AFTER two days of soaring temperatures, thoughts are increasingly turning to the burning issue of climate change, pun intended. Now a psychotherapist says some of us have moved past the anxiety stage and are experiencing “eco grief”.

What is eco grief?

Psycotherapist Hilda Burke says: “Our climate is changing, people are dying as a result of this extreme weather, and nature is being destroyed... We’re in the grieving stage, where it’s not a future-dated fear, it’s a response to what’s happening in the here and now.”

What are the signs?

First, you might feel a sense of loss over the more stable weather conditions of the past. “Many people are feeling the grief of a loss of a climate that was comfortable to live in. No matter how much we complained about the British weather, it sustained life, and it was reasonably comfortable,” says Burke.

Might it lead to deeper problems?

For Burke, the biggest sign of eco grief is a feeling of helplessness. “The helplessness of, well, what can I do? You see it around war, you see it around Covid – [a feeling] like, it’s too big. How am I actually going to impact this or improve it in any way? We can feel very small, very defenceless, and very helpless, which is a state that [can] really lead to depression.”

What can we do?

First, Burke recommends “feeling that grief” – instead of ignoring it and pretending nothing is happening. She indicates navigating eco grief is different to managing anxiety. “A lot of my clients are anxious about things that may never happen, will never happen, could never happen – but climate change is already in progress.

“The approach is to feel that [grief] and then go: What do I do with that? What action do I need to take to help? It’s probably going to be something that is related to helping the environment, to do something that eases the pressure on the environment. So it will be personal action that will help shift the person out of that helplessness state.”

Anything else?

There are techniques you can do to help calm yourself too – such as meditation or breathing exercises. “Anything you find relaxing will help, but the problem is still there. So I think there needs to be some connection to the problem, and some commitment to action that you feel is meaningful,” says Burke.

“There are things we can do, if only to help with our own sense of helplessness: how are we living our lives? Are we driving big SUVs, are we taking 12 flights a year, or are we buying lots of fast fashion?”

And that helps?

Burke says it can certainly help if we feel like we’re acting responsibly to what’s going on: “It’s a tiny piece of the puzzle, but if everyone were to look after their own personal responsibility, it would effect massive change."