Sometimes the world can feel like a hopeless place. If we struggle with our mental health generally, then reading and seeing awful things in the news can hit particularly hard. There are days when finding that hope can be a tricky task.
Hopelessness weighs so very heavy. Breathing can sometimes feel like a superhuman achievement. The walk to the kitchen to make a cuppa can feel like a pilgrimage.
We might feel balanced on a tightrope. As though one more thing could send us tumbling down. Perhaps the washing machine beeps to let us know that it’s done, and we sit on the floor and cry; it’s all too much. At the same time, our anxiety starts edging up. We catch ourselves jiggling at our desk, catastrophising in the car, and spiralling in the shower.
The more we struggle, the more hopeless we feel. The more hopeless we feel, the more we berate ourselves, because while we’re struggling to empty the dishwasher, others are leaving their lives behind, or struggling to afford food. We’d tell a friend in our position that someone else’s struggles don’t erase our own, yet we struggle to apply that same logic to ourselves.
Many of us will try time and again to pull ourselves out of hopelessness. We might keep scanning our lives for good things to hold onto. Try to reason with ourselves. Plaster on the positive around other people, whether we believe it ourselves or not.
It’s exhausting and can become all-consuming.
Get out of the hopeless scroll hole
How many times have we told ourselves to stop doom-scrolling, and deleted apps from our phone (only to then re-download them)?
We know that scrolling through endless social media feeds of suffering is probably not going to help us feel fantastic, yet it can be addictive. Some days the news just keeps on coming; awful things happening all over the place – positive news doesn’t sell papers.
Deleting apps from our phone or putting site-blockers on our social media works well for some, but isn’t always the answer, because the positive aspects of being online mingle with the less-positive ones, and if we’re honest, we don’t always have the willpower to stay away. For those of us who struggle to stop the scroll, we might find it more helpful to curate our social media feeds to have a better balance between the good and the less good. Follow accounts like The Happy News or The Happy Broadcast. We could block certain words or phrases. Some find timers, or reminders helpful; prompting us to log off if we’ve been scrolling for too long.
Our brain might start kicking off as we recognise that we’re privileged to be able to shield ourselves from some of the “bad stuff” – but who does it help for us to scroll ourselves into a pit of hopelessness?
Take solace in nature
Though eco-anxiety and eco-dread are very real things, nature can also offer great comfort.
The predictable patterns offered by the natural world can be calming. Shapes repeat themselves in different plants. Spirals show themselves in new plant growth, cloud patterns and the moss growing between paving slabs. Snowdrops open the year for many of us. We know that birds nest each Spring and that trees offer an incredible array of colours before making way for new buds each Autumn. No matter how many worries weigh us down, robins continue to sing. If we sit in the same place regularly, we can often learn the sounds and movement patterns of specific creatures. They can become a marker to ground ourselves with. If we have a garden, or we’re able to pop a bird feeder on our window, then we might start to look forward to birds we recognise dropping by each day.
When the human world feels all too much, taking a step back, checking out of it all and tuning into nature can offer us some peace, and perhaps moments of hope.
Find the fun
Sometimes what we really need is some silliness and laughter. We need to shrug off the seriousness for a bit and do something that we like doing. It can help us to remember that things aren’t all bad.
Spend time with loved ones. Do things that child-us found joy in. Run down a hill with arms outstretched. Spin in circles until the world becomes a blur. Have a go at a forward roll with a friend before collapsing in a heap of laughter (because it turns out they’re not as easy as they were as a kid!). Play Pictionary or charades. Get some paint and see how much mess can be made. Dig out the album that 14-year-old us played on repeat for six months and see if the words still come to mind. Bake cookies with a younger sibling, grandchild, or niece/nephew. Have fun!
Tune in to little things
Perhaps it sounds cliché, but sometimes it really is the little things that get us through hopeless times. Maybe it’s noticing the way the sun dances on a spider’s web, a stranger complementing our outfit on our way to work, or a neighbour dropping some garden produce over. Perhaps it’s the wobble of a toddler learning to take their first steps, the offer of an invisible drink from an imaginative seven-year-old, or a 14-year-old asking to join us for a movie night. Maybe it’s the smell of our fabric conditioner, our favourite yoghurt being on “2 for 1” or managing to catch an earlier train home. It could be a particularly colourful sunset, some love from a passing dog, or seeing our first frogspawn of the year.
It doesn’t matter how small they are, noticing, the little things, can help us to hold onto the hope of brighter days.
Find your 1%
If something good, no matter how silly or small, makes us smile, then our day isn’t 100% hopeless. It could still be 99.999% hopeless, but not 100%.
We might like to look out for the same thing each day: a nudge from our dog, a hug from our partner, or the comfiness of our sofa-blanket. Perhaps we want to look for something new each day; a different flower pushing through the pavement or a different funny tweet. Different things will work for different people, but we only need to find one teeny tiny thing in a day to break the “100% bad-ness”.
Look back to look forward
For those of us who need hard evidence that things can get better, history books come in handy. There have been dreadful things that have occurred throughout history: war, natural disasters, pandemics, plagues and famine. Every time people have experienced these awful things, others have offered help. Kindness, donations, shelter, medical support, and fundraisers spring up, sometimes from the most unexpected places. That’s not to say that we want bad things to happen, nor that there’s a “reason” for suffering. But it does show us that there is an element of hope.
If it’s our personal world that feels a hopeless place, then we might find it helpful to look back at a time when we’ve previously had a rubbish time of it and reflect on our strength and resilience. Having to be resilient over and over again is really flippin’ exhausting, and it’s not fair. It might leave us feeling angry or frustrated. But amongst all of that, it can also offer us some hope. We’ve got through rubbish times before, and we can do it again.
When we hear the word ‘faith’, many of us will immediately think of religious faith. For some, faith does mean religion. Believing in a higher power gives us hope and helps us to carry on.
For others, our faith is in other things. We might have faith in future generations, faith in politicians, faith that good will always prevail, faith in the power of protest, faith in democracy, faith in our health system, or faith in science.
Faith can be found in the darkest of times. Sometimes, it just hides for a while.
Look after you
Sometimes, we can’t find hope. We might have tried everything we can think of, and we just can’t find it, we can’t feel it. We’re too tired and worn down. It can take an awful lot of energy.
Even if we can’t find hope, we can still look after ourselves. It’s harder. It’s much harder to look after ourselves when everything feels hopeless, but it’s not impossible. We might need support; from family, friends, loved ones, professionals, or medication. If daily tasks are a struggle, then we might need practical help. Perhaps we need to step back from some of our commitments for a while and use our limited energy to meet our basic needs.
We might need regular reminders that we deserve care and love. Because we don’t always feel like we’re worthy. But if that’s what we need for a while, then that’s what we need for a while. It’s okay to take what we need.
The future can be five minutes
When we “think about the future” we don’t have to think about the next five weeks, months, or years. The future can be five minutes. If that’s too much, then it can be five seconds.
Thinking far into the future can be terrifying, overwhelming, and intensify our hopeless feelings. We might not have a plan. We might not know where we’re going, or even where we want to go or what we want to do. The world might feel too unpredictable; so much has happened in the last few years; none of us can predict what it will be like in a few years’ time.
No matter what happens, we have to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Keep trying. Remember that we’re worthy of care, love, and support. Find people who can remind us that we’re worthy of care, love, and support for times when we can’t remind ourselves.
One second, one moment at a time is sometimes the only way to get through tricky times, and if that’s what we need right now, then that is absolutely okay. One step at a time, we will get through this.
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