Do you ever get anxious about the environment? Do you worry about the impact COVID-19 will have on our futures?
With all the uncertainties surrounding the climate crisis and COVID-19 pandemic, it’s common to feel anxious —anxious about ourselves, our families, our environment, the climate crisis and our future.
You know what, though? It’s okay to be anxious and even afraid. It’s a human reaction and it’s one you don’t share alone as the weight of these uncertainties is shared by so many of us. But while anxiety and fear are reactions that are natural and expected, we shouldn’t stop there.
We need to prepare ourselves to wade through this crisis and for what comes next after it. We need to prepare for the steps needed to proactively care for and save our planet.
To do this, we need to build resilience.
Let’s talk about resilience from a Camp Phoenix perspective and how important it is to prevent anxiety from becoming the new norm in the midst of all these uncertainties.
What is eco-anxiety?
First things first, where is all this anxiety coming from?
In order to understand that question, we have to look at a little something called eco-anxiety. According to Science Direct, eco-anxiety is the “distress caused by climate change where people are becoming anxious about their future.”
If this is exactly how you feel, then that’s what you’ve been experiencing—eco-anxiety.
The important thing to remember is that your feelings are valid.
It’s okay to feel anxious about the planet and how it’s fast deteriorating. It’s okay to be worried about the future while the planet is battling climate change. It’s completely valid to worry about what the future holds for your children on this planet that keeps getting damaged by the very life that it shelters.
You’re not crazy or silly for feeling these things, and we need to let our kids know this. In fact, your reactions show a person who’s kind enough to care about the seven generations after you that need to enjoy all the beauty that Mother Earth has to offer.
Wondering how you can help yourself and others deal with eco-anxiety and this crisis? Look no further than the phoenix, the symbolic bird after which our organization is named.
How the phoenix helps us deal with the current crisis
The phoenix is not just any bird. It’s a bird that bursts into flames upon death and is reborn from its ashes.
It never truly dies, which is why it’s the poster child for resilience in uncertain situations—exactly why our camp is named after it.
What most people don’t realize, however, is that the phoenix signifies much more than just resilience. It symbolizes transformation. This means that to be ready for the great changes that are about to come, we need to be resilient, and that comes with some internal transformation.
We’ll discuss the ways to transform ourselves in the next section.
3 ways we can transform ourselves to prepare for the next crisis
We explained just why the phoenix is symbolic of resilience—its ability to transform itself. This is no different for us as transformation prepares us to deal with any crisis we may find ourselves in.
This is why camp can be a transformative experience for kids. When we take middle-school students from Oakland and transport them to camp every summer, we often see three kinds of internal transformation take place in our campers:
Self-healing is more than just self-care. It means connecting with our ability to heal from within and with nature.
Self-healing involves being at one with your inner-self so that you remain calm through any external turbulence. It involves the habits and practices you build that ground you and tend your mind.
Nature is a great place to start.
For example, our executive director Wakanda always hikes at least three times a week. She hikes without shoes and socks so that she reconnects to the Earth and taps into the healing energy the Earth provides.
The reason why this kind of self-healing practice works is because, when you intentionally build habits that allow you to physically withstand or adapt to change, it’s like transforming yourself into a healing machine.
Once you get into that kind of routine, you reach a point where you invite and welcome change. Change doesn’t scare you anymore. You’re grounded enough to be ready for it.
With self-healing, change becomes an adventure rather than a stressor.
Mother Teresa, the great humanitarian, once said, “The best way to show your gratitude is to accept everything, even your problems, with joy.” This statement is supported by research, which shows that gratitude has been consistently and strongly linked to greater happiness.
We know that if you’re happy, then you can’t be afraid. With this logic, if you practice gratitude, you can’t be anxious or afraid at the same time.
Gratitude simply means being appreciative of what you have.
In terms of the crises we’re currently dealing with, gratitude requires having a state of mind where you’re thankful for all you already have and the good things that you’re experiencing rather than being fearful of what could happen.
What is fear anyway?
To summarize the late bell hooks, fear is actually a tool used by those in the status quo to ensure obedience. In our society, we tend to talk a lot about staying positive and being thankful for what we have, but we say little about fear. In reality, hooks said, we are all terribly afraid most of the time.
As you can tell, fear isn’t the best response method because fear keeps the status quo alive, which means nothing ever changes.
Gratitude, on the other hand, counters this emotion. Practicing gratitude moves us away from feeling alienated and creates a feeling of connectedness to ourselves and everything around us. That’s one way to stay in the right frame of mind when dealing with these crises.
If you’re wondering how you can start a practice of gratitude in your family, try out the following:
When your son or daughter gets home from school, play a little game where they get a dollar or small prize every time they can tell you the good things that happened at school that day. And it has to be on the condition that those good things weren’t the result of some bad things that happened to someone else they didn’t like.
Their initial response might be negative. But as they work through the exercise and list the good things that made them happy at school, you’ll probably notice their whole mood and attitude shift.
You see, gratitude can give you the perspective that you usually lack when your judgment is closed by fear and anxiety.
Once you have gratitude, you’re bound to have a better outlook on life.
Did you know your mindset concerning a particular event can dictate your response?
We already talked about what can happen when you’re in a state of fear.
However, if you’re in a state of healing and gratitude where you’ve steadfastly built resilience, your reaction to that event will be calm and objective. You’ll be able to think through the problem objectively, identify the steps to resolve it and calmly follow through with them.
The difference between the two responses mentioned above is your mindset.
Imagine what would happen if you learned how to create a mindset that allows you to withstand or adapt to what’s to come rather than fear it.
If you think about it, the world has always been in one crisis or another. If everyone keeps approaching each crisis with fear and anxiety, we’ll be causing more problems for ourselves.
Since change is always constant, how do we react to it? By changing our mindset and perspective.
Realize that discomfort isn’t destruction. Crises are inevitable. Change is constant.
A mindset filled with healing, a connection to nature and gratitude helps to approach these situations positively.
In conclusion, feeling anxious in response to the current climate crisis and COVID-19 pandemic is natural. But anxiety shouldn’t be the only emotion you feel. Building resilience and starting the process of transformation is not a day’s work. Take it one step at a time and you’re bound to see the difference in yourself and your outlook on life.
Just like the phoenix, we’re confident that we’ll emerge from this much stronger. And when there are other disasters (which we can count on), let’s prepare ourselves by learning how to transform ourselves and others in a positive way so that we all can proactively respond to whatever comes our way.