With our inboxes, social media channels, and news sources being flooded with horrible accounts of how climate change is permanently altering life as we know it, it is easy to feel overwhelmed, lost, and even anxious. Too often have I been kept up at night after a particularly bleak story, wondering how we’re ever going to make it past this. And after having a president that openly denied climate change, I quickly became pessimistic about a macro change ever happening and instead began to take the weight of changing the world all onto my own shoulders.
With our own personal troubles, numerous civil rights issues, the pandemic, and numerous other issues in addition to the climate crisis, it is easy to see why many of us are feeling overwhelmed, exhausted and discouraged. It is easy to think that the world is literally on fire and withering away, and I know that many of us take that responsibility onto ourselves; I know that I do. But I am here to tell you that not a single one of us will save the world alone. Of course, we can all make a difference, but it is not your job (or mine) to save the world. The state of the world is from generations of decisions made by countless people. It’s going to be a global effort to make the change as well.
That doesn’t mean we need to develop climate avoidance and just ignore the issues going on entirely. Yes, the easiest solution is to just tune everything out and go about our day. But then the climate crisis will continue to get worse, and so will our eco-anxiety. We can still be active in the change and take care of our own mental and physical health.
An unhealthy habit of mine that I often found leading me down the route of completely wanting to avoid climate news entirely was checking the news right after I woke up or right before bed. This filled me with dread for the rest of the day, and at really low points, I found myself questioning the point of anything I was doing. Engaging with these negative news stories during these times left me restless, unable to sleep, or in a destructive mindset for the rest of the day. So I stopped reading the news during those times. Instead, I have a time of the day I set up to specifically look at the news, so I don’t get too overwhelmed. I usually do this after lunch or dinner. That way, my day has already started, and I won’t stay awake worrying!
Suppose you’re like me and follow a lot of news channels on your social media accounts. In that case, you can either set your social media scrolling for the same time (this is what I do! I find it also helps with doom scrolling and productivity with my day!), or you can simply mute the accounts so that they don’t appear on your feed until the specific time you go to look at them. However, the latter quickly becomes avoidance if you’re not diligent with your news “appointment.”
Another tip that I have found that helps me is discussing the news I saw with a (willing) friend. One of my friends is just as much of an activist as I am, and we both like talking about what’s going on in the world. This allows for us to not keep feelings around the issues internalized. Therefore we don’t feel like it’s our own responsibility to fix this. You could even start a chat group about this or use Reddit threads if you want it to be less of a strict time commitment; however, having people to talk to about these issues also lets us brainstorm other ways to make changes that are sustainable for our own lifestyles and help our planet together.
I was actually recommended by a therapist to tie in a “gratitude” practice into my activism and environmental focus. Often I feel like I’m not doing enough, or I feel guilty when making a “not so eco-friendly” choice. Whether this is because of time, money, or even accessibility constraints, we’re not always going to be able to make the most environmentally friendly choice, and that is okay. The therapist recommended writing down three things that you did that day that were an eco-friendly choice. Whether that was bringing your lunch to work, remembering your reusable bags, using a non-toxic cleaner, taking a shorter shower, or anything else! This will keep your mind in the present rather than worrying about all of the things you couldn’t do.
Finally, I want to tell you that it is okay not to be a 100% activist about every issue. There are so many important stories out there; there are so many communities that need help, there are so many ecosystems that need our support. But as an individual, you or I are not, and cannot be, fully involved in all of them. Yes, we can do our part in educating ourselves on them; that is a huge step that helps enormously. When the issue comes up, we are informed and can spread that knowledge when asked about it. But we don’t have to play the journalist for every story.
There are more and more people becoming aware of what is going on in the world. I have many friends reaching out to me every week asking if I heard about one story or another; when I started writing here at Peaceful Dumpling, I had maybe one a week. The work that we are doing is making a difference. This means that the stories that we might not take upon ourselves to share on our social media or talk about with friends or coworkers will be brought to light by another caring person. We are all in this together, support one another, and we will change the world together.
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Photo: Artem Kovalev on Unsplash