Archive of ‘Ecotherapy’ category

Coping with a Changing Climate

Managing Eco Anxiety, Climate Grief, and Climate-Related PTSD

Author’s Note: When I first wrote this blog post, I did not realize just how much the start of this month would feel like a reminder of February two years ago. Experiencing new extreme weather events, or simply experiencing reminders of past events, can precipitate an increase in symptoms. Please don’t hesitate to reach out for help as needed in the days and weeks ahead.

This February marks the two year anniversary of Winter Storm Uri, in which millions of Texans experienced a threat to meeting their basic needs for safety and survival, and hundreds of families experienced losing a loved one. Many Texans may find they continue to experience symptoms of grief, anxiety, or PTSD following these events. For me, I grieve when I pass by the now-dead grapefruit tree that once provided fresh fruit for me and my neighbors this time of year, a reminder also of the many lives lost, and I feel anxious whenever I receive another text from ERCOT requesting that we conserve energy, hear a weather report calling for an extreme cold snap, or encounter a news story about another climate disaster.

Ecoanxiety and Climate Grief

Over the last decade, mental health experts have developed new terminology to help us understand the impacts of our changing climate on our mental health. The American Psychological Association (APA) defines ecoanxiety as a chronic fear of environmental doom–watching the effects of climate change and worrying about the future for oneself, one’s children, or future generations.[1] Climate grief, also called ecological grief or eco-grief, is the emotional response to losses or anticipated losses due to environmental change (including, but not limited to, loss of species, loss of ecosystems, and loss of meaningful landscapes). [2] Younger people, including children, adolescents, and young adults, are more at risk of experiencing ecoanxiey and climate grief. Teachers, parents, individuals who work closely with the natural world, and members of Indigenous communities are also uniquely affected.

Climate-Related PTSD

Research indicates that extreme weather events, such as Winter Storm Uri, are followed by increased rates of mental illness.[3] By some estimates, 30% – 40% of disaster survivors develop symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Following Hurricane Harvey, one study found that 46% of Houston-area residents developed PTSD symptoms and more than half of the study’s participants had increased symptoms of anxiety. Individuals who have survived multiple extreme weather events are more likely to develop such symptoms.

How to Cope with a Changing Climate

Whether you’re experiencing ecoanxiety, climate grief, or climate-related PTSD, there are many steps you can take to help yourself cope:

  • Control what you can: work with family and community members to develop an emergency plan and take simple steps to improve your disaster preparedness.
  • Develop and maintain social connections: invest in your personal support network and develop community resilience by getting together with neighbors and other like-minded people.
  • Talking about it helps: find a place to discuss feelings and allow yourself to grieve.
  • Spend time in nature: allow yourself to experience the positive mental health benefits of time spent outdoors.
  • Take action to address climate change: becoming more informed about climate change, and finding ways to take action in your community can help mitigate the negative mental health effects.
  • Take care of your mental health (before and after disaster strikes): attend to your mental health needs by reaching out to a mental health care professional when you’re in need of support. SAMHSA runs a free and confidential 24-hour Disaster Distress Hotline; you can call or text 800-985-5990.[4]

Talking to Kids about Ecoanxiety and Climate Grief

Kids pick up on what’s happening in the world around them, and young people are disproportionately affected by ecoanxiety and climate grief. If you believe your child is experiencing ecoanxiety, climate grief, or climate-related PTSD, you can help support them in the following ways:[5]

  • Pay attention when your kids are worried.
  • Listen. Ask questions about what they already know. Try to understand what their worries are.
  • Don’t dismiss their feelings or worries with phrases like “everything’s fine.”
  • Do reassure them that you will do everything you can to keep them safe and make the world a better place.
  • Follow-up: take action towards disaster preparedness and to prevent climate change in your community and find developmentally appropriate ways for your child to become engaged as well.
  • Reach out for extra mental health support as needed.

References and Additional Resources


[2] Is climate grief something new? by Summer Allen ( Feb 19, 2020.

