Earth Day & Climate Grief: What We Can Do to Feel Relief

Did you know that the Earth’s climate change and pollution can contribute to toxic stress? This Earth Day, the NYS TINRC would like to raise awareness of the Earth’s changing atmosphere and its effect on us. We’ll also discuss how to care for ourselves and the planet during these uncertain times.

What is Climate Grief?

Climate grief is anxiety or general discomfort resulting from abnormal climate changes. For example, a short break from the winter weather can feel amazing when we experience a 65-degree day in February while living in New York. However, some may feel grief because we know this isn’t natural in our climate. The looming feeling of “something’s not right” can contribute to toxic stress. Sometimes, the thought of trying to “fix” the planet, especially as natural disasters keep happening, can result in climate grief, too. When the problem at hand feels too difficult or large to deal with on our own, we can become overwhelmed and hopeless in the situation. Climate grief is both for the loss and damage of the Earth’s climate and what may be coming in the future.

How are people affected by the changing climate?

Inclement weather, such as flooding, severe hurricanes, and extreme temperatures, can take a big toll on our mental and physical health. These issues lead to an overall higher leveler of suffering, damage, and strain on the environment and can lead to toxic stress. Low-income individuals are disproportionately faced with these issues.

In the summertime, extreme heat can be dangerous. Waiting at the bus stop without air conditioning, walking long commutes to work in direct sunlight, and higher electricity bills all contribute to toxic stress. Victims of natural disasters who cannot afford to pay for home damages add another layer of stress to the situation. A statistic from psychiatry.org states that natural disasters can cause “…high-risk coping behavior such as increased alcohol use, and mental disorders such as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress.” Pollution in the air, water, and land can cause harm to our physical health. It may expose us to other illnesses later in life, too. The National Library of Medicine found that unhealthy environments can harm our brains. It can also result in learning disabilities, memory problems, and attention issues. Minority groups are greatly affected by poor air quality. Harvard University found that “72% of the population is of color in the U.S. counties with the worst air pollution.”

Spending Time Outdoors Improves Our Wellbeing

University of California Davis Health Center says that nature can lower your anxiety. They also reported that outdoor time can help with depression, concentration, and attention.

Connecting with nature and spending time outdoors is so important for our holistic health, but pollution, changing temperatures, and inclement weather are the results of a wounded planet. What can we do to help ourselves and the Earth?

How Can We Take Care of Ourselves Through Climate Grief?

Go Outside

Spending time outside is very beneficial for our mental health. We can enjoy the view, read a book, or meditate. Practicing Breath-Body-Mind™ classes in quiet spaces outdoors can help soothe our nervous systems.

Get Moving

Exercising outdoors has many benefits for our mental health and physical well-being. Visiting your local park with friends or family can help you relax. Walking after a long day of work or school is refreshing.

Practice Meditation

Meditating is a great resource for re-centering ourselves and quieting our minds. Practicing these techniques outdoors can offer advantages. We can breathe fresh air, hear bird sounds, and connect with nature. For simple practices you can use, join us for our BBM practice sessions. These are offered virtually every Tuesday.

Earth Day & Climate Grief: What We Can Do to Feel Relief

Ways We Can Take Care of the Planet

Volunteer

Making positive changes in our community can also help our mental health. Spending time with others outdoors can also create a collective sense of accomplishment. It helps build community while also helping keep our neighborhoods clean and enjoyable. Try organizing a trash pick-up session or starting a community garden. Connecting with our neighbors through nature is a great way to relieve stress.

Use Less Plastic

Single-use plastic is very common. It’s found in almost every household, restaurant, and market. Long after we toss plastic, it can stay in the environment forever. Microplastics are found worldwide and in people, too. On average, people “ingest a credit card worth of plastic per week.” To help ourselves and the planet, we can try to look for plastic alternatives. For example, we can bring a reusable mug to our favorite coffee shop or use beeswax wrap instead of a plastic sandwich bag.

Start a Compost

Creating compost at home or in the workplace is a great way to reduce food waste. It also keeps organic matter out of landfills. Composting can also be beneficial for our own environments. Using compost at home can create healthier soil and conserve water in our gardens or yards.

Through our changing climate and uncertain times, the NYS TINRC offers wellness resources for individuals and organizations to help cope. Together, we can use trauma-informed practices in our everyday lives to help us become more resilient to toxic stress. Visit us online to view our mental health resources. Sign up for our newsletter for upcoming events and industry updates.

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