As I grapple with my own feelings of fear and anxiety in the face of Brexit looming, climate change, the anthropocene, Donald Trump, major life changes, I’m reminded of that old Chinese curse: “May you live in interesting times.” The social and political scene of the last ten years or so certainly seems interesting. We’ve seen so much change – some of it foreshadowed and some of it seeming to come right out of the blue.
There are other feelings too: grief, powerlessness, uncertainty, guilt. Climate change, in particular, invokes big emotions that can threaten to engulf me. I’m a human being as well as a therapist. I cannot help but think of my family members who are the next generation of human beings who will inherit this earth. It can feel as if I’m an elder standing at the edge of the sea holding their hands whilst a tidal wave sweeps inexorably towards us. I can’t stop it’s progress. They look to me as the adult in this situation for guidance, to take responsibility, but I feel so small and powerless to halt the tsunami that is coming.
And I’m not alone on that beach. We all experience fear and anxiety at some point or another. Many of these fears are based on things we have no control over. Coping with it can be challenging. Sometimes it can be debilitating. So how do we go on when faced with such uncertainty? What can we do to help ourselves, especially when we have children or parents to look after or jobs to hold down?
Writing may not hold all the answers. It won’t, for example, hold back climate change itself, but it is a useful tool for managing feelings when you are faced with some of life’s big uncertainties. Lately, I have been journaling and writing climate change poems as if my life depended on it. That hasn’t taken away all my concerns about what the future might look like but it has allowed me to:
- Calm my swirling mind;
- Acknowledge difficult feelings;
- Sit with the unknown in the present;
- Focus on what I can control;
- Prepare for different possibilities in the future;
- Imagine how things might be more positive;
- Observe and appreciate what is really in front of me now (or count my blessings).
Writing for my own wellbeing enables me to be positive in the present moment and provides me with a safe base to step out from into whatever the future brings. It has helped me during times of change and uncertainty. Why not give it a try? It’s as easy as picking up pen and paper or attending a writing group or workshop. I have one coming up in April here.