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.
It’s mid-summer, and almost everyone I know is either on vacation or suffering from post vacation blues. The bliss of getting away from it all is often followed by the despair of returning to daily routine, right!
Vacation can feel like a bit of heaven on earth, followed by intense resistance as we struggle to return to our daily routine. Authentic living requires us to embrace and integrate these seeming opposites, instead of perpetuating the cycle through attachment and aversion.
Ultimately, vacation is a change in routine, not a lack thereof. My granny taught me this lesson early on in life. I’d get home from boarding school, exhausted from the rigid academic schedule and looking forward to some reprieve. But no such luck! My mother would wake me up at dawn the next morning with a cup of coffee and a long list of chores to do! When I complained to Gran, she smiled and said, “My girlie, vacation is a change of occupation, not a lack of occupation.”
Today I understand the wisdom of her words. Changing our daily routine is not only refreshing, it is essential for well-being. Breaking away gives us the opportunity to expand our viewpoints, experiences and skill sets. It can open our perceptions to entirely new possibilities. Studies in brain neurology have show that when the brain is exercised in ways outside the habitual scope of daily routine, it remains resilient and hence more resistant to dementia.
On the flip side, the very freedom of vacation can also contribute to a sense of post vacation blues when we return to our daily lives. From working with clients I have learned that there are three areas that contribute to post vacation blues: returning to a daily routine that somehow feels dissonant, coming back to piles of responsibilities that accumulated while you were gone, and leaving the relaxed, exciting or self-nurturing aspects of your vacation behind.
There are several things you can do to integrate aspects of your vacation into your daily life for ongoing enrichment while mitigating post vacation blues. Here are a few:
Deal with dissonance.
Pay attention to the deeper reasons WHY you might have difficulty returning to your routine. If you still experience post vacation blues after the jet lag has worn off and you’ve been back at work for more than a few days, perhaps there is a deeper reason for your reluctance. Stepping away from your routine may have offered you clarity on the fact that you have outgrown your current work situation, or that the work schedule you’ve been keeping leaves no space for work-life balance; or that your work demands are not aligned with your core values. If you experience any of these deeper sources of dissonance, it may be time for a work or career change.
Plan ahead for peace.
Post vacation blues can leave you feeling overwhelmed by projects, bills and responsibilities that piled up while you were gone. A bit of planning can go a long way to prevent the budget blues. Prepaying aspects of your vacation such as the hotel, flight or rental car will help whittle down credit card balances so you don’t get hit with the whole whammy upon returning. Arrange for a neighbor or student to handle basic chores while you are gone so you don’t return to a dead garden or piled-up chores – or my favorite, schedule someone to clean the house so you return to a clean, tidy home!
Schedule a buffer day at the end of your vacation so you have time to catch up with essentials after you get back. This step can help you avoid all kinds of stress in the event of flight delays, unexpected events or simply returning home exhausted.
Savor the experience.
In our rushed lives, we often forget that vacation consists of more than time away: the first phase involves planning and preparation; the second consists of the actual vacation experience, and the third involves review and integration of that experience into your life.
What were some of the cultural, culinary, experiential or educational highlights of your vacation? How can you integrate some of those aspects into your daily life for ongoing enrichment?
When you integrate positive aspects of your vacation into your daily life, you’ll continue to reap rewards from the time away. One of my clients returned from a trip to France and decided to finally fulfill a lifelong dream of learning French; another decided to start an educational charity after a trip to Africa.
Refresh your daily routine.
One of the most beneficial aspects of vacation has to do with the way it changes up our daily routine – just as my Granny taught me. This is hugely refreshing because it replaces the drudgery of daily life.
You can keep that sense of renewal alive by varying your daily routine at home, too! If your favorite part of vacation was breakfast on the balcony overlooking the mountains, then find a way to bring that mood to your meals at home. Was it the excitement of sightseeing? Most of us have never seen all the sights in our own regions, so plan some weekend getaways year-round.
When you use the joyful moments of your vacation experience as inspiration to freshen and enliven your daily routine, you’ll do more than banishing post vacation blues – you’ll find your everyday life enriched in amazing ways!
About the author
©Copyright Ada Porat. For more information, visit http://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.
Emotions are incredibly powerful. In fact, they color everything in life. But an emotion cannot exist without a thought to drive it and give it life. What’s more, emotions can’t be changed simply because you decide they ought to.
Even if you pride yourself on being highly rational, you probably suspect that your emotions are the strongest force in your existence. You may have trouble figuring out how to change the way you feel, even when you don’t like where it takes you.
Put simply, energy flows where attention goes. And it is in the mind that the battle plays out, because your thoughts and your focus of attention direct the flow of energy – and it is in the mind that they can be changed.
As you change your thoughts, you will notice that your mood, feelings and emotions will follow. In due course, your actions and behaviors will fall into line with your thoughts as well.
