Why Anxiety Can Save The Planet

Sep 20, 2019

Note: We believe in open, honest communication. When you take a workshop with Productive Learning, we always advocate for you to reveal yourself, share who you are, what you feel and believe because we see the mental, physical and emotional benefits of living authentically. Part of the beauty of revealing who you are unconsciously allows others to reveal themselves as well. We believe this act of revealing is good for everyone as long as we don’t think our truth is THE truth. Our thoughts and opinions are only our view point of the world from where we are standing. If we can allow everyone to have their own point of view and share our own with an open heart, we will live in a peaceful world.

Below is a blog from the point of view of many of us at Productive Learning. We realize that not everyone shares this point of view and we welcome your feedback and anything you would like to share with us about what we have to say. We encourage you to look for the intention in this blog and not get lost in the content.

Thousands upon thousands of acres of the Amazon burned in July and August. The blaze that captured the attention of the world started after fires for clearing agricultural land spiraled out of control. 

In the age of climate change, the burning of the Amazon—the lungs of the planet—is one of the most horrible things that can happen. Seems we have enough of a challenge with environmental toxins, species extinction, pollution in our oceans and waterways and so on.

Mentally, we’re also reaching a boiling point. A study published from the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication reveled that some 62% of Americans say they are at least “somewhat worried” about global warming and more than one in five Americans (23%) are “very worried.”

We want to do something to stop, reduce and reverse global warming yet it’s easy to feel overwhelmed when we consider the scope of the problem: a recent UN climate report gives us till 2040 before Earth becomes inhospitable to humans.

If anxiety is creeping up as you read this, you may have “eco anxiety”, “climate change anxiety”, or “climate grief”. It’s all the same. So many of us already have general anxiety disorder and climate change only compounds the paralyzing fear and worry.

Before we focus on the big picture, we at Productive Learning invite you to take a moment to pause for breath. We feel the sense of urgency too but we think this is a moment of transformational change for how we perceive anxiety. 

The general view is that we need to quell things that generate anxiety because we need to stop it. But the point of feeling anxiety isn’t to stomp it out like a blazing fire. No, no. The point is to develop a relationship with it that leaves you in the leading role.

See, anxiety won’t go away. There will always be something there to trigger it. Whether it’s a UN Climate Change report, job loss or a stubborn spouse. There’s lots happening that is out of our control. So, in order to begin a peace treaty with anxiety we must really dig into our self-awareness because that’s the control center.

In practical terms, self-awareness means catching your thoughts. It takes practice to develop this but it’s what we do in Productive Learning workshops. You engage with yourself and you engage with community. You honor personal boundaries when you need to figure things out solo but you’re part of a bigger group that engages with you as you question your beliefs and thoughts.  

In workshops we provide a safe space to set aside the ego’s need to hide wounds. Instead, we allow the wounds to surface and in community the healing begins.

It’s also in community where our planet’s healing is and where we awaken our awareness and personal healing. Remember that Gandhi quote about being the change you want to see? Yup, that’s what we mean. That’s why our facilitators are passionate about training you into awareness.

Developing self-awareness is how we’re dealing with climate change. Around the world, people are setting aside their ego’s self-centeredness for the greater need of the community. There are lots of projects reflective of this: researchers providing group solutions; urban gardens are cropping up; renewable energy in several counties has cut dependency on fossil fuels; people changing their diets

We’re at a precipice where we can allow anxiety to drive us into extinction or we can be aware of our capabilities. Runaway anxiety can blind us to hope. Awareness turns us to it.

We can focus on the loss of the Amazon fires or we can focus on healing the community. From the ashes of the rainforest have risen an enhancement of unity toward native peoples of the Americas. Governments of Europe, the US and Latin America have sent help to the nations surrounding the Amazon basin.

For decades, people have used climate change anxiety to harness self-awareness. Here, in the US, we see people who’ve turned anxiety into activism. Some of you have radically reduced the use of plastic in your homes, some of you only eat locally-sourced foods, others are purchasing less stuff that ends up in landfills.

Developing a healthy relationship with anxiety makes our mind a great servant and makes us honor that sacred obligation to live in awareness. Therefore, we honor each other and we honor the planet.

Every month, we’ve written a love letter to our emotions. This month, we find fellowship with anxiety:  

Dear Anxiety,

I don’t want to live with you overwhelming me anymore. This is my peace offering.

From here on out, I won’t resist you. Take a seat at my table. Let’s talk.

I get that your presence is simply telling me what I do want and what I don’t want. My awareness allows me to detach from what I don’t want. Instead of obsessing with dystopian “what if’s” or my fear-based stories, I can focus on self-kindness and love by allowing in feelings I’ve been avoiding without letting them take over. I can heal my wounds this way.

Anxiety, you’re real and it’s easy to find you everywhere. Knowing this I don’t have to jump out of my skin when you appear. I can pause, breathe, talk to you. I’m here for you, so tell me what I need to know so I can learn these lessons and know what to do.

I’m now understanding I can harness you into power that makes me an extraordinary thinker. The conscious disruptor in me says, “I’m the master of this life.” Anxiety, your presence reminds me to surrender what I can’t control. Instead I control my reaction to life’s chaos.

You’ve shown me to surrender the outcomes, surrender control of the external world and given me the freedom brought by self-awareness. It’s in this space where I hear the answers and lessons. For that, thank you.