Let’s Do This Together
Reducing anxiety by addressing climate change
Can you guess the latest hazard to your mental health? The American Psychiatric Association now recognizes climate change as a growing threat to mental health. Climate change anxiety is associated with increases in aggressive behavior and domestic violence, increased use of alcohol to cope with stress, rises in hospital admissions for people with mental health conditions and increased suicide. Is it any wonder?
The news is as awful as it should be. Somewhere, parts of the planet are constantly under siege. Raging wildfires, heat waves, drought, flooding, hurricanes, tornados are now the norm, not the exception. And most of us have first-hand experience with this, causing increased levels of stress and anxiety. Added to this are concerns about our own contributions to the crisis.
If the last year has taught us anything, it’s what happens in Wuhan does not stay in Wuhan. We are all connected in both good and bad ways. So, it behooves us to think like global citizens, to realize our personal actions do indeed have repercussions.
We can’t solve or face this climate crisis alone. We must all unite in this one goal, and as citizens of a country that has contributed far more than its share of harm to the environment, it’s incumbent upon us to do far more than our share to compensate for it.
Here in the desert, for example, we have a large requirement for air conditioning. So how can we offset that by other actions? If ever there was a place to dry clothes outside, this is it. Let’s make clotheslines a new fashion statement. Could you reduce your carbon footprint to the lowest level possible and then inspire your neighbors to do the same? Could we create eco-blocks, and those blocks build a sustainable neighborhood?
Feeling helpless and despondent is the enemy. Knowing you’re doing your part to the best of your abilities is the anxiety elixir. Do one small thing every day, and you’ll soon see progress, and that will, in turn, generate dopamine and all those feel-good endorphins. Of course, if age and ability hamper these actions, then ask for help. That’s my point — we need to see our neighbors as part of our extended families. For example, it’s exciting to witness the community at our local dog park where people genuinely care for each other, watch out for each other’s dogs and pick up other dog’s poop! Another way to contribute is to share your resources by donating to groups that are doing the gritty work itself.
We have to relearn how to care about one another. We need to pretend we don’t all have cars and instead shop and do errands together or for others. Start by meeting your neighbors and learning their names. The kind of friendly, sociable neighborhoods many of us grew up in can be one model. It won’t be easy, as we are now so isolated in our own techno silos. But there are websites that can help if you use them regularly. Next Door is one that encourages sharing of information, resources and getting to know one another. How about bringing back block parties?
In one town in Washington, an abandoned parking lot became a place to drop off goods that others might reuse for free. The genius stroke was locating it on the road to the city dump, which charged for its service. And because it was a private endeavor, no bureaucracy could entangle it. What idea might you put into action? With help, of course.
We made this mess, and we’re long overdue to clean it up. Don’t wait for governments to legislate solutions. How’s that been working for us? This crisis has been on our collective radar for at least 50 years (it’s what those despised hippies were going on about). Who’s pointing fingers now?
There are many online sites to help you calculate your carbon footprint (the total amount of greenhouse gases generated by your actions in a year). The average per capita in the U.S. is 16 tons, one of the highest in the world. Nature.org has a good calculator tool and provides ideas for improvement. If nothing else, that reality check can be working away in your subconscious, improving your consumption choices.
If you feel stuck or overwhelmed, mindfulness self-hypnosis techniques can help quell your stress and anxiety and motivate you toward action.
You can start small but start soon. There is no later. No someday. There is only now. Let’s do this together.
Roger Moore is a certified counselor and registered hypnotherapist with Palm Desert Hypnosis and can be reached at Roger@HypnosisHealthInfo.com or (760) 219.8079. For more information, visit www.hypnosishealthinfo.com/medical-hypnosis.