On Environmental Depression

Recently a colleague reached out with a question if I could lead a session on climate/ environmental depression during class time as students have specifically requested a psychologist to talk to them about it.

Some of the questions asked were:

  • How to manage climate anxiety?
  • How to avoid depression, when working in climate science and ecology?
  • How to cope with feelings, while maintaining objectivity in work? How to avoid nihilism and despair? 
  • How can one working in the environmental science field manage a good work life balance, such as being able to enjoy life and stay happy knowing all the scary things we learn and see on a daily basis. 

We talked about the foundation on which ‘non-anxiety’ can be built, such as having the feeling of support, space and protection, trust and endurance. In terms of working professionally with the highly touching topics – to be able to protect oneself, to know own borders, capacities, abilities and inabilities, personal scope – what is possible for me personally in this particular context and circumstances? I shared my own experiences in becoming a clinical psychologist – while visiting various clinics during my studies I have realized that I am not able to work in child psychiatry – I couldn’t see myself as able to provide good help there. I have huge respect for those colleagues who can.

We talked about the importance of:

  • preventive measures of emotional burnout – possibility of having something similar to supervision process, peer groups or intervisions.
  • knowing own values – knowing what is important for oneself and why it is important? Doing check-ins with oneself by the end of the day: Have I lived my values today?
  • being selective with consuming the information that comes in from various directions. Not reading the news everyday and really paying attention to the news with positive initiatives, because they are there, but might not have all the spotlight attention on them.
  • finding the healthy outlet for difficult emotions that might be directed to specific people, entities, previous generations. Emotions need to be recognized and then it becomes possible to see the situation in more productive and solution oriented way.

And most importantly to give oneself permission to live. To be true to own values and not to get overwhelmed by new contexts, making our best in not falling into conformism. To remember that even the small actions are important, as they continue to live in one form or the other.

If your organization has a similar need – to have a questions and answers session on the topic of climate / environmental depression or dark future anxiety – please reach out!