Understanding this principle is essential if you want to change your attitude.
Your thoughts don’t travel in one direction only. We take in thoughts; yet we also send them out and project them onto the world outside ourselves. Put differently, whatever we enact in the outside world has its origins in the inside world of our minds – and it is not always lovely!
Once we recognize this, we come close to a real understanding of what self-responsibility is. You and I are collectively responsible for the world outside ourselves. Everything in this world – the good, the bad, and everything in between – begins with thought.
The spiritual description of this process takes it a step further, reminding us that we are actually creating the world outside ourselves through the power of our thinking. War, violence and injustice, as well as goodness, kindness and mercy, are all states of mind originated and sustained by our thoughts. No wonder the Course in Miracles calls the original thought of separation the “tiny, mad idea!”
It is through our thinking and the actions that flow from there that we add to our collective well-being – or not.
The Brahma Kumaris teachers of Peace Of Mind meditation teach the same concept with their statement that “Peace is just a thought away.”
Just imagine how exquisite our world and our lives would be if we consistently let ourselves believe and experience that. We would be able to create peace, have peace and offer peace to one another!
This meaningful change starts with taking charge of our thoughts and harnessing what is known in Buddhism as the monkey mind. Here are five simple steps to change the way you feel:
1. Change your thinking – and you will also change the way you feel.
2. Challenge beliefs that hold you back or harm you – and you will change the way you feel.
3. Notice when you fall into dreary or pessimistic thinking and take positive action instead – and you will change the way you feel.
4. Limit the attention you give to what is going wrong or what is disappointing or hurtful in your life – and you will change the way you feel.
5. Increase the attention you give to what is positive, uplifting, hopeful and supportive – and you will radically change the way you feel.
This all seems so obvious! It begs the question of why we don’t automatically weed out the thoughts that hurt us and cultivate supportive thoughts instead. Why don’t we act decisively, knowing that our feelings will change as we do so?
I believe that we most often allow the monkey mind to run wild simply because we don’t realize that our thoughts drive our behaviors. Nor do we realize that we can do something about those thoughts; that we can direct them instead of being overwhelmed by them.
You and I know better now! We can change our thoughts at any time by using these five simple skills to challenge, change, notice, and limit negative thoughts so we can increase our focus on what is positive. In so doing, our emotional well-being will thrive.
©Copyright Ada Porat. For more information, visit 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.
By Kane Matthews and the Xtend Life Team
Reprinted with permission
A continued state of high stress about what could go wrong is not good for our well-being. If you’ve read the works of Nostradamus, you might see the end of the world lurking around every single corner.
You probably also saw people spending time worrying that the world would come to an end along with the Mayan calendar in December of last year. Let’s not forget movies have sold millions of tickets about Martians invading. For some people this is a welcome and brief entertainment, for others this is an ongoing cause of concern.
Extreme religious sects have based their entire teachings on ‘end-of-the-world-beliefs’ – Harold Camping preached that the world would end on May 21, 2011 – a movement that controls followers through the use of fear.
Fear and worry – especially unmanageable ones such as end-of-the-world prophesies – can be big roadblocks to happiness, for a variety of different reasons.
“A mind that is afraid withers away; it cannot function properly,” wrote Jiddu Kristnamurti in his book On Fear.
Not only that, but fear can stop you in your tracks, bringing about a sense of stagnation – almost as if you’re waiting around for something. As you worry and fret, you’re putting stress on your body and mind, and as you’re on high alert for something that may never come, you’re wasting time that could be spent making life improvements and increasing your happiness.
“The only way to get rid of the fear of doing something is to go out… and do it,” said Susan J. Jeffers in Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway.
Sure, sometimes life throws boulders in our path. We fail to get the promotion we worked so hard for, the person we thought was “the one” decides to break it off or a natural disaster strikes too close to home.
Even after a boulder passes, there will likely be others to follow. Of course we could climb into bed and cocoon ourselves against the problems of the world, waiting for happiness to miraculously drive up and knock on our doors, or we could face our fears and fight them off in a true quest for happiness.
According to Dr. Timothy Sharp, author of The Happiness Handbook and founder of the Happiness Institute, as with anything, it takes work to be happy.
“Those who fail to plan, plan to fail,” said Sharp. “Just like in any other life domain, the pursuit of happiness requires planning.”
But by taking action and working at happiness, we create the opportunity to realize that we are more capable than we might have ever known, boosting our self-esteem and making us feel better about ourselves in the process.
By setting goals to be happy and doing things that make you happy – essentially putting in the work – you can rock yourself out of the waiting game and sow the seeds of real happiness with clear, concise actions.
See the good in the now.
Look around you and truly recognize what it is about your life that is good. Knowing how to focus on the good rather than the bad can change perceptions, meaning that instead of planning for the end of the world, you’ll instead be looking ahead to tomorrow with expectation and excitement.
