Hopelessness, worthlessness and overwhelm… emotions that nobody loves, yet everyone experiences from time to time. How can you manage these emotions so they don’t paralyze your life?
When you feel hopeless it’s not because there is no hope at all in your life. It’s because you feel there’s none. Same with worthlessness. No one is worthless. Our lives are all worth something. Same with overwhelm: It is not a fact of life; it is your emotional response to life.
Have you had times when you just felt like giving up? Do you feel backed into the wall with nowhere to run and no reason to move? If you find yourself saying, “Why bother?” or “It’s useless” you may be experiencing hopelessness.
Negative self-talk feeds hopelessness, worthlessness and overwhelm. Some of the thoughts running through your mind may include:
- Why bother? Nothing works.
- I’ll never be happy.
- I’ll never get what I want. What’s the use in trying?
- There aren’t any good people left.
- I’m too old (or fat, ugly, poor, boring…)
When feeling hopeless, you may stop seeing friends; you may isolate yourself, stop exercising and indulge in unhealthy behaviors such as overeating or overdrinking. You may avoid anything new. And that just adds a sense of worthlessness and overwhelm until you spiral down into a quagmire of hopelessness and depression.
When you find yourself spiraling down this way, the single most important issue to address is your feeling of hopelessness. You see, when you are convinced that life is hopeless, you won’t do anything to help yourself. No matter how hopeless it seems, there are always things you can do to find a way out. Here are six things you can do to break free from the downward spiral of hopelessness:
Challenge Your Hopelessness
If you’re feeling hopeless or overwhelmed, you’re bound to have thoughts like: “It’s useless, so why even try.” Because of this thought process, you won’t do anything, and you’ll remain stuck in hopelessness. This circular thinking then turns your feeling of hopelessness into a self-fulfilling prophecy!
Why not try something different? First, make the decision to doubt your hopelessness. Simply entertain the notion that you could be wrong. You’ve been wrong before about life; maybe you’re wrong now.
And then, with that inkling of doubt, decide to act against your hopelessness and as a champion for yourself. Act as if things aren’t hopeless by taking initiative, experimenting with optimism (‘I might as well try to make the best of this’); do things the hopeless part of you doesn’t feel like doing but research shows can make things better—exercise, see friends, get out of your shell. Prove your hopelessness wrong by acting as if things are already better! This type of self-discipline is not easy, but it can make a world of difference to your emotional state.
A big part of depression or anxiety consists of thoughts in our heads that tell us things are bad, we are hopeless and things won’t get better. The simple exercise of challenging those thoughts can do wonders for our state of mind. If the thought in your mind says that things are never going to get better, then dig deep and remember a time when things were bad but did improve! That is the truth you need to hang onto until your emotions shift.
Consider The Path Not Taken – Yet
Hopelessness will tell you that you’ve already tried everything to make things better, but nothing has worked. Let’s be serious, in a multiverse with limitless options, no one has tried everything yet! Maybe you’ve tried five or ten things things—changing some behavior, therapy, medication, resting, prayer, etc. When none of these things turned out to be the magic bullet that dramatically changed your life, you concluded that it’s all hopeless. Now would be a good time to keep looking, because there is an answer or (even many) for every challenge you may face.
You can try different kinds of therapy, different techniques and combinations of different approaches. You can choose to reframe the way you are looking at the challenge and instead of concluding that your situation is hopeless, you can ask instead, ‘How could this be helpful?’ or ‘What can I learn from this?’
You could consider giving up on ways of thinking and acting that haven’t worked: worrying, complaining, avoiding, isolating and taking things personally. Every time you catch yourself doing one of these things, remind yourself that there’s a better way, and then choose instead to do other things that may work: accepting, tolerating discomfort, practicing patience, or doing what you don’t want to do but what could actually be good for you.
Instead of focusing on what you can’t change, look instead at the wide range of things you can change. Let’s say your relationship really is a lot cause: You’ve broken up and there is no going back. That relationship really is hopeless now. OK, but how about all the other things in your life you can change—things you can do? Stop banging your head against a wall that won’t move, and walk through the door that is wide open for you.
Realize Your Happiness Does Not Depend on Just One Thing
Nobody says, “Life is hopeless because there’s a cloud in the sky.” Of course not! If we don’t treat the cloud as an essential part of life, we are not going to sweat it. When you feel hopeless, it is because you are telling yourself that the thing that won’t change is essential: “I can’t live without it.” Why not? You lived before you had it. Even if the relationship or job really turned out to be hopeless, weren’t you living a life before it? Start living again…like you did before!
Appreciate this Present Moment
Stop and think about what is happening right now. Is this moment hopeless? Sit quietly, noticing your breath, letting it in and out, watching it come and go. Feel your feet against the floor. Hear the sounds around you. Peel an orange and smell the tangy skin. Listen to music and feel the notes run through you. The present is here, every moment, every day. When the future and the past are pushed aside so you are fully alive here and now, you put an end to hopelessness. Appreciating this present moment and making it a sweet one, will help you forget the hopelessness.
Take Good Care of Yourself
It sounds so simple, but little things like getting enough sleep and eating as healthy as possible can make a huge difference on how we feel emotionally. Lack of sleep alone can cause depression and anxiety. Exercise has been proven to significantly reduce symptoms of depression, and by this I don’t mean slogging it out in the gym for two hours a day. Be kind to yourself! If you’re feeling down, stuck or overwhelmed, take a walk in nature, do some gentle yoga, or go for a bike ride to help lift your spirits.
When we feel hopeless, it is easy to self-medicate in unhealthy ways: overeating, oversleeping, overdrinking or indulging in recreational drugs. We all know that doing these things actually make us feel worse in the long run! Moderation is important in all aspects of our lives. When feeling hopeless or overwhelmed, wisdom urges us to say “no” to certain activities because we know that our boundaries are weaker than normal. Overindulging as a form of self-medication comes with a price that is just not worth paying.
About the Author
©Copyright Ada Porat. For more information, visit www.adaporat.com. This article may be freely distributed in whole or in part, provided there is no charge for it and this notice is attached.