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Coping with Crisis

How Novasutras Helps People Deal with Anxiety and Grief in the Face of Climate and Extinction Crises

Dr. Michelle Merrill was interviewed for an article about climate grief that was published last month by a local weekly paper.

Anxiety about ecological catastrophe inspires new forms of climate organizing

Good Times Santa Cruz

When you start paying attention to the science, when you look at the latest news, you realize that we are living in very dangerous times. Climate chaos, species loss, and political upheaval are already here all around the world, and the threats appear to be worsening. In an April 2019 survey from Yale University, more than 1 out of 5 Americans said they are “very worried” about climate change. 

[Ecological grief is] very present right now, because we’re very aware of the effects of climate change. People are realizing that it’s an existential threat, and that there’s a possibility of human extinction.” 

Dr. M. Merrill, in Good Times Santa Cruz

When contemplating the disintegration of global human civilization coupled with widespread extinction and ecological destabilization, mere concern is too mild a response. Small wonder then that many people are finding this news so stressful, contributing to feelings of rage, despair, and fear that can sometimes be overwhelming.

“The first and most important thing to recognize is that you’re not alone,” says Merrill. It’s important to acknowledge grief about climate change with others, she explains, while realizing that there are also many reasons for gratitude and joy. 

“‘Climate Grief’ and Doomsday Support Groups” by Andrew Steingrube, Good Times Santa Cruz

The American Psychological Association’s top recommendations for dealing with climate-related anxiety and depression include:

  • developing self-regulation and active coping skills
  • maintaining practices that help individuals find meaning and purpose
  • strengthening the bonds of community, culture, place and family

In Novasutras, we help one another cultivate active coping and self-regulation skills through practices like meditation and shinrin-yoku. We also encourage regular activities that help to provide a sense of meaning, including work to reduce the impacts of the climate crisis through both personal behavior choices and engagement with activism for larger systems change. Developing deeper awareness of ubuntu and agaya enhances recognition of our connections to family, place, culture, community, and all of Nature.

When you consider the climate crisis and other ecological threats, what emotions are most present for you? How do you respond? What helps you cope?

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