What is Climate Anxiety and Climate GriefClimate anxiety and climate grief is the feeling of sadness, loss, fear and uncertainty due to the impending environmental catastrophe caused by global warming and the unimagineable consequences of collapsing ecosystems, climate refugees and a change to life as we know it. It is no secret that we are at a critical moment in climate action, such that many governments have declared a climate emergency. However, this crisis is challenged by the significant changes that need to be taken and the current lack of action by political leaders, corporations and institutions. It’s no wonder that many people are feeling a sense of anxiety and grief.
How to Turn Climate Grief and Anxiety into ActionA year ago I went through a huge bout of climate grief and anxiety, a deep existential crisis I felt consumed by. I was completely heartbroken and in despair.
Everything felt trivial, no action seemed to be signficiant enough. Statements like “oh well, everybody just needs to do their little part” just annoyed me. I felt they were ignorant comments from people who were still blind to the deep systemic changes that were actually required. Individual actions won’t amount to much when they exist in a system that is fundamentally unsustainable and broken.I actually yelled at my husband and asked him how he could be so flippant about the lack of action that is happening and the devastating world that our children will live in when they grow up. Everything will be drastically different. The youth protesting for bigger action on climate change matter, their grief and anxiety should not be ignored – it will become my children’s grief and anxiety if we don’t change the course we are on. Even the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic barely has an impact on carbon emissions, the reduced air travel, vehicle travel is only going to contribute a drop of 5.5% in emissions. I felt totally heartbroken and helpless to the deep systemic change that needed to happen, but grief and anxiety do not lead to action so here’s what I learned to focus on instead and how you can turn climate grief and anxiety into action.
1. Focus on changing your perceptionOur thoughts create the feelings and actions we take, this is the fundamental cognitive triangle. If you want to stop feeling grief and despair, you need to choose a different thought. This isn’t about lying to yourself about how bad the situation is, or being ignorant about it. It’s about changing how you think about the situation so that it doesn’t lead to the feelings of despair and sadness that then lead to not taking action. For example, instead of thinking that the situation is hopeless and it’s too big for you to change, the new thought could be this situation is sad but I can do something about it. That thought won’t lead to the same feelings, which in turn change the reaction or behavior you take as a result. Instead learn to mourn the things you care about and are grieving. Appreciate that you are a caring person. Accept the seriousness of the situation, and choose your thoughts carefully.
2. Focus on your leadershipI had just read Adrienne Maree Browne’s Emergent Strategy and that saved me from my despair – my presence matters – how I am matters and is reflected in the larger whole. She talks about fractals and how each person is a fractal of the whole, whose small actions and connections create the patterns reflected in the larger system. So how you are in this world, is as important as what you do, ALL OF IT MATTERS. This means that your leadership, from whichever place you are, can affect change in the larger system. This is an important way to think about things because it allows you to consider how your presence in the system can be felt. So it’s not just about individual actions, but how you can influence others through creating small nudges in the system, asking hard questions and showing up for your leadership.
3. Manage your mindset on a daily basisThis is crucial to being able to show-up, serve, and contribute in the important ways that the world needs. If you are still struggling with fear, limiting beliefs, and self-sabatoge then doing the work to manage your mind can help you unlock the gifts that you were given to be able to contribute in the unique way that only you can. It is the key to unlocking your new potential, growing your capacity to lead and live a life of influencing change.
4. Learn to experiment and nudge possibilitiesLeadership is not about wisdom but it is also about being open to possibilities and experimenting new ways to nudge change. Instead of thinking about what would be the greatest solution, or creating that perfect way to be of service, learn to experiment. Leadership is not about perfection but about being able to learn, discern, embody your new knowledge and test new interventions. So just start trying.
If you’re looking for support to move through your grief and anxiety and find your unique leverage point for action and intervention then reach out right now. My process for turning your climate grief and anxiety into action, and identifying your unique way to contribute will help you start feeling powerful, centered and aligned for abundance.