Listen to this article on The Unspoken by Nyika Silika Podcast by here.
Did you know that the entire month of May is Mental Health Awareness Month? Hence, it’s the perfect time to talk about Climate or eco anxiety. Described as the fear of environmental damage or ecological disaster, this is very real and it affects many of us. We need to raise awareness of those living with mental or behavioural health issues and to help reduce the stigma.
There are days when I wonder, why am I even doing this? Is anyone even listening? Am I doing the right thing? Being in a space where you are among the few people who understand the threat climate change is having on the planet is overwhelming. You are always working tirelessly towards ensuring either; one, you are able to convey the message clearly and what people can do or are; or two, you are in spaces where you can effect change.
Aldo Leopold said;
“One of the penalties of an ecological education is that one lives alone in a world of wounds. Much of the damage inflicted on land is quite invisible to laymen. An ecologist must either harden his shell and make believe that the consequences of science are none of his business, or he must be the doctor who sees the marks of death in a community that believes itself well and does not want to be told otherwise.”
As we celebrate Mental Health Awareness Month, let’s look at how I handle days when I want to curl up in bed and pretend everything is okay.
One, I look at everything that is happening, write it down and check what I can control and what I can’t. I can’t be able to stop climate change deniers, that is their opinion, but this should not stop me from speaking up, from writing, from creating, from doing what I do best. Currently Kenya is facing a severe drought and action is needed and people, livestock and wildlife are dying in large numbers. The best I can do at the moment is create more awareness because the situation is not getting the needed attention since we are currently in a political season. Learn to let go of the thought that you can control everything.
Two, I find ways to connect with nature especially when I am next to crushing. This could be as simple as staring at the sky, looking at a bird, working on my balcony garden or going on a solo or group hike. When you connect with nature you realise why you are protecting it.
Three, I get creative. Whether it’s through an upcycling project I had held off, writing that blog post I had been postponing, taking a video or a photo of something wild or even tame and being in tune with the entire process of documenting nature. This helps you to remain optimistic.
Four, I have social media breaks. The online world can be toxic especially when all the news you are seeing is of climate disasters and challenges facing our planet that are as a result of climate change. In some cases negative news regardless of the topic can make me go crazy. When I can, I log off – even if it’s for one day. Tune out of negative news and craft a positive mindset. That way you will be able to come back stronger. There is no point in giving more of yourself than you can get back. Take care of yourself. Fill your cup first and let it overflow. Do not burn – out yourself over the climate crisis. Take a break. Always remember that your self care is your responsibility.
However, if your climate anxiety increases over time and nothing you do works, consider therapy. There is no shame in doing this.
There are so many issues that we may face that may not necessarily be about the climate crisis but life in general. Everyday may seem like you are not making any progress but I believe even that tiny progress is important.
What do you do to deal with climate anxiety? Share in the comment section on my social media handles @nyikasilika across Facebook, Twitter or Instagram or even send in your voice message. We are here to help each other thrive mentally in the face of a climate and ecological crisis.