“The only moment in which we can be truly happy is the present moment,” said Sharp. “The only moment over which we have control is the present moment. So be happy now. Because if not now, then when?”
This means that as difficult as may be, it’s important to stop waiting around for happiness to come.
You can say “I’ll be happy when I land the dream job, lose the weight or get married,” but chances are pretty good that even if you do land the dream job, reach your goal weight or find your soul mate, you’ll still find yourself putting off happiness for some other goal.
Even if your life is not exactly what you’ve always hoped for right now, recognize what is good about it and revel in it. Finding happiness in the now doesn’t have to be a measure of what you have, but rather how you see your life and the good things in it.
Celebrating the good in all its forms is vital to happiness.
Understand that we all make mistakes, and some of them can be pretty big ones. But we can learn from them, and grow because of those lessons, no matter how painful.
Because of the errors we’ve made, like a broken bone that heals even stronger, we are better than we were before because we know more. Rather than dwelling on those mistakes, see them as opportunities for growth, and appreciate the blessing.
Train yourself to find the positive side.
The song “Keep on the Sunny Side of Life” was written in 1889, but the idea remains absolutely true. No matter what comes your way, finding the light present in the darkness is key to real happiness.
The Dalai Lama said, “The central method for achieving a happier life is to train your mind in a daily practice that weakens negative attitudes and strengthens positive ones.”
While the idea of positive affirmations might seem simplistic, finding a way to replace the negatives with positives are key to ensuring that we feel amazing and capable, every day of our lives. The Power of Positive Thinking became a bestseller for Norman Vincent Peale because the idea works.
According to self-help guru Anthony Robbins, affirmations help unleash the power within, reminding us that we are able to accomplish dreams and goals by erasing the self-doubt and negativity that can erode happiness.
Negativity is like a curtain that blocks the sun. Since the sun is an essential nutrient to grow and heal, opening the curtains and letting the sunlight in through positive affirmations can ease bad feelings and create a sense of hopefulness where once was despair.
Keep the following affirmations in your arsenal to haul out when times are tough:
• Every day in every way I am getting better and better.
• The past is gone. I live only in the present.
• My good comes from everywhere and everyone. All is well in my world.
After time – because your mind flexes and responds to this new way of thinking – you will begin to turn more naturally to positive thoughts, while the negative ones are kept at bay.
By insulating yourself from negativity, you’ll also be protecting your health, according to Dr. Christopher Peterson of the University of Michigan, who found that optimistic people have a stronger immune system than their pessimistic cousins. Optimists tend to take better care of themselves, Peterson said, and therefore feel better – and happier – as well.
Have gratitude for the little things.
Whether it’s a sunny day, a kiss from a puppy or a fuzzy blanket on a cold day, take the time to appreciate the small things in life, writes author Gretchen Rubin in Good Housekeeping magazine.
“I’ve long been haunted by the words of the French writer Colette: ‘What a wonderful life I’ve had! I only wish I’d realized it sooner.’ That quote is why I’ve been working hard at finding happiness in the small, ordinary details in life and appreciating the adventure of everyday existence,” she writes.
Life has its highs and its lows. But being aware of what’s good in your life can make those lows feel easier to bear.
To reinforce those good feelings, try to do things that you enjoy every day.
Whether you find happiness in sipping a cup of tea while watching birds from your porch, spending time with your partner, taking a long bath or walking in the woods, make time as often as possible to do the things you enjoy doing.
Make a move.
Sometimes, a big jolt of change can do the trick and transform your life from bad to good and release a sense of happiness.
If you find yourself immersed in misery, fear and worry, maybe it’s time for a change of scenery. Clearly, your job, your relationship, whatever it is that’s going on in your life, isn’t working. If you’re in a situation to make changes, doing so can make a big difference.
“You have been blessed with immeasurable power to make positive changes in your life,” said Steve Maraboli in his book Life, the Truth, and Being Free.
Ultimately, our happiness rests in our own hands, and we alone have the power to make the changes we need to be happy.
Sticking around in a bad situation can leave you feeling stagnant – if you do what you’ve always done, you will get the same results, many experts have said – but making a move, taking on fear and doing something unexpected, can reveal inner strength that you never realized you had.
“We can’t be afraid of change,” said C. JoyBell C., author of The Sun is Snowing and other poetic works. “You may feel very secure in the pond that you are in, but if you never venture out of it, you will never know that there is such a thing as an ocean, a sea.
“There is fun to be done. Make it a point every day to tell yourself that today, on this new and wonderful day, things are changing. And on this day, anything is possible.
“It may lead to the end of what was once a little world, but remember what the band R.E.M. said about that: ‘It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine.’”
This article is reprinted with permission from the monthly Xtend Life newsletter. To learn more about Xtend Life, visit www.xtend-life.com.
©Copyright Ada Porat. For more information, visit 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.