Today’s Solutions: February 04, 2023

“You can’t really get to the solution, the focus, until you acknowledge people’s anxieties and their ambivalence.” -Dr. Renée Lertzman

In January of this year, The Optimist Daily, along with our publishing partner The World Business Academy, got the chance to apply for a grant from Invoking the Pause, a remarkable funding group dedicated to supporting climate change trailblazers in the nonprofit arena.  One area of climate change that we felt was underexplored is the effect the changing climate is having on our mental health.  So, we teamed up with our friends at PsychAlive and applied for funding to jointly produce a webinar that would explicitly address anxiety, fear and overwhelming feelings associated with issues around a changing climate.  In March, just as California and other states began their first lock-downs, we learned we had won the grant.  

The wise folks at Invoking the Pause expect that the grant be used to allow the awardees to take a step back from their daily chores to reflect on the their work and the world, and to spend time strategizing how to best bring their unique talents and skills to the fight against climate change.  In our original budget, we planned several retreats for staff from PsychAlive, Optimist Daily and the World Business Academy to meet face-to-face to address our own fears and anxieties around climate change, as we designed the webinar with an expert in the mental health field of eco-grief and climate anxiety.  

As life unfolded however, the “pauses” we intended to invoke got interrupted by an entire world that was being asked to “take a pause”, as we all retreated to our homes as much as possible, stayed away from our offices or schools or from congregating with anyone outside of our own households.  In addition to worries and grief around ecological collapse, we were now suddenly confronting a more immediate threat of a virus that no one in the world understood.  While we were sad to miss a chance to work in person with our colleagues in developing this webinar on climate anxiety, we also felt the event had renewed relevance.  It’s easy to see the similarities in how a world-wide pandemic makes us feel and the anxiety and ambivalence that arises for many people in the face of climate change.  

The intersection of mental health and climate change is a relatively new field, but there are several brilliant minds working on it. (Interestingly, as far as we can tell, they are all women.) As soon as we got the green light for the funding, our webinar development team had sent out invitations to Dr. Renée Lertzman and Dr. Lise Van Susteren, each regarded as a leader in this growing sub-field of mental health.  Much to our delight, both of these mental health luminaries agreed to work with us, and because our travel and retreat plans were thwarted by the pandemic, we suddenly had room in our grant budget to expand the one webinar to two separate events.  (Hooray!)    

The first free webinar, entitled “From Anxiety to Action: How to Stay Sane While Fighting Climate Change” with Dr. Renée Lertzman was held on August 7th.  See below for a brief overview and a link to the webinar recording in case you missed it!  

The second free webinar, “Healing Emotional Inflammation: How to Recognize Triggers and Nourish Resilience During Turbulent Times” with Lise Van Susteren, MD will be held on October 9th at 11AM PT.  Stay tuned for more on that upcoming event!      

August 7th Event Overview

In the webinar with Dr. Renée Lertzman, we discuss the current state of climate change worldwide and how this might be affecting us on an individual level. We discuss the psychological legitimacy of our feelings and how to adapt to new realities. As highlighted by Dr. Lertzman, this event created a sense of community in very isolating times. The overlap of anxieties between the pandemic and climate change make this event all the more powerful for the present. Using a toolkit of resources, practices, and mindsets provided by this webinar, viewers are able to better understand their own mental health as it relates to climate anxiety so that they are able to become effective change-makers in their own lives and on a larger scale.

By reflecting on the ambivalence that each of us has when we are faced with life-changing transformations, this webinar helps us understand why change can be so challenging, even if we know it’s a good idea.  By understanding some of the common pitfalls we might encounter as we engage with people in our lives who seem stuck in destructive habits, we can find new pathways towards productive communication.  By learning to listen to ourselves with new-found compassion, we might also learn to communicate more effectively with others around big topics, and become guides leading the way into the action we want to see. 

If you missed the webinar, worry not! You can stream the webinar with our co-hosts at PsychAlive here. 

What are attendees saying about the “From Anxiety to Action: How to Stay Sane while Fighting Climate Change”?

“For the first time since March, I feel less alone.” – Eliza M.

“Today, in under one hour, I felt the courage to wend back into my being.” – Jean G.

“This webinar has brought me a sense of community that I have not felt in so long.”  – T. L.

For a PDF download of the webinar resource sheet, please click HERE.


*This Webinar is the first of a two-part series hosted by the World Business Academy, The Optimist Daily and PsychAlive, made possible by Invoking the Pause.  The second on-line webinar event will feature the brilliant Lise Van Susteren and take place on October 9, 2020.


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