Alex Steffen is a futurist/climate change thinker. Here below is a Twitter thread he wrote earlier today. The putting bits in bold is by CEM. Further advice here. If you need help or can spare to give it to folks in Manchester, near where you live, then see here. CEM will continue to try to be a useful responder to coronavirus and climate change. If you want to get involved in those efforts, email us on email@example.com and/or fill in this form.
As someone who has spent essentially my entire adult life on what one friend calls "the apocalypse beat" (I'm a climate futurist) I wanted to share a couple concepts and practices that have helped me through some bad times.
— Alex Steffen (@AlexSteffen) March 19, 2020
As someone who has spent essentially my entire adult life on what one friend calls “the apocalypse beat” (I’m a climate futurist) I wanted to share a couple concepts and practices that have helped me through some bad times.
First, I’m not a mental health professional. If you are in serious distress, I’d suggest that you should talk to someone about that, someone who’s trained to help you. These are just things that have worked for me.
One thing that helps me is a concept I’ve heard described as “mental hygiene.” It centers on remembering that feeling even distantly threatened, and observing others’ danger and suffering can both be traumatic to you. And they add up over time.
When we’re facing a crisis—whether from COVID-19 or the climate emergency—many of us experience a loss of control. A natural response is to try to regain control by learning everything we can, so we immerse ourselves in the news.
Often, we seek out the worst news, the most shocking possibilities, the grimmest forecasts—in part, I find, as a way of inoculating myself against the fear that it’s worse than I think and I’m about to be caught off guard.
There is an endless supply of bad news, shocking events, and apocalyptic warnings right now, and people are happy to offer up as much as you can take and then some. You will run out of mental health long before the world runs out of traumatizing stories.
Mental hygiene has two steps: avoiding consuming too much apocalyptic news, and actively seeking out information that empowers you to better understand the deeper trends around you: long-form, thoughtful, explanatory, solutions-focused work that teaches rather than triggers.
Another thing that helps me is “balance checking.” It really helps to have a one friend or advisor who’s concerned about the same things you are, but also willing to tell you when it seems like concern about the worst case scenarios is unbalancing your thinking about daily life.
Because—and I have some idea what I’m talking about here, since my work often explores truly catastrophic and tragic futures—even fierce clarity about being prepared for the worst case scenarios demands understanding them in a sane, holistic perspective within your daily life.
We can’t always see when we’re slipping into the deep end, when our toilet paper purchasing has gone from preparation to hoarding. Helps to have a friend to encourage you to put some of that TP back on the shelves, so to speak.
Another thing that helps is basic self-care—things like exercise, diet and sleep, but also just being kind and patient with yourself and others. Laughing. Connecting. Seems obvious, I know, but man do I struggle sometimes to keep these kinds of practices up.
Finally, it helps me to practice letting go of the old and welcoming the new. Everything around us is changing more quickly than it has in generations—maybe in human history. Much of what we have grounded our sense of normalcy on turns out to be soft sand, shifting fast.
We’re going to live in a different world by 2021 than we lived in 2019. And we’re only at the start of the planetary crisis. Trying to frantically keep things the same—to protect everything, to make every decision the right one, to be in control—will make you crazy. I know.
Distilling the genuinely vital—relationships, values, purpose, cultural traditions—from the fleeting is good for my brain. That doesn’t mean not to learn or prepare—it means to learn and prepare to carry forward the true heart of our lives. I find that practical, and healing.
Well, just a few thoughts on a Wednesday quarantine evening, I hope of some use. I know this is a terrifying and chaotic time, but be gentle and forgiving with your head and your heart, if you can.