Climate Trauma - reposted from 2009

This blog was posted in 2009 by Gillian Caldwell "Consultant on changemaking, serial social entrepreneur, attorney and film maker, now leaving Global Witness after 4 yrs as CEO in London and returning to the DC area." She begins, "I have spent my lifetime face to face with some of the most brutal and inhumane acts ever committed, but nothing has been as traumatizing for me as trying to get action to tackle the climate crisis."

Read the blog here including links to Gillian being interviewed by Lise Van Susteren, a US psychiatrist who has written extensively on climate breakdown and mental health effects including in the 2017 American Psychiatric Association Report.

At the end of the blog are Lise Van Susteren’s practical tips for coping as reposted here:


The Dos
• Take care of yourself physically and spiritually, through healthy living and maintaining a balance in your professional and personal life.
• Physical exercise is essential -- endorphins, the body's natural pain killers, are secreted in response to exercise. Endorphins help fight psychic pain, too. Exercise also boots your immune system. If you are stressed out and getting sick a lot -- you need regular exercise. Swimming can be very soothing.
• Get out of doors as much as possible -- connect with the forces that drive you and give yourself up to the beauty of nature in the present. Your energy to continue the battle will be rejuvenated.
• Remember that you are not alone. There are lots of other people who may be just as traumatized as you are -- they just aren't talking about it. Some people are distracted by jobs that don't constantly expose them to the realities. Unlike you, they can get away from it for a while.
• Diversify your work and your life: force yourself to participate in activities not related to climate.
• Reinforce boundaries between professional work and personal life. It is very hard to switch from the riveting force of apocalyptic predictions at work to home where the problems are petty by comparison. If you haven't found another solution: Take 10 mins, close your eyes, shut your brain down. If you don't know how, Google "How to meditate."
• Connect with your fellow climate warriors: Gather - Play games, dance, tell jokes. There is nothing like a laugh. Don't talk about climate!
• Your fears are realistic. But what you can do, or what you expect you can do, may not be.
• Personal therapy can help. You wouldn't be the first person to conflate some personal problems with what is happening to the planet. Although "we" are working on it, many professionals may not yet "get" the problem with climate.


The Don'ts
• Overwork
• Having trouble sleeping? Avoid climate related work at night. Make sure to cut off the computer at least 2 hours before bedtime. The blue light emitted by computers suppresses a hormone that triggers sleep more than light from other parts of the spectrum. Additionally, turning out lights is not only good for the planet -- the resulting incremental darkness sets the body up to sleep. Also, did you know that it can take as many as 9 hours for your body to completely break down caffeine?
• Believe that you are invulnerable. In fact, admitting what you are going through makes you more resilient.
• Ignore signs & symptoms of burnout. Like an overused muscle -- without some kind of rest or intervention burnout will only get worse.
• Forget that understanding the material does not require that you actually experience what is being spoken about.
• Lose focus on the essential tasks.
• Don't give up! Despite the forecast -- we are working together like never before.

Image: Standing by a Greenlandic melt water stream - Persistent melt in 2008 lifted the snow cover from a low-lying area of Greenland’s ice sheet, revealing a rough terrain crossed by melt water streams. CREDIT: Thomas Neumann, NASA GSFC



Climate Psychology Alliance

© Climate Psychology Alliance 2021. Site by Arctic Bee