anxiety, anger, and deep mourning are common.
We’re going to explore a selection of actions that may help you effectively manage climate grief.
Keep Making Sustainable Changes
One of the key contributors to climate grief is the sense of powerlessness. It can feel as though all the negative changes in the world are too overwhelming for you to make an impact. However, it’s important to recognize even small individual efforts, consistently applied, have a cumulative effect.
Many people aren’t aware there are budget-friendly renovations you can perform to help make your home more sustainable. You don’t even need to perform these updates all at once. Gradual changes over time can get you on the road to fully green living. For instance, replacing incandescent light bulbs with light-emitting diode (LED) alternatives reduces energy consumption significantly. Even something as seemingly innocuous as installing a low-flow showerhead brings down unnecessary water usage.
If you’re a little more ambitious, you may find it psychologically and practically positive to switch to renewable energy systems. Installing solar panels on your roof or in your yard can minimize your reliance on energy providers that produce emissions and put pressure on resources. Nevertheless, simply reviewing local utility providers regularly and switching to those with genuine carbon-neutral policies is a step in the right direction.
Cultivate and Appreciate Green Spaces
The trappings of the contemporary world can often exacerbate preemptive grief or the dread of impending loss. Particularly if you live or work in a city, you’re surrounded by pollution, vehicle traffic, and non-biodegradable waste. Even the technology you live with offers an almost inescapable deluge of data about the environment. As such, one way to manage climate grief can be to take the time to regularly use green spaces.
If you have a property with a yard, your focus here could be to cultivate it into a positive environment. With some planning, you can ensure your yard is a nurturing habitat and co-mingling space for local wildlife. Learn about bird, mammal, and insect species native to your area and what their habitat needs are. Alongside installing local plants, you can make bee hotels to attract essential local pollinators. Your efforts here not only support the ecosystem — you’re also making a peaceful space away from the negative elements contributing to your grief.
It’s also important to gain an appreciation for green spaces away from your home. Many areas provide access to national parks, wildlife reserves, and hiking trails where you can surround yourself with the healing elements of nature. Get to understand the life thriving in these areas and the organizations working to keep these spaces protected. You can find this is a good way to mitigate some of the feelings of grief you’re experiencing. Not to mention that time outdoors is linked to reducing stress, anxiety, and depression.
Connect with the Community
Any kind of grief tends to be more manageable when you have the support of a close-knit community. If there are any positives about the experience of climate grief, one of them is the reassurance that you’re not alone. Recent studies have found that 84% of 16- to 25-year-olds are worried about climate change and 97% of 27-45-year-olds are worried about how potential or existing children will be affected by it. It’s important to seek out other concerned members of the community.
Firstly, make mutual support a priority. This is a difficult time to live in and each of your peers will have varying emotions at different times. It can be useful to join or start a support group for this purpose. Having a space in which everyone feels safe to share and express their grief can be a powerful tool for managing it. This also helps to validate your strong emotional and psychological experiences in a society that too often minimizes the human feelings associated with climate change.
If and when you feel able to, you can make a positive impact by starting or joining community green projects. These could be scientifically oriented, like measuring biodiversity in the area and implementing improvements. It could be educational and help to raise awareness around steps locals can take to live more sustainably. Not only can this empower you to make a positive difference, but you’re also surrounding yourself with a support network of like-minded people.
Utilize Creative Expressions
Creativity has long been considered an effective tool for managing grief. This applies to your climate grief, too. When you’re feeling as though you’ve lost or are losing something vital, creativity can be a way to lift yourself from the darkest places. It’s also a healthy way to channel and express the sensations of depression, anger, guilt, or fear you may be feeling.
Creativity is also a universal human experience. While technical skill sets may vary, everyone is capable of creativity of some form. This could involve you writing a song that directly addresses the worries you have or the anger you’re feeling. It might be painting landscapes to explore your hopes or fears for the environment in the future. Even writing a blog discussing your ideas can be a valuable expressive tool. You certainly don’t have to feel as though you must share the content you make. However, it’s worth bearing in mind that sometimes a creative work can connect with someone who may be struggling with similar forms of grief.
On a practical level, you might consider forms of innovative creativity. This is about putting your technical and problem-solving skills to address an issue. This doesn’t necessarily mean you should expect to channel your creative energies to solve global climate change. However, you may be able to work with community organizations and help develop initiatives to address the hurdles to sustainability in your neighborhood or region.
Be Aware of the Negatives but Seek Out the Positives
One of the most important aspects of tackling climate grief is to make sure you’re not avoiding it entirely. In many ways, anxiety and depression are perfectly reasonable responses to an issue of this magnitude. It may seem a cliche, but we really do only have one Earth and our actions have significant consequences. But it’s important to maintain a healthy balance of the positives to make the negatives less disruptive.
So, why be aware of the negatives at all? Well, it keeps you grounded in the reality of the situation. Unless you’re educated about the current issues that need to be addressed, it’s more difficult to make essential and impactful changes. Your knowledge also empowers you to keep others better informed and encourages widespread action. Some people also find keeping relatively informed gives them a sense of control over the circumstances.
Nevertheless, you often need to put extra energy into finding the positives to balance out the negatives. After all, you’ll passively receive reports on the problems surrounding climate change through the news and social media channels. You actively have to search for the positive things people are doing to make a difference. They do exist, though. Environmental scientists continue to work tirelessly toward solutions. There are frequent innovations in sustainable materials and products. It can also be reassuring how environmentally engaged the rising generations are. You just need to make regular efforts to look for the good news.
Practice Regular Self-Care
Self-care is vital. You’re living at a particularly stressful time and — when left unaddressed — climate grief and anxiety can disrupt your well-being. The activities to channel your feelings and make a positive environmental impact can be constructive parts of the process. However, you must recognize how important it is to separate from the external problems and focus on what you need. Committing to incorporating self-care into your daily life can bolster your emotional, psychological, and physical wellness.
Mindfulness and meditation can be effective self-care tools when it comes to climate grief. This is because they’re rooted in focusing on the present, while environmental anxieties are based on what could happen in the future. Just taking 5 minutes a couple of times a day to sit with your feelings, recognize how they’re impacting you, or simply track your breathing can be invaluable.
Climate grief can be a perfectly natural response to the potential loss of a healthy environment. However, it’s important for your well-being to adopt methods to address your thoughts, feelings, and concerns here. This may involve continuing to make sustainable changes to your home or connecting with your community for mutual support.
While it’s important not to ignore the urgent situation the world and future generations face, seeking positive news and promoting self-care are vital tools to maintain a balance. The road to a sustainable future is not easy, but using your grief in practical ways can empower you to feel less overwhelmed and more energized to make a difference.