Hopelessness is generated when we are confronted with a problem that we are unable to resolve, and it often coincides with a narrowed perspective on what is important or possible. This usually comes from repeatedly experiencing or witnessing negative situations and not seeing them improve and can lead us to believing a difficult situation will never get better. These factors are certainly relevant with respect to the global pandemic.
Here’s some tips to help you shift out of hopelessness and back into feeling more engaged and in control:
1. Move your body
Our physiology and our posture can directly influence our mood so it’s important that we make sure we keep moving our bodies, keeping our energy fluid.
• Walk, Stretch, do yoga or Pilates
• Have a dance party to your favourite music
• Lay with your legs up the wall
Our breathing changes and usually becomes more shallow when we are anxious, scared, stressed, angry. Try to consciously and mindfully take some deep breaths a few times every day.
Try this app to get started if you’re new to this:
We are all living organisms, not robots! And just like our house plants, we need sunshine and vitamin d to flourish. Be sure to step outside and get some sun on your skin.
4. Safeguard your energy
You’ve heard the saying “energy goes where attention flows”? You can still be educated and informed about current events without having to go down the rabbit hole of 24/7 news coverage across all media platforms. Consider limiting your exposure to the problem to once or twice a day, for a set period of time e.g., 30 minutes.
5. Set small achievable goals
One of the key factors of hopelessness is a sense of having no control over the problem or the outcome. To counterbalance this, think about behaviours that you have some control over—contacting people you know, reading, listening to music, exercising, learning something new, meditation, helping someone else, showing kindness toward yourself – and find ways to consciously and deliberately weave these into your days.
Also consider establishing new tasks with measurable/observable outcomes, e.g., working on your fitness and improving your walking distance or run time, working one a craft project, or learning to play a new piece of music.
6. Spend time in nature
Again, as living beings we are not designed to be contained in a concrete jungle. There’s an abundance of evidence to support the benefits to spending time in nature (e.g. check out this link on FOREST BATHING https://time.com/5259602/japanese-forest-bathing/)
Given the lockdown situation many people are not going to be able to hang out in the forest right now. But, you can step outside and put your feet on the grass, sit with your back against a tree, watch the clouds pass across the sky or watch the night sky for shooting stars.
If, for some reason, you are unable to go outside, bring nature to meet you inside – have house plants, listen to nature soundscapes, have pictures of nature images as your screensaver, etc.
7. Keep in contact & prioritize meaningful connection
It can be easy to withdraw from the world when we feel a situation is hopeless. The inability to spend in-person time with loved ones has left many people feeling lonelier than ever before, and loneliness often adds more fuel to a lingering sense of hopelessness.
It might take a little more maintenance to keep friendships and relationships thriving, but with effort, you might end up feeling even more connected to the people you consider most important. It’s worth considering that loved ones might be grappling with similar emotions. Opening up and sharing your feelings might give them a chance to share their own struggles so you can support each other.
And if you happen to want more ways to connect, consider maximizing the benefits of technology through virtual volunteering or online book or movie clubs.
8. Consider seeking professional support
Persistent hopelessness might affect your sleep and appetite or play a part in depression and thoughts of suicide.
While coping strategies often help ease emotional distress, they may not always work. That doesn’t mean you’ve failed or done anything wrong, only that you might benefit from a little extra support.
A therapist can help you uncover the roots of hopelessness and explore ways to address the things you can change. Even more importantly, they can teach you skills to accept and manage the difficult feelings that accompany challenges you can’t do anything about.
At the end of the day, the end of this pandemic is not yet in sight. We do not know what the future holds or how this will continue to unfold. We can though, focus our attention on the things we can foresee and control and we can actively rekindle our hope through both self-compassion and taking action, however small it may be.