[3] “It’s destroying me”: Storm after storm, climate change increases strain on Texans’ mental health by Erin Douglas (Texas Tribune) Sept 8, 2022.

[4] How to care for your mental health in the age of climate change and worsening natural disasters by María Méndez (Texas Tribune) Sept 8, 2022.

[5] How To Talk to Your Kids About Climate Change Anxiety by Dr Robin Cooper (APA) Apr 22, 2022.

Mindfulness for Kids: Embracing the Power of Nature

Ahhh it’s FINALLY that time of year when it finally doesn’t feel like a million degrees outside or that you’re swimming in the humidity every time you walk out the door. This year especially, going outside feels particularly powerful and therapeutic (for most – I recognize that this might not be everyone’s experience of nature!).  As Hippocrates once said “Nature itself is the best physician.”  But how exactly does going outdoors help us?  Getting outside activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps us and our bodies to feel calm.  It also provides a great landscape to practice mindfulness (paying attention to the present moment on purpose) by providing a fun, ever changing sensory experience (i.e. bird song, leaves rustling, changing colors with the seasons).  It can help children develop and enhance focus/attentional skills and promote feelings of calmness and relaxation. 

Mindfulness Activities

With that, here are some suggested activities to do outdoors with kiddos. (Note: all activities were found and inspired by the book Mindfulness and Nature-Based Therapeutic Techniques for Children by Cheryl Fisher, PhD., NCC, LCPC, ACS)

Color Walk

Purpose: Helps children to focus attention and be present in the moment as they look and match color cards to natural items! 

Supplies: Squares of color (paint samples or you can create your own!)

  1. Choose a color from your deck of color “cards” and hold onto it as you walk.
  2. Set a timer for 10 minutes.  As you begin to walk, look all around and notice all the things that are similar in color to your card.
  3. As you notice something, share it out loud or quietly say it to yourself.
  4. When the timer is done, stop and select another color from the deck and repeat the steps! 
  5. You can follow up with your child at the end of the walk with questions such as: 
    1. “How was it to focus on your card?”
    2. “What surprised you about this?”
    3. “What did you notice?” 

You can adapt this activity to fit the needs of your child.  For example, ten minutes may seem challenging (which is understandable)! Start with setting the timer at 3-5 minutes and work on increasing the time.  It doesn’t matter how many cards you are able to complete-the goals is to develop attentional skills at a safe pace 🙂 

Tabletop Sand Garden

Purpose: To calm and focus the mind by creating a natural scene or environment in the sand box.

Supplies: Tupperware or plastic container with lid filled with sand, bag, natural items found in walk.

  1. Start by taking a walk in nature.  Instruct your child to collect natural items that stand out to them (preferably ones that are not picked but lying on the ground already).
  2. Once your child has collected items, open the sand container.  Place and arrange the natural items to create a scene or a design.  
  3. Follow up with questions such as: 
    1. “How was that for you?”
    2. “How did your mind/body feel while you were creating your scene?” 
    3. “What does this mean to you?”

4.  Once they have time to reflect, take the natural items and ask your child to replace the natural items in a place they choose outdoors. 

If I were a Tree…

Purpose: Art activity to help children express themselves through a natural symbol.

Supplies: Paper, coloring utensil (markers, crayons, pencils, etc.)

  1. Find a spot in nature
  2. Close your eyes and imagine you are a tree
  3. Consider the following questions and read out loud to your child: 
    1. What kind of tree would you be? 
    2. Are you a young tree or an old tree? 
    3. Do you have flowers or fruit?
    4. How do animals live around you?
    5. Do you have deep roots? 

