Whether your hopelessness stems from your love-life, your job prospects or choices you have to make about your future, there are a few things you can do to help yourself out. I have listed seven of these.
Hopelessness is a state of mind triggered by a negative emotion, which is a natural occurrence, fueling a barrage of negative thoughts, which then creates a negative cycle, that only leads farther and farther down - right to hopelessness. You can stop the cycle though; below I give you 7 steps which can help you through hopeless periods.
1) Fake it til you make it:
This isn't lying to yourself or deceiving anyone; this is a very simple way of creating positive habits in your lives. If you lack confidence in any area, faking it provides a way of putting on these masks and gradually making them a part of your own natural repertoire. Hopelessness feels like a deep, empty pit from which you dare not emerge, but if you pretend and work around it, and keep fighting, you will create a stream of motivation from which you can create positivity. By choosing your behaviours, you can retrain your thoughts and feelings accordingly. If you choose to act positively in the face of potentially negative thoughts and feelings, you will circumvent the downward spiral and avoid feeling hopeless. This is not to say you should go around fake-laughing when suffering from a traumatic loss; no, I mean to say that you do not have to react to everything as if it were a life-ending catastrophe. If one loses their job, they are allowed to feel the loss, but by maintaining a positive and proactive outlook, and adopting behaviours in kind, they will do much better to avoid hopelessness (and likely remain more productive and have a higher chance of landing another job).
2) Do something you genuinely enjoy:
This is a particularly difficult step for people who are suffering from depression (or even anxiety, for that matter), but it is a powerful one. When you are depressed, hopeless, and down, you are very unlikely to feel the motivation to do things that would have normally brought pleasure. But, just doing these activities can act as a small flame in a dark hallway. It will gradually, over time, re-habituate us to making time for things you used to enjoy, and the probability is on your side that you will end up enjoying your time spent on the activity. This is helpful for getting yourselves out of your own heads and focusing in on something positive and enjoyable.
3) Meet with people who inspire you:
People inspire other people in a variety of different ways and for a variety of different reasons. Make time to see people who inspire you, in whichever way you see is important for you at that time. If you have a favourite professor, or colleague who makes you feel energized and passionate about a topic, speak to them about it. It doesn't have to be a 10-hour 'meeting of the minds' - a leisurely chat at a local coffee shop or over a meal works as well. Whatever works for you. Ask them how they coped with and conquered similar bleak periods, or discuss goals you've set and how you plan to meet them. Whatever gets your engine revving and helps inspire you! My favourite inspirational people are those who are just a few steps ahead of me along a similar path (whether it be in music, writing, or school). The challenges you are facing are likely similar to those they have faced, and they will be able to advise you on how to proceed.
4) Listen to uplifting music, watch funny movies and shows:
It isn't 'escapism' to take a break once in a while and let your worries fall to the side while enjoying some time laughing or smiling. It may feel difficult, but letting go in the moment to just experience what is happening in a particular story, or really being present with a song or at a party, is key to allowing yourselves a moment's rest from fretting. Endorphins are released when we laugh, and these help us to feel better**. Laughter really is the best medicine to uplift our spirits.
5) Read about others who have been through tough times:
It seems cliché, but you really are not alone in your experience of feeling hopeless or powerless. Even the most 'found' among us were once lost at one point or another. Learning from them how they coped with setbacks in their plans or motivation is a great step toward pulling yourself up and finding your stride again. Just like speaking with motivational or inspirational people, reading about people who have endured and conquered difficult situations encourages us to keep pressing on. It is one reason why forums are so popular. We yearn for connection and learning that someone is where you are at that moment in time, or has been before, is a great comfort.
6) Do a little bit everyday:
If we were to consider that it takes about two hours to clean an apartment, and another two to do all the laundry, it would be looking like a fairly full afternoon - and this is assuming you don't stop for breaks. If you were feeling hopeless and unmotivated this would appear exceptionally daunting as an afternoon task! In order to avoid overwhelming yourselves, the key is to take things in chunks (See Step 3 of Staying motivated when discouraged). Doing 15 minutes a day of cleaning will add up and you won't be stuck with a huge mess at the end of the week. Whether one breaks tasks up this way for studying, cleaning, or paperwork, this method is effective for reducing the stress involved in completing tasks when you aren't feeling your most fiery!
7) Quit judging yourself. Seriously:
This one is difficult for many people suffering from depression or anxiety issues. Feeling useless or defective is common and is largely due to the negative chatter inside your heads. It is also a recipe for that spiral-type thinking mentioned earlier. This isn't usually helpful chatter and is often unrepresentative of yourselves and your character. A few ways to challenge negative thoughts and its effects on your mood is through thought monitoring, and by refusing to allow negative thoughts to consume your minds.
If you enjoyed this post, like CTC on Facebook! and subscribe to Conquer The Clouds
Other topics you may be interested in:
An engine for change... motivation for self-reflection and self-improvement
Empowering yourself quickly: while coping with anxiety, job-searching or other life challenges.
** Wilkins J, et al. Humor theories and the physiological benefits of laughter. Holistic Nursing Practice . 2009;23:349.