My Eco Anxiety Toolkit
IMAGE: AERAN SQUIRES of WILD ACORN
ESSAY: KATE WEINER
Making sense of a world marred by climate catastrophe and social injustice is freaking hard. Although I am madly in love with my luscious life and our precious planet, I wrestle with eco anxiety. I don’t always know how to walk through the anthropocene with openheartedness and a commitment to positive change.
The more I grow into my identity as an artist and activist, the more I learn how to live with my eco anxiety. Even though these last few years have wrought incredible strife, I have also nurtured my capacity to create joy, cultivate ceremony, fuel creativity, and foster community. Thanks to the support of my friends and family, the integration of practices to sustain my spirit, and my study of mindfulness, I feel the kind of peace and empowerment that wasn’t possible for me when I first walked into this work. I believe that my joy is as vital to my environmental stewardship as my grief and I am learning, everyday, how to hold this multiplicity in my heart.
For me, however, my eco anxiety spikes during the fall. Autumn has always been my favorite season—the crisp air, the sumptuous golden hours, the crackling leaves—and seeing this cherished season change sparks deep grief. I am reminded, as I am with every wildfire, every protest against a pipeline, every drought, every statistic on species extinction, of how deeply we are wounding ourselves and our world through our desperate hunger for fossil fuels.
And so when I am mired in frantic mourning, I turn to my eco anxiety toolkit to feel resourced. Although I think it is vital and valuable to honor, listen to, and learn from our grief, anxiety is very different. When I’m anxious, I’m not rooted in reality. I’m swirling through some existential spiral of moodiness and manic energy. Every decision I make is fueled by fear.
I want to note that the truest remedy for eco anxiety is to take action. Engagement with our community, commitment to political organizing, and a willingness to wake up to our lives is potent medicine for fear of climate catastrophe and social disintegration. I am reminded when I am in the heart of this hard and healing work of something that my college mentor Anu Sharma shared with my class during a seminar: paralysis is a luxury. Wallowing in anxiety is not afforded to folx from frontline communities whose only recourse is to hustle to preserve their homes, lives, and families. Given that our fights are intersectional, it’s vital that each one of us learn how to be in active conversation with our anxiety, reciprocal relationship with our earth, and compassionate collaboration with our communities.
The following resources and rituals, then, are interventions that I turn to when I am caught up in a deep existential spiral and can’t seem to find my way into embodied and energized engagement. These are small practices that help me move toward a place of action. In following articles, I will focus on steps you can take to support ecological regeneration and collective liberation. My hope with this toolkit is to inspire you to cultivate your own remedies to turn to when you are feeling too anxious to think, love, grow, and tend to with clarity and compassion.
As you build your toolkit, reflect on what you need to repair your spirit. Solitude? Socializing? Ask yourself what resources and rituals bring you back into equilibrium when you are unbalanced. Your toolkit might be physical—healing balms, essential oil blends, nourishing teas—and it might be a series of practices—meditative walks, cooking with friends—to help get you grounded. Your toolkit might look like a place you have created in your home that is a sanctuary for when you are suffering and it might look like a safe haven you have carved out in your mind when you are hungry for presence and pause.
And although getting yourself to a place where taking action feels embodied and enriching is the ultimate goal of this work, I want you to know that you can spend however long you need in this place of regeneration. We live in a culture that values perpetual productivity and man, we do not need to be cogs in the capitalist machine. Rest is radical and your body always knows what’s up.
These are reads, rituals, and remedies that have helped me. Let me know what reads, rituals, and remedies you turn to to feel resourced in the comments!
EMERGENT STRATEGY BY ADRIENNE MAREE BROWN
Change is coming—what do we need to imagine as we prepare for it? What is compelling about surviving climate change? How do we prepare not just for suffering, but for sharing and innovation? How do we prepare the children in our lives to be visionary, and to love nature when the changes are frightening and incomprehensible? To be abundant when what we consider valuable is shifting from gold to collard greens? How do we experience our beauty and humanity in every condition?
(Adrienne Maree Brown)
Whenever I am anxious, reading and writing brings me home to myself. Activist Adrienne Maree Brown’s blueprint to community organizing, Emergent Strategy, transformed me. Her vital and visionary essays interweave interview, poetry, and meditations on nature to bring us into conversation on how we can face the “frightening and incomprehensible” future and find joy and juiciness in our connections to ourself, one another, and our ecosystems.
Hope in the Dark by Rebecca Solnit
Joy doesn't betray but sustains activism. And when you face a politics that aspires to make you fearful, alienated and isolated, joy is a fine act of insurrection.
In this slim volume of historical essays, writer Rebecca Solnit walks us through generations of social change and environmental justice. Hope in the Dark is a reminder to me that the revolution we so desperately need is possible because the proof of our power is in the hearts and hard work of visionaries who rose strong to protect our lands, shift perspectives, and seed liberation throughout time. Anxiety destroys my capacity for rationality and this tender-hearted text reliably roots me in reality.
Walk With My Loved Ones
So much of eco anxiety stems from my choice to live in the hypothetical apocalyptic future. Choosing to be present by walking with my loved ones through the world affirms for me the persistent beauty of our planet. Walking is such simple and sweet medicine for eco anxiety. It’s hard to be brokenhearted when you are meandering through bars of bright white moon light.
Writing in the Wild
Writing helps me find balance. When I am gripped by anxiety, I take my trusted journal into a wild space—the foothills near my home, the community garden, the woods—and articulate my thoughts. The act of translation alone grounds me and it feels so good to write in nature.
Enriched with ethically sourced North American sweetgrass, mint, vanilla bean, ashwagandha, oatstraw, and skullcap, these CBD drops have helped my body relax when I am especially tense. I am a big believer in turning to our herbal allies to nurture deep peace when we are wrestling with stress and love that these adaptogenic herbs work with my body to bring healing.
A Cup of Ashwagandha Cocoa
Ashwagandha is an anti-inflammatory herb that supports the immune system and can nurture deep sleep. I cherish a warming mug of ashwagandha cocoa before bed, especially when I am overwhelmed by anxiety. I was first inspired to make this cocoa thanks to La Abeja Herbs and have since adapted it for my own tastes. I’m terrible at measurements because I make most everything on the fly, but I have found that sweetening a cup of homemade cashew milk with date syrup, several heaping tablespoons of cocoa powder, a spoonful of ashwagandha, a kick of cardamom, and a luscious dollop of ghee is heavenly to me.
Inspired by a workshop on building resilience through spiritual ecology that Kailea Frederick of Earth Is ‘Ohana and Kate Weiner of Loam taught in March 2018, Rituals for Resilience interweaves embodied practices for cultivating resilience with enriching resources to support spiritual and social resilience.