Tuesday, January 11, 2022

The Debilitating Effects of Climate Anxiety and the Tools to Reestablish Safety

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UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres issued a “code red for humanity” in the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report (see Press Release), creating a sense of doom and debilitating anxiety for many across the globe. The international community is ringing a deafening alarm bell, and it is not abnormal to feel overwhelmed. While many are trying to quickly rectify our mistakes, others are trying to catch their breath and understand what this all means for us now and for the future. We are already at an increase of 1.2 degrees Celsius (1.5 degrees Celsius is the temperature increase threshold). No matter how well we succeed in our efforts to avoid catastrophe, there will still be unavoidable consequences.


As we all become more knowledgeable about the climate crisis, some are feeling inspired to help, while many are immobilized by fear and extreme anxiety. Or like me, both! Mental health professionals work with emotions tied to fear of catastrophe, and whether it is about the environment or interpersonal relationships, it all comes back to the foundation of feeling safe.


When considering life choices and reflecting on decisions, it can feel even more overwhelming when uncertainty about the planet is so actively discussed. I encourage everyone to openly discuss how climate anxiety and anxiety are synonymous concepts that require the same set of tools.


1. First things first, focus on awareness. Adopt a mentality of support and avoid dismissing your own or others’ feelings. Rather than attempting to avert symptoms, recognize they are normal and justified, and then work to name them. Whether it is anger directed towards failures, sadness for loved ones and vulnerable communities, or fear of the unknown, all of these feelings should be noticed, named, and embraced.


“At times we are pushed to focus on the symptoms of anxiety, but it is important to understand that these behaviors are the end result of a long chain of interactions and relationships.” - Caitlin Rose, Owner of Build Resilience


2. Next, adopt a spirit of curiosity. You are not alone. Being curious about what you are experiencing can take you out of your “fear brain.” By shifting the unconscious process that may be happening below the level of awareness and then shifting out of the chronic, survivalist response occurring physiologically, you are now able to be curious about the experience rather than controlled by it.


“A lot of the thoughts and behaviors that we label as problematic are actually strategies that the body and mind are using to attempt to reestablish safety.” - Caitlin Rose, Owner of Build Resilience


3. Lastly, shift your orientation within your environment. These mental and physical reactions are no longer happening to you, but alongside you. Pursue tasks and actions that feel meaningful to you and your community. Immediately share what you are learning with others. Whether acting with your voice through voting, purchasing from companies that reflect your social and environmental values, and participating in a knowledge sharing community, all of these responses strengthen these shifts to become more permanent.


“Rather than manipulating the nervous system to feel safe, the experience of safety and security is accessible even when the nervous system is in chaos. It is crucial to have the tools to develop the sense of safety even when life is unbalanced.” - Caitlin Rose, Owner of Build Resilience


Remember, you are not alone. Leverage the resources available to help bring more clarity and empowerment during this time of uncertainty. Reach out to others in your community. Chat with individuals that you trust to strengthen your toolkit. Take action to help others on the front lines of climate change that may endure more extreme weather events, experience high levels of trauma or displacement, or may lack resources. No matter what, there is always an opportunity to help and get involved.


If you are interested in learning more and signing up to receive weekly resilience tips, check out Build Resilience at Build Resilience (buildresilience360.com) You can sign up for a free, weekly newsletter or connect with Caitlin Rose directly for a free consultation. You are not alone.

Posted at https://sl.advdat.com/3Gj0aM1