Facing the future from the bedroom.
The climate crisis is a frequent source of scary headlines, extreme weather events, global protests, and leadership summits. It might also be causing some friction in your relationship – over, say, how much plastic your partner purchases, or whether or not the banana peel made it to the compost bin. These kinds of hyper-modern concerns – which revolve around environmental impact and subsequent distress – make up what many of us now suffer from: climate anxiety.
“Climate anxiety, the distress caused by environmental concerns, has a way of infiltrating our daily lives, including our relationships,” says Dr. Tom Murray, a sex and relationship therapist at A Path to Wellness. “When individuals are consumed by worry about the planet's future, it can inadvertently affect their emotional well-being and connections with others.”
Whether or not you subscribe to doom and gloom environmentalism, it can be difficult to wrap your head around what exactly is happening these days with our planet, much less how you can mitigate the damages. But here’s the thing: climate justice is a family affair. We all have a stake in building a better, more eco-friendly future. And when it comes to intimacy, sometimes acknowledging the problem is the first step to solving it. Here’s how to start:
Focus on what you can control
The trouble with climate change is that changing your individual actions won’t actually solve the problem, which requires collective action. A lack of control over the actions of others can cause a spike in anxiety, says Dr. Murray, but recognizing what you have the power to change can be empowering.
“Acceptance is not about resigning oneself to a life of anxiety or passively surrendering to its grip,” he says. “Rather, it's a dynamic process that empowers individuals to acknowledge and embrace their feelings, thoughts, and experiences without judgment.”
Don’t tell other people how to live
“Resist the temptation to tell someone else how they should live,” Murray says. There’s a not-so fine line between advocating for a more eco-friendly lifestyle and making outright demands of your partner or your friends. Attempting the latter won’t make people bend to your will – but it will almost certainly create tension in your relationships.
Seek joy in the moment
Regardless of what comes tomorrow, life is happening right now. “When you're worried about the future (i.e., the not-now-moment), you're robbing yourself of any joy that may be found in this moment,” Murray says. Plus, spending time outdoors – picnic date, anyone? – has actually been shown to reduce anxiety and improve mental health.
Talk about it
A timeless piece of relationship advice: communicate! More specifically, you could join a “climate circle” – with or without your partner – where you can meet like-minded folks and learn how to put words to the existential dread commonly associated with climate change. And once you’ve been able to articulate how you feel…
Pursue action together
Practicing community-centered care means taking into consideration the needs and desires of others – earth included. Thus, taking action in pursuit of climate justice might be just the antidote you need to confront your climate anxiety. You might find that being in community with others who care as much as you do will do wonders for your mental health – and, who knows, it just might improve your sex life too.