Have you ever felt like your world was falling apart? Have you been stuck on what to do when you feel hopeless? Does it feel like you cannot get what you want or achieve your goals even when you work very hard?
If you have, you have felt hopelessness, and you know it is a very crippling feeling. But, do you know what to do when you feel hopeless?
Before I answer this question, you have to know what hope is and why you need hope so that you can understand the impact that hopelessness could have on your well-being.
In this article, you will be learning everything about hope and hopelessness, their impact, and what to do when you feel hopeless. You will also learn how to help someone who feels hopeless. So what are you waiting for? Keep reading!
What Is Hope?
Hope can be described as realistic optimism because it is a feeling that shows up when we are working hard towards a goal and expecting a favorable outcome based on the volume of work we did.
Hope is not to be confused with optimism or faith. Hope is a belief and trust in the positive outcome of a specific action we are undertaking or have performed.
Hope is simply a can-do attitude and motivation that drives us to work harder and achieve our goals. The feeling of hope assures us that our hard work will pay off, and we will get what we want.
Optimism, on the other hand, is a general expectation that a situation will turn out well, regardless of how it begins. And faith is a conviction or confidence in someone, something, or a situation without prior proof or evidence to support its credibility.
One cannot have hope without faith, and one cannot have faith without optimism. They are all related; however, hope and optimism are very different.
A pessimist who is dismissive of everything could hope for a positive outcome of their job interview or loan application because they have labored for it.
Hope is a feeling of expectation that is backed up by appropriate action. So, why do we need hope? What do we need to hope for? Is hope necessary?
Why Do We Need Hope?
The question of, why do we need hope?” is a common one. Have you ever looked forward to something before? Whether it was a promotion, a vacation, or a pregnancy test that said ‘positive’? If you have, then you have an idea of what hope is.
We need hope because it gives us a reason to keep going, even when the going is tough. Hope also helps us reduce stress, anxiety, and sadness and improve our mental well-being.
Hope benefits our health and increases our happiness. Studies have shown that simply looking forward to something and envisioning it happening gives us a moment of joy.
It makes our current difficulties and hardships easier to bear because we have the feeling that everything will turn out fine. The belief in positive outcomes after hard work helps increase our self-worth and self-confidence.
It pushes us towards taking more action and working harder because we have a conviction in the positive result of our efforts.
Hope uses our past experiences of tough times and how we got through them to remind us that no challenge is insurmountable.
It believes in the barely possible, allowing us to chase our dreams no matter how wild they seem. The world keeps spinning, and people keep doing it because of hope.
You must have worked hard to deserve your promotion or saved consistently for your vacation. Or maybe, you followed every doctor’s advice and precautions so that you can see the stripes that tell you you’re going to be a parent.
The joy and eager anticipation you felt while working diligently towards your goal is known as hope. Hope is a positive feeling, the eager anticipation and expectation that shows up when we are working hard towards a goal.
What happens then when you lose hope? Is that the end? Or do you know what to do when you feel hopeless and lost? Hopelessness is a severe and natural feeling, but it can be combated.
What Causes Being Hopeless?
People don’t just wake up and decide that they want to feel sad and hopeless. With that in mind, many things add up to feelings of hopelessness. What causes being hopeless?
Dashed expectations can cause a feeling of hopelessness. However, hopelessness can also occur when you don’t get what you have been working hard for.
Other causes of hopelessness include mental illnesses like depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), stress, helplessness, a foreboding sense of defeat, or grief.
Is Hopelessness A Mental Illness?
The feeling of hopelessness, anhedonia (loss of interest in things that’d usually excite you), and the unwillingness to function go hand in hand. Those may be signs of depression, but does that make hopelessness a mental illness?
Hopelessness is a common symptom of mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, and post-traumatic stress disorder. However, hopelessness is not a mental illness; it could degenerate into one if not properly managed.
What Are The Signs of Being Hopeless?
Some people think hopelessness is depression, but that’s a long shot! So what are the signs of being hopeless you can look out for?
When you feel hopeless, signs such as intense feelings of pessimism and helplessness show up. Other symptoms of being hopeless include overeating or undereating, alcohol and drug usage, and the sudden need to isolate yourself and be away from everyone.
The unwillingness to do anything — even things you usually find interesting — is also a sign of hopelessness.
What Are The Symptoms of Hopelessness?
Simply put, hopelessness is the absence of hope. It is a feeling of loss and despair that nothing seems to work or go your way no matter how hard you try.
Hopelessness usually sets in after many failed attempts to make something work, get better at something, or break an addiction. However, hopelessness could signify that you’re doing too much or that what you’re doing is not for you.
Hopelessness could be a warning from your brain; nevertheless, it is a choking feeling. People who feel hopeless describe it as a deep, dark hole that they find difficult to climb out of.
Hopelessness sets in in stages, and it is necessary to be able to identify those stages and feelings so that you can recognize when you feel hopeless.
No one is immune to hopelessness, and the key to overcoming it quickly is to be able to spot its symptoms so that you can proceed to what to do when you feel hopeless.
