When troubles pile up, you may despair that your life will never get better. Rather than telling yourself how hopeless your situation is – or finding escapes such as food, internet surfing, television, or alcohol – remember that challenges are a normal part of life.
There are concrete actions you can take to restore hope. I know this because I've worked with people who believed suicide was the best way out of their situation, and I've seen them take action to turn the corner and find the peace, love, and joy they'd been yearning for.
Hope is real. You can dig yourself out of an attitude of despair – and restore hope. Here are seven ways to do it.
- reach out to someone safe for support
- be open to medication
- focus on specifics and take little doable steps
- express your emotions physically and constructively
- wage battle against downer thoughts
- abandon “what ifs”
- refocus on connecting to yourself
- be alone with your feelings of hopelessness
- judge yourself for needing help
- lump all your woes together
- dismiss your emotions as unimportant
- compare yourself with others
- wait for someone to rescue you
- be impatient
There's always someone out there – a family member, friend, counselor, or support group–ready to listen. Sometimes it's easier to seek support from a stranger, and that's exactly what community hotlines are good for.
Medication may help at times like this – even if it's short-term, to get you through some rough times. When you're feeling really hopeless, it's good to consult a doctor to determine if medication might help you manage these intense, down feelings that don't seem to lift.
Write down specific issues you're bummed about: relationship, job, death, made a mistake, health, not having friends, no money, etc. This will enable you to deal with one specific loss, hurt, regret, injustice, violation, or threat at a time. It may take some time, but the progress you make in one area will help in other troublesome areas.
Hopelessness lingers because emotions of sadness, fear, and anger get stuck inside of us and go unexpressed. Get that trapped emotional energy out of your body (even if it feels like the last thing you want to do). Make sounds to voice your emotions. If you're crying about a loss, say “Good-bye!” to what you lost while you cry or just say “I feel sad.” For feelings of anxiety, shiver while saying, “I'm feeling scared.” Or acknowledge your rightful anger by pounding the heck out of something inanimate, like a mattress, while just making sounds (like growling, for example) or saying, “I feel so angry!” You'll feel so much better instantly.
Take control over downer thoughts, such as “There's no hope” or “Life is bleak,” by substituting constructive thoughts that are true, especially while expressing your emotions physically. Interrupt and replace future-oriented thoughts by repeating a statement such as, “Be here now. I don't know the future. What's one positive thing I can do for myself today/right now?”
Abandon unfounded hopes or waiting for others to change. Look reality in the face, write down everything you wish were different, then take the first statement and put before it, “I give up all hope that…” For example, “I give up all hope that my parents will ever understand me,” or “I give up all hope that my boyfriend will be faithful.” Keep repeating the statement, constructively express any anger or sadness that arises, interrupt destructive thinking, and focus on what you are saying. Soon you'll be able to see what's true for you and what's in your control to do right now about each item.
Ask yourself, “What's my purpose? What are my goals?” Keep asking daily. Write your answers. Persist until you come up with ones that resonate as true. Then remind yourself of your goals and purpose daily. Set out a series of small steps to get to your goal and just do one or two little steps daily.
You only have one perspective: yours. Two heads really are better than one, and other people can help you find new opportunities, solutions, and insights that you might not have seen otherwise.
Depression can deplete your energy and erode your health. It's a very real, physical condition, and there's no shame in admitting you can't heal yourself “naturally.” Medication can enable you regain the energy needed to re-engage and take constructive action.
This is called overgeneralizing, and it will cause you to feel overwhelmed. Try not to use words like “always,” “never,” and “everything,” as in, “I always get into this fix, and it never works out. Everything in my life is a total mess.” You'll only sink deeper into despair. Instead, deal with one challenge at a time.
The moment you deny your feelings, you start to create emotional blocks that will deplete you. Soon you'll be spending all of your energy trying to act different from how you really feel – and avoiding the sadness, fear, and anger that's trapped inside of you. Let them out! It feels great and it's important to mobilize the energy rather than keeping it bottled up and letting it circulate throughout your body and mind.
Your feelings of despair are all about you and how you're dealing with your world – they're not about how others behave. Don't let thoughts about what a worthless failure you are go unchallenged. Quickly replace them with “I'm doing the best I can. I'm a good person. I'm whole and complete. My job is to take care of myself.” Practice interrupting the negative spin and stretch your brain to find something positive from every interaction.
Yes, people will help you if you reach out, and your loved ones may even notice that you're down in the dumps and offer a pair of ears and a shoulder to cry on. But pulling yourself out of despair can't happen until you acknowledge that you need to take action. Behavioral and emotional change has to start with you.
And also, don't judge yourself harshly. It may have taken many months or years of accumulated disappointments, missteps, and life circumstances to get to the state of despair in which you find yourself. Don't worry – you can pull yourself out of this. Just remember to focus on taking little doable steps and celebrate each tiny victory. And keep in touch with your support person or team regularly. They can help with guidance and celebration.
Hope is not out of your reach once you learn how to channel your energy into what you want deep down, in your heart of hearts. Take action instead of being passive and feeling disappointed.