Earlier this year, when I asked my Instagram audience for topics they’d like me to address, one person wrote, “How to keep caring.”
Inundated by bad environmental news constantly, we can become numb to it and exhausted by it. Asking the question, “How do I keep caring?” shows not that we don’t care about the planet but that we may not be caring adequately for ourselves. In other words, we’re burned out.
If you feel burned out, try some of the following strategies to re-energize.
1. Stop reading all the bad news
When in human history have we had the ability to consume news during every waking hour if we choose to? No wonder people feel anxious.
I don’t recommend you stick your head in the sand like a climate change denier (hard to believe those still exist). However, constantly reading bad news can send us into a perpetual state of rage. We can start to feel overwhelmed, paralyzed and wonder if our actions matter at all or if we should even bother trying to convince our leaders to act on climate. If you start to feel this way, tune out for a bit.
2. Go on a digital fast
By putting your phone away and shutting down your computer, you will not only avoid a constant diet of bad news but also likely find more relaxing things to do, such as reading a book, writing in a (paper) journal, going for a hike, making something, baking something or inviting friends over to eat the something you baked.
This past Sunday, I didn’t touch my laptop until the evening when my daughter Charlotte and I watched a show. Usually, I turn it on soon after I wake up. I read The Guardian, check my email, check my social feeds, read more news, pay some bills, check the weather… First thing this past Sunday morning, I read a book in bed while drinking tea, then rode to the California Avenue farmers’ market in the late morning, rode home and spent a few hours sewing produce bags in the afternoon to give away this Saturday at the Sunnyvale farmers’ market. I enjoyed the most relaxing Sunday I’ve had in weeks.
When not fasting, I still attempt to limit my phone use. To avoid checking it for the time, I wear a good old-fashioned, self-winding watch or check the clock hanging on the kitchen wall. When I cook, I set a windup timer rather than the timer on my phone. I think the timer needs a blog post all of its own. It sounds like such a little thing but it helps keep me focused and in the moment.
3. Find your people
If you feel alone, exhausted or lacking enthusiasm in your sustainability endeavors, look for support. I have met many kindred spirits through my sewing bee. We get together about once a month to sew our free cloth produce bags and we have so much fun doing it. I found my first recruits for the group through meetup. (Update: we haven’t been able to sew during Covid but we’ve met a few times over Zoom.)
4. Eat well, sleep enough, exercise regularly
I don’t think I need to expand here. (Go here for a post on low-waste, mostly free self-care.)
5. Learn to live in the moment
A couple of weeks ago, I met a poet named Aristotle Johns at the farmers’ market. The sign taped to his small typewriter table read, “Free poems. Give me a prompt, I’ll give you a poem.” So I asked him to write me a poem about hope and told him that I read and write about the environment.
After I finished buying my produce for the week, I stopped back at Aristotle’s table and picked up my poem. I was impressed that he wrote something so lovely, so quickly.
When thoughts rattle around your head like balls bouncing inside a churning bingo cage, try meditation. I find this simple technique works well. But you have to practice meditation regularly to reap the rewards. It’s not a magic pill that works instantly.
6. Take a break
If you need to take a break from the environmental cause, the movement will still be here when you feel ready to fight again. We aren’t going anywhere.