Have you heard of Eco-Anxiety and Eco-Grief? For those of us who are feeling despondent and helpless about our environmental challenges, this may already strike a chord. It's a phenomena that is wholly unique and relatively new. At no other time in human history have we had to face such an existential threat to our individual and collective existence. Not only of humans, but of millions of other species we share this precious world with.
The revised terms of climate emergency/global heating from climate change/global warming indicate a real sense of urgency and mirror the sixth mass extinction we are experiencing, the Anthropocene, where human activity has been the dominant influence on climate and the environment.
As the reality of our situation on this planet becomes ever more evident, we are experiencing emotions such as rage, frustration, grief and deep sadness... at the loss of our biodiversity, ecosystems and the beauty and tranquility of the natural world. A loss that threatens the food we eat, the air we breathe and the natural safe spaces that nourish and heal us. You may be all too aware of your own responses to this burgeoning crisis or it may be creeping up in small ways, slowly impacting on your daily life and relationships, casting a heavy and uncomfortable shadow over all that you hold dear. If not, you may be aware of indifference and denial, a common response in the face of this crisis and a perfectly normal protective mechanism reaction.
If you are struggling with the enormity of this, it is important to talk about your experience with like-minded souls and express/feel these difficult emotions. There is still much denial and cognitive dissonance around this issue, but slowly, we are waking up to a reality that demands drastic action, on the part of us all, as well as political and cultural systems and institutions. It is, in essence, a systemic problem.
Failing this, the alternative? - a gut wrenching acceptance of a near term ending, an extinction... in whatever form that may take and the associated losses. The prospect of this is frightening. Other emotions such as anxiety, shame and guilt further muddy the waters.
The Climate Psychology Alliance offer psychological and psychotherapeutic therapies for people who are struggling in these times and they themselves have noticed a marked increase in referrals on this very subject.
The work of eco-philosopher Joanna Macy and her "Work that Reconnects" has proved helpful to thousands of people in providing a form of group work designed to foster the desire and ability to take part in the healing of our world, and each other.
In my own practice as a bodyworker I have seen an increase in anxieties about the state of the Earth. Alongside talking openly to others, Shiatsu and other forms of bodywork can be beneficial in exploring your tensions, fears and holding patterns around this subject. The simple healing and grounding touch of Shiatsu can ease a frayed nervous system and encourage a calm resting in the here and now.... a peaceful antidote to worrying about an uncertain future and a reminder that we have a choice of response in these testing times.
It is reassuring to know that there are sanctuaries to be found, in the physical world and within the depths of our minds and hearts. I invite you to seek out your safe spaces, the people that nourish you, the places that give you peace, the time to explore your heart and your bodily tensions, with a compassion and tender acceptance.
Rage can activate and motivate. Direct that love and/or anger into action - in the world, in whatever form that works for you, whether as a model parent, grandparent, uncle, aunt, brother, sister, neighbour or environmental activist! To speak your truth, to feel the pain, and remain vital and resolute in that action.
I think us humans are very short-termist. Can we catapult ourselves 30, 70, 100, 700 years into the future? What conversations would we have with our descendants? Could we tell them sincerely we did our best in our short finite lives to ensure they could come into existence and live varied and exciting lives in a thriving natural world? How worthy an ancestor can we be to our family members not yet born?
Sit on a cushion, listen to the wind in the trees, stretch, do Yoga, ball your eyes out, laugh like no one's listening, kick a ball, punch a pillow, climb a tree, visit the places between land and sea, be with your tribe, dance like you've lost your mind, drop the worry of what others think! Grieve! Get some blissful bodywork and get to know yourself. There is still much to be hopeful for..............look after yourself first and foremost, and ask yourself this question -
What are you going to do with your one wild and precious life?