I know the news right now is really depressing for those of us who love nature, and it’s even stressing people out who don’t completely realize why they’re so stressed. I wanted to balance that out with some hope and advice to help you get through this trying time.

One of the biggest saboteurs of activism is nihilism, and this sort of despair is fueled by inaccurate headlines that say things like “IF WE DON’T FIX CLIMATE CHANGE IN THE NEXT TWELVE YEARS ALL IS LOST!” First, we can always work to mitigate the effects beyond the hyped-up deadlines, even if we can’t completely stop them for now. Second, in order to do the most that we are able to do, whether for climate change or pollution or habitat destruction, we need as much creativity and excitement and collaboration as we can get. Despair and nihilism destroy these crucial positive, constructive drives, and doomsaying headlines and articles that supposedly are meant to motivate people to act instead end up causing them to give up, feeling too overwhelmed to do anything.

Instead of reading the headlines obsessively, be kind to yourself. Know that you aren’t the only one feeling the way you are, and even the people who are actively working to make the world a better place have many times when we feel exhausted and hopeless. This is okay! You can feel like that. But that hopeless feeling doesn’t have to last forever. Self care allows you to recuperate, and even though it’s not an instant fix for the big, bad problems we’re facing, it can help you to shake off the blues and get back to making your piece of the world better in whatever way you can. There’s no schedule, though; you don’t get a set number of weeks to feel lousy and then you have to get back to saving the world. Tag out as you need to, and then tag back in when you’re ready; we’re all doing the same thing as needed, too.

Okay. I know some of you must be panicking right now because you’re thinking “Wait! If even the people who are at the forefront of saving the environment get burned out and have to take a break, we must be doomed!” Except it’s those breaks that are the key to our future. Just like you need to sleep once every twenty-four hours, so periodic breaks keep activists of all sorts from completely falling to pieces. So by acknowledging when you’re overwhelmed and doing what you need to in order to attend to your needs, you are actually making it more likely that you’ll be able to be a more effective part of the solutions in the future, once you’ve had time to recover.

Species portrayed: Red fox (Vulpes vulpes), western gull (Larus occidentalis), rough-skinned newt (Taricha granulosa), yellow wood violet (Viola glabella), snowshoe hare (Lepus americanus), barn owl (Tyto alba), Asian elephant (Elephas maximus), bold jumping spider (Phidippus audax), red alder (Alnus rubra), red harvester ant (Pogonomyrmex barbatus), European honey bee (Apis mellifera)