Self-Care Tips for Writing About the Climate Crisis
Suffering from climate anxiety, depression, or grief isn't a mental disorder—it's a mark of one's connection to the world. It shows that you’re able to empathize with people who are suffering and dying right now, and with the nonhuman creatures who are suffering with the whole world. It means you’re not numbed by unconscious defenses—you’re actually in touch with care for the world and feel it, because horrible things are happening to our life support systems.
You’re already taking a huge step in processing the climate feels by writing about the issue: you’re putting it in your art, which means sitting with it and working through it. That’s one of the most important actions you can take. Since we know it can be overwhelming to be steeped in it, here are a few practices that might help.
Talk about it
Whether it’s to your therapist, your best friend, or Jeff, your desk succulent, give voice to some of those emotions so that they don’t pile up and tip over into hopelessness. There’s even a whole network of climate-aware therapists out there.
Climate stories don’t have to be dark. But if you’re researching this stuff, it’s not always going to be easy. Try creating a ritual around your writing day, so that whatever emotions come up don’t bleed into the rest of your life. Why not set the mood and light a candle at the start, then blow it out at the end? Or meditate for a few minutes to bookend the day. Or maybe put on a dance song that makes you feel good at the close of a writing stint (Beyoncé is a great remedy for climate woes). We can honor climate grief and anxiety, or whatever else arises, without drowning in it.
Balanced news diet
When you’re researching for a new script, it can be easy to keep going down deeper and darker rabbit holes (we’ve all been there). Try to balance the deep article dive with something positive—a hike or funny movie with your kid—or set a timer to take a stretch break or a walk. And spend some time reading about the positive as well as the negative: a lot of people are coming together on climate action, not to mention coming up with a ton of cool science and innovations. Even if it doesn’t pertain directly to your story, it’s still good to remind yourself that you aren’t alone in feeling urgent and upset about the climate crisis—and that your writing is part of a communal, ongoing effort.
Touch some earth
Writing involves a lot of sitting and staring at the screen or paper, usually inside. But when you’re writing about the climate crisis—especially if you’re doing it in a city—it’s easy to lose track of the tangible reality of “climate” and “nature.” If you can, take a walk. Pull a Gladiator and touch some dirt. Listen to the sound of water moving. This may sound a bit woo-woo to some of you (hey, we’re called Good Energy—you knew that going in), but your spiritual and physical connections to the planet can ground you—pun intended—when writing about these emotionally taxing ideas. Plus, forest therapy is free! No tree would ever charge you $250 per hour.
Add one action to your week
You’re already doing something important by writing about climate. Know that if you do nothing else, that’s huge. But sometimes immediate, direct action is the best antidote to climate distress. It can relieve eco-anxiety and guilt, and serve to make you feel a little less powerless in the face of this beast—not to mention actually making an impact. Figure out what you care about and how your skills can best be used to address this issue. Whether it’s planting trees on your street, writing to elected officials, protesting, or composting, it all matters and makes a difference. Want a quick action you can do every day or week? Try the Climate Action Now app to take quick actions via Twitter, email, and phone. Or donate to your local river project or favorite nonprofit. While you’re at it, why not call your senator and tell them to do something about climate? You can reach the Senate switchboard at (202) 224-3121 or use call4climate.com.
We can’t not quote Tolkien here: “‘I wish it need not have happened in my time,’ said Frodo. ‘So do I,’ said Gandalf, ‘and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.’”
Visit Climate Mental Health Network and Gen Dread for more resources.
Writing can be an act of self-preservation. Creativity gives us heart and purpose and clarity and the ability to keep going. You can heal yourself just by making up your own fables.