4.  Draw your picture of the tree using paper and coloring materials 

5. Consider follow-up/reflection with prompt such as “Tell me about your creation.”  

Sound Mapping

Purpose: Enhance listening skills for attention and body/spatial awareness

Supplies: Large piece of paper, tape, cardboard, pencil

  1. Find a place outdoors that feels safe.  Put the piece of paper in front of you and secure it by either taping it to a wall (if there is one) or by taping it to cardboard.  
  2. Close your eyes and begin to listen to noises around you.  Take your pencil and “map” out the sounds you hear and draw symbolically what they sound like to you (for example: maybe you hear birds chirping in front of you and you place it on the top of the paper with symbols).
  3. Map all sounds around you with shapes, lines, symbols to create a “sound symphony.” 
  4. Once completed, open your eyes and title your piece.
  5. You can reflect with your child with suggested questions such as: 
    1. “What was that like?”
    2. “Were some sounds easier to recognize? Were some harder to recognize?” 
    3. “What surprised you about your map when you opened your eyes?” 

Each of these activities can be modified to fit the needs of each child/teen completing them.  Part of the process is to be with what unfolds, so if the activities don’t go exactly as planned, that is OK! Mindfulness is a practice that is ever-evolving. 

While I hope these provide a way to harness nature’s power,  my greater hope is that it gives you a fun bonding opportunity with your kiddos in the midst of a challenging time.  Parenting is HARD and I see and value you, parents.  Happy exploring, friends! 

Presley Pacholick, LCSW
Written By: Presley Pacholick, LCSW, RPT

Nature’s Gifts: 3 Therapeutic Reasons to Get Outside

Nature is an often overlooked, yet abundant resource for healing.  As a therapist, it is my job to sit with clients when they are feeing distress, overwhelm, and anxiety. In order to redress these challenges, I often provide strategies and coping skills that utilize nature as a resource. As an ecotherapist, I see the natural world as a co-therapist in the healing process.  This blog serves as a beginners guide for increasing your healing capacity by engaging the free and accessible benefits of the natural world. 

Find below 3 reasons to get outside and corresponding activities that can help meet our nature needs:

Nature Increases Wellbeing

Spending time in the nature or even just viewing pictures of nature are both associated with psychological wellbeing.  Being outside in nature is correlated with a decrease in blood pressure, the relaxing of tight muscles, and an increase in alpha brains waves which incite feelings of calm.


I often prescribe nature outings during the week for clients who are struggling to stay grounded or feel overwhelmed by stress or anxiety.  Plan outside activities after periods of stress or anxiety for you and/or your family – doing yard work, going on a walk around Lady Bird Lake, or spending time on your porch can all be helpful transitional activities that can calm you down after the work/school stress or blues.

Nature Creates Avenues for Positive Sensory Intervention

The latest research states that new, repetitive interactions with sensory experiences help grow the brain and create positive, healing neuropathways.  Healing sensory experiences are positive experiences that engage the senses. The natural world is full of novel, sensory experiences – these experiences are especially important for our kiddos and teens whose brains are still developing. Note: it is also important for adults.


Play the “5 Senses Game” with your family after school.  Go on a nature walk and ask each family member to notice something they saw, heard, tasted, and touched.  (I generally leave out the taste sense and have a handful of mint or rosemary sprigs to pass out unless you’ve got a family of gardeners who know what is safe to taste and what is not).  At the end of the walk, ask each family member to share their experience.  

Nature Encourages Physical and Emotional Healing

A landmark study by Ulrich found  that having access to a nature scene through a window expedited the healing process for those undergoing gallbladder surgery.  Patients with nature access via a window healed faster at a statistically significant rate compared to those patients who did not have access to a natural scene.  Additionally, research suggests that there are microbes in soil that are associated with increases positive mood.  Many hospitals and healing spaces are  now incorporating gardening as an addendum to healing protocols.  


If possible, create work and play spaces that have access to windows with natural views.  Place a plant next to your bed, or at your desk at work. Not keen on watering?  It’s Texas – get yourself a cactus or succulent!  If you do not have access to light or windows, place pictures of the natural world in your office – this too is supported by research to increase feelings of calm. 

This week, take a deep breath, and walk outside.  The healing capacities of the natural world are ready to help.  Feel free to reach out if you have any nature-related therapy questions.  When in doubt, go outside…

By: Amber Jekot, LMSW under the supervision of Lindsey Humphrey, LCSW-S