Today I am thrilled to share the writing on an awesome guest blogger Tom Walsh.
Tom is an environmental scientist and his article really does hit home on the levels of anxiety and stress that can be loaded onto us via the media. I hope you find this post as thought provoking and insightful as I have.
Dealing with the Environmental Blues
Sometimes it seems things keep getting worse. Every day it seems there is new of yet another species going extinct. Every day it seems that a new link between human activity and climate change is discovered.
Sometimes, in the face of all this news, it can become difficult to not feel despair.
When faced with bad news, It is understandable that you may want to close yourself off in an act of self defence, to ignore that we which find confronting and scary. We are, after all, human. And we have limits to what we can cope with emotionally.
As an environmental educator, I have been taught that I must never use messages that can scare people, or that they find confronting. People would rather ignore the message, than feel the discomfort that acknowledging it would cause.
I was never entirely satisfied with this approach. Whilst I agree that when communicating, it is important to remain mindful of the impact of your message on your audience. This ‘prevailing wisdom’ seemed to be assuming that people are only capable of two responses when faced with bad news, which is to either ignore the message, or risk being rendered insensate by despair.
The truth is that as complex beings we are capable of more than being rendered impotent in the face of bad news, we may get angry, sad, despair, thoughtful, or resolute in our determination to take action. And all of these emotions – though at times they may hurt – reveal nothing more than the depth of our feelings and connection to the world around us.
Our emotions are the means by which we connect to each other and to the world around us. If we deny the emotions that arise from this connection, we deny the connection.
A long time ago, when I was a student, I was struggling with feelings of despair. The problems of the world seemed so huge, and my ability to influence them so small, that I found myself wanting to disconnect and reconsider my choice of career. Then one day a friend took me aside and said the best thing anyone could have said, which was: it’s normal to feel the way I do. That anger and despair were appropriate responses to bad news. And that in time these feelings would pass.
In time I came to understand that the pain I felt, wasn’t so much from despair, but from my resistance to feeling my emotions. That sometimes feelings are just that. Feelings. That they didn’t have to define me. That it’s was ok to feel what I felt.
That knowledge helped, immensely. Because it normalised what I was feeling. It let me know that others felt the same way too.
It is important to acknowledge that sometimes it can be difficult to cope. Things can become too much and you can find yourself focussing only on the negatives rather than the many wonderful experiences and sensations that fill our lives.
Yes, another species may have become extinct today, but there are still many others that remain and deserve to be recognised and celebrated.
Sometimes it can be difficult to know whether you or someone you know is feeling down or stressed, or whether it’s depression, anxiety or a related disorder. If you are concerned please speak to your doctor. If you need immediate advice, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14.