OPINION

The importance of acknowledging climate distress

The importance of acknowledging climate distress

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a tough time for most, with wide-ranging impacts from lockdowns and business closures, home schooling and not being able to see family and friends.

Tonight, we're expecting to hear news of a new report highlighting the sense of urgency needed to take action on climate change.

It can be a lot to take in.

So, how can we best hear and respond to this alarm, caring for ourselves and others while mustering motivation for desperately needed action?

The research of climate psychology tells us that rather than suppress our distress, we need to recognise it as a healthy response to the climate crisis.

If we are not feeling some level of fear and grief, we are in denial.

Acknowledging the myriad feelings of distress we have in response to climate breakdown is crucial for sustained action in response.

Our feelings show us how much we care about our world, our communities, our lives and our loved ones.

This caring is the basis for the action and change our world needs from us all right now.

We need to use this Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report as a stimulus for reaching out to others, not only to share ideas about what we can do in response, but to ask one another how we feel.

Climate distress is difficult, if not impossible, to bear alone. Initiating a conversation with colleagues, friends or family members about how you feel in response to the latest climate news lets everyone validate their feelings.

There can be great comfort in learning we are not alone in how we feel.

There are a number of group support approaches based on sharing and carefully listening to climate distress, in a process psychotherapists call 'holding and being held'.

This allows people to bear uncomfortable feelings and develop a shared sense of purpose.

This is what our leaders are supposed to help us do.

True leadership can hold the fear and grief evoked by the climate crisis and offer a vision for the future that we can work towards together.

It's important to be kind to yourself when you hear this latest news.

Try not to take in more than you can digest, taking breaks when you need to.

Now is a good time to join a climate action or support group or even think about creating one.

And if you need more support, seek help from a climate-aware GP or counsellor who can recognise and validate your feelings of climate distress.

Researcher Dr Sally Gillespie and psychiatrist psychotherapist Dr Charles Le Feuvre are members of Psychology for a Safe Climate, an organisation that facilitates workshops nationally to support people engaging with climate issues.

This story The importance of acknowledging climate distress first appeared on The Canberra Times.