The Ancient Order of Druids in America recognizes that with increasingly erratic weather patterns, climate change, and increasing urgency surrounding the 6th mass extinction of life on planet earth, it can be very difficult to practice nature-based spirituality. Thus, in consultation with Meg Mattingly of Willow Tree Collective, a therapist specializing in climate distress, we have developed a set of resources for our members. These resources include a workshop recording, links, and practices.
What is climate distress?
Climate change is impacting individuals and communities at a growing rate. However, this is not a new phenomenon, especially for indigenous communities and people of color. They have experienced the loss of land, place, and security for generations. Although the experiences are not new, there is a growing movement within the mental health community to acknowledge and support folks experiencing anxiety, grief, loss, PTSD, and a multitude of feelings around climate change. There are varying words to explain this experience; climate anxiety, climate distress, eco-anxiety, eco-grief, and solastalgia. Some of the threats and impacts folks are navigating currently include:
- Overall impact on mental health
- Loss of community and/or home
- loss of place of connection & exploration
- Loss of food & water access
- Loss of flora & fauna
- Loss of culture
- Loss of stability
- Threat to spiritual practices & growth
- Increase in feelings of anxiety, helplessness, overwhelm, fear, sadness, anger, apathy, etc.
When we feel threatened, it is wired within us to respond by fighting, fleeing, or freezing. We can see this playing out through denial, avoidance, or burnout from extensive activism. around climate change, to name a few examples. What is the right answer? How do we navigate the vastness of this growing problem and find support? Although there is not a simple answer to this, there are ways to navigate the unknown through community and support. We are wired for connection and no one should be walking this path alone.
Climate Distress Workshop for AODA Members
In February 2023, we worked with Meg Mattingly of Willow Tree Collective to offer a Climate Distress Workshop. Here is a link to the PDF of the workshop: Climate Distress Workshop.
You can also watch the full workshop on Youtube (embedded here):
Helpful Tools to Consider:
- Reach out to members of the AODA community; open conversations in our forums or Discord server. Recognize that others are also experiencing these feelings.
- Find a climate-aware therapist through the Climate Psychology Alliance
- Take social media breaks & follow hopeful accounts. Fill your thread with hope, not just doom. Take breaks from the news or social media.
- Get outside. Take breaks to connect to Mother Nature. Learn, and be open to what she has to teach.
- Make space for gratitude. On days it feels challenging, is it possible to zoom in and look at the small moments? Grateful for a favorite tree, for the sunset, for morning hugs? Continue to seek connection to the outside world. Practice gratitude when outside (guided meditation below)
- Seek out community- Isolation can feed our feelings of overwhelm and hopelessness. (See below for a list of online groups)
- Reach out to AODA leadership for support. Inquire about internal opportunities to discuss this topic with other members.
Mindfulness & Grounding Exercises
Created by Tara Brach, this simple mindfulness practice is a useful tool to pull on when we are feeling overwhelmed in our feelings of doom or hopelessness.
Recognize what is happening;
Allow the experience to be there, just as it is;
Investigate with interest and care;
Nurture with self-compassion.
Deep breathing helps you to feel more relaxed and centered. When you are feeling overwhelmed, take a few minutes and practice breathing with intention. Notice what happens when you take a minute to slow down and notice what you are feeling and experiencing.
While standing or sitting, draw your elbows back slightly to allow your chest to expand.
Take a deep inhalation through your nose.
Retain your breath for a count of 5.
Slowly release your breath by exhaling through your nose.
Do this for at least 5-10 rounds. Notice what you feel in your body after going through several rounds of breathing.
Engaging the Senses (Adapted from Joanna Macy’s Active Hope)
Next time you see a tree or a plant, take a moment to express thanks. With each breath you take in, experience gratitude for the oxygen that would simply not be there save for the magnificent work plants have done in transforming our atmosphere and making it breathable. As you look at the greenery, bear in mind also that plants, by absorbing carbon dioxide and reducing the greenhouse effect, have saved our world from becoming dangerously overheated. Without plants and all they do for us, we would not be alive today. Feel the physical touch and rhythm of this gratitude as your lungs fill and exhale.
Accessing Gratitude (Adapted from Joanna Macy’s Active Hope)
Prompts to write about or practice alone with a partner or group:
- Some things I love about being alive on earth…
- A place that was magical to me as a child was…
- Some things I love doing are…
- A person who helped me believe in myself…
- Some things I appreciate about me are…
Honoring our Pain (Adapted from Joanna Macy’s Active Hope)
Prompts to write about or practice alone with a partner or group:
- When I imagine the world we will leave those who come after us, it looks like…
- One of my worst fears about the future is…
- The feelings about this that I carry around with me are…
- Ways I avoid these feelings include…
- Some ways I can use these feelings are…
Climate Distress Resource Support
Online Communities & Workshops
- Good Grief Network– Find a group or become a facilitator
- Active Hope– Workshops and training offered for free around navigating climate change and its impact on our mental well-being.
- Climate & Mind Groups– An extensive list of groups and resources
- Eco Anxious Stories– offering workshops and creative outlets to write about personal experiences with climate anxiety.
Informative Reading & Resources
- Climate Psychology Alliance reading list
- The Work that Reconnects
- Climate Awakening
- Climate Psychiatry Climate Toolkit
- Climate Psychology Alliance Therapist Directory
- Climate Change & Happiness
- A Sustainable Mind
- Good Grief Network Podcast
- Climate Trauma is Real. Could nature be the cure?
This guide does not serve as a substitute for mental health services. If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, please call the 988 suicidal hotline or visit 988 lineline (in the US) for support.