Mental-health professionals are challenged by the universal sense of powerlessness they encounter in more and more clients. There is a developing movement of "Eco psychology" (described as "psychology as if the earth mattered") in their clinical repertoire.
0n 3/2/2020 the American Psychiatric Association reaffirmed the role of mental health in combatting climate change. The APA president Sandra L. Shulman Ph. D. wrote:
“The natural disasters which we are experiencing are associated with a number of mental health problems, including anxiety and depression. As experts in human behavior, psychologists must be in the forefront of devising strategies to change the actions – by individuals, corporations, and governments – that lead to climate change”
In difficult situations, our first instinct is to react. Reactionary acts often are not helpful in the long run. A less-than-helpful initial reaction to Coronavirus was for government to minimize its danger. A response implies thoughtfulness, awareness of the consequences of an action, and, if needed, making a plan.
In times of stress, our brain evaluates perceived danger and either engages a survival mechanism (fight, flight or freeze) when the danger is perceived as grave or immediate. The more reasonable part of the brain evaluates the danger to come up with a rational response or a plan.
Brain neurology teaches us that neural "pathways" in the brain are reinforced by frequent use, much like a muscle that is exercised becomes stronger. We all have the tendency to and, in some cases, the need to worry, to fear, to be anxious; but constant worry, fear and anxiety fortify associated network in the brain, leading, for some, to behavioral manifestations like obsessions or compulsions. Neurology teaches we can open and develop alternate pathways to cope with our tendency to over worry.
The Cortex is the part of the brain that can manage the fear and stress of trauma and danger. It draws on the images, thoughts, and experiences by which we are reassured. When there are no images, thoughts and experiences to fall back on -- for instance, when we experience a pandemic for which we are unprepared or face on foreseen environmental crises -- we are left helpless.
The power of words to affect the response of the brain cannot be underestimated. If someone were to yell "fire" that would throw our anxiety response into high gear. Likewise, the words we hear and the words we tell ourselves shape our brain response.
When I teach anger management, I break down losing one's temper into various components, from one's mental state before they lose control, to the trigger that elucidates a reaction, to the actual explosive incident. One significant component is the words the person says to the self to give the self "permission" to get angry. One common phrase is "this is bull----!". I try to coach my "trainee" into recognizing that moment and intervene with a distracting word or phrase.
The stories we tell ourselves determines the mental models that bias us towards agency or victimhood. Early childhood trauma could scar our identities with a sense of powerlessness. (Sometimes an adult perpetrator of child abuse, who has himself or herself been violated as a child, could be compensating for an embedded powerlessness by exerting a distorted act of power over another young victim.)
 Excerpt From: 04/10/2020. “East Bay Times.” East Bay Times, 2020-04-19
 The human brain is an amazing result of cerebral evolution. The Amygdala (the "lizard brain") is the most primitive part of that evolution. The Cortex, with its folds and bumps crowning the structure of the brain, processes and organizes information, sensations, thoughts, memories and images to comprise what we commonly refer to as the "mind". By strengthening the function of the "higher brain", we can gain control of the dominance of the "lower brain". By "upgrading" our cognitions (i.e., the way we think about things), we can manage the need to stay teetering on the edge of panic.. Overwhelming anxiety not only shuts down this preventative mental action but debilitates the immune system, leaving us open to disease.