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Self Care Sunday: The Therapeutic Benefits of Picking Up Rubbish

I really understood the phrase ‘Many hands make light work’ today.

For the first time since joining a sound bath / forest clean up in the summer, I was able to join one of the local beach clean ups organised by the fantabulous Joanne Maye (who I’ve got to know through Coastal Communities for Climate Action (CCCA)).

I got a lift to the little beach between Westport and Newport and spent a genuinely enjoyable 2 1/2 hours picking up rubbish.

At times, it felt positively therapeutic, being with like minded people, doing SOMETHING however small in an effort to care for our life support system.

The ultimate self care.

Picking up larger bits of plastic, bits of rope, old bottles and other debris.

At other times (the more microplasticy bits which were harder to get a handle on and which looked and felt disgusting), it felt more EWWWW.

Back and forth between feeling privileged to be in a position to help this little bit of earth breathe a little easier and grossed out.

A couple of times, when I began to feel disheartened, I turned to stare at the sea for a few moments.

Or looked down along the beach at all the people who’d turned out (19 humans at one point and three wonder dogs).

Yes. I can imagine that for the people who’d been at the same beach just over a month ago, it was pretty disheartening to see the amount of debris that had become unearthed / washed in by recent storms.

But if you’re feeling remotely helpless or even mildly concerned about the state of the earth and the future of the planet* I highly recommend getting involved with local initiatives.

As Greta Thunberg and others have been saying, action is the antidote to despair.

For years, I’ve been picking up litter when out walking (when it feels like it’s coming from a place of WANTING to – I stopped myself when I found myself being really judgmental towards those who had dropped it) but there’s something magical about going with other people.

Climate action is nothing new.

During our Friday (from 1-2pm each week) presence at the Octagon in Westport (in support of the Global Strike) I’ve been meeting all sorts of amazing people who do far far more than I could ever contemplate.

Many have been active for decades be that taking their own containers when shopping or ordering takeaways long before the past year or so when it’s become more normal and socially acceptable or, in one lady’s case, living without electricity for 50 odd years!

I’m no perfectionist. I do what I can and know that some of my values clash with others.

I love being vegan and am also aware that while many aspects are earth friendly, other elements (eg my clothing including plastic fake wool) are far from it.

I still haven’t learned to drive so using public transport and cycling are positive steps.

And I’m also flying back and forth between Westport and London every two or three months…

In the past, I might have thought, ‘Sheep… lamb’ and not bothered with all the little things I CAN do (from recyling more, learning to compost, looking into ways of greening my home as I save up the funds to do more etc) instead of psyching myself out with all the things that feel harder or even impossible.

But it’s empowering learning more about little things that are pretty painless and which will hopefully help us leave this beautiful planet a little bit better than the way we found it.

Over the years, I’ve noticed eco anxiety coming up increasingly with clients. Some of them share my own experience of feeling better when I do SOMETHING, however small.

It comes back to Stephen Covey’s idea around expanding our Circle of Influence rather than feeling so disempowered by our Circle of Concern (one of the self care tools in 365 Ways to Feel Better).

Am in awe of the young ‘uns, including Ms Thunberg (and the way she handles online abuse from grown adults) and was delighted to hear her father’s impressions around her activism, challenging as it’s been at times, improving her mental health.

As with all forms of self care, it is going to vary.

One of the things I appreciate about CCCA is our awareness of the need for sustainability in terms of our own energy levels as well as the planet.

We’re all connected.

Notice for yourself, what enegises you when you think about using your time and energy to do SOMETHING?

How might you do more of these things, to benefit the planet (or whatever you care about) AND yourself?

With love,

Eve Menezes Cunningham self care coach therapist supervisor

*the earth will be FINE. It’s been evolving for such a long time. But I still have hope that we humans can turn things around and improve things enough that we get to continue to survive and thrive on this, our only home.

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