Here are some of the most common symptoms of hopelessness:
- Loss of interest, especially in activities that you loved and looked forward to
- The sudden need to shut yourself from the world and be alone
- Erratic sleep patterns, such as sleeping too much or too little
- Increased alcohol consumption
- Thoughts that nothing is going to work out
- Thoughts of giving up and abandoning all current projects
- Forcing yourself to go about the day as normal
- Helplessness and powerlessness
- Overeating or skipping meals
When you notice two or more of these symptoms, then you are feeling hopeless. Dwelling and wallowing in hopelessness for too long is detrimental to your mental health, physical health, and social life.
Hopelessness could also spur suicidal thoughts or thoughts of self-harm. When feelings of hopelessness continue for too long, it might be a symptom of a mental illness such as depression and anxiety.
In some extreme cases it could be post-traumatic stress disorder, especially if it comes along with feelings of sadness, panic, and destabilizing flashback episodes.
I’m sure you are now thinking, what should I do if I feel hopeless? How do I regain hope? Here are some simple things you can try.
What Do You Do When You Feel Hopeless?
Most times, when people ask me, “what do you do when you feel hopeless?” it’s because, to them, hopelessness is like the end of the world. They feel like nothing is worth living for, and no one can save them. But that’s not true.
When you feel hopeless, you should acknowledge and accept how you feel at the moment. Then, identify your triggers and try to find a distraction. This takes your mind off the situation that is making you feel hopeless.
Crying helps, too. Talk to your trusted ones about your feelings of hopelessness. Then, when nothing seems to be working out, it is time to seek professional assistance.
I will share some tips with you so that you know how to find yourself the next time you feel lost and alone in the world. In the next section, we are going to discuss ten steps to take when you’re feeling hopeless. Keep reading!
10 Steps To Take When You’re Feeling Hopeless
When you feel hopeless, it feels like there’s nothing that works for you in life. You feel like giving up and just shutting yourself out from everything because no matter what you do or how hard you try, you won’t get the result that you desire.
Hopelessness is a feeling and a state of mind that can seriously affect your mental health, social life, and even your physical health.
It could lead to depression or anxiety, strain your relationships with your loved ones, prevent you from making new connections, and cause lethargy and fatigue.
Therefore, you must know what to do when you feel hopeless. It will help bring you out of the hopeless state of mind, increase your hope and motivate you to continue with your plans to achieve your goals.
So, what do you do in a hopeless situation? Here are ten things to do when you feel hopeless:
1. Cry As Long As You Need To
Crying is an excellent way to deal with hopelessness. It helps purge out negative feelings you have kept buried inside you.
In addition, crying relieves stress and burdens from your shoulders, leaving you feeling more relaxed and clear-headed, and improves your mood.
2. Reach Out To Your Loved Ones
Another way to deal with hopelessness is to reach out to your loved ones. Talk to them and tell them how you feel. Even if they cannot help, they will listen to you without judging and encourage you. This helps you feel less burdened.
3. Find A Distraction
Indulging in a distraction is another thing to do when you feel hopeless. Find a fun activity to participate in. For example, you could read a book, watch a movie or go to the park. Sleep is another distraction. Take a nap or a siesta.
You would find that when you are successfully distracted, your feelings of hopelessness have vanished, and you can continue your project with renewed hope and vigor.
Meditation is another activity that helps to quell feelings of hopelessness. Meditating gives you a sense of calm and balance that renews your state of mind and relaxes your body.
It enables you to achieve a mental clarity that banishes hopelessness and refills your hope.
5. Explore Other Alternatives
Attempting a goal using the same process every time and not getting a satisfactory result leaves you feeling frustrated and hopeless. To eliminate those negative feelings, you need to try other alternatives.
When you try the same thing repeatedly, and it doesn’t work, try mapping out a different approach to it. Explore other methods that could work better and faster, and use them to achieve your goals.
This would renew your hope in your goal and motivate you to do more. You can use quotes that boosts the mind and adds to your courage in this time.
Here are some quotes about strength to keep you going when you are in a dark corner. You can get them here.
6. Look For Role Models
If you don’t know what to do when you feel hopeless about the future, look for role models in your field who have passed through the stage you are now.
Talk to them and tell them how you feel. Ask them how they overcame the stage you are in and how they moved forward. Study their lifestyle and pick out habits that could work for you and help you achieve your goals.
Admiring people that have surpassed you and achieved more could motivate you and help you regain hope.
7. Identify Triggers
Did you know that some thoughts or actions evoke feelings of hopelessness in you? It could be a random passing thought such as ‘how sure am I that this will work out?’ or ‘should I be doing this?’ that makes you overthink, and you start feeling hopeless.
It could be a memory or even words from other people that makes you want to give up. Triggers are different for each individual, and identifying your triggers will go a long way in helping you avoid hopelessness.
8. Keep A Journal
What to do when you feel hopeless also includes keeping a journal. A journal is a little book where you write down your feelings regularly.
Apart from helping you pour out negative emotions and help you understand your feelings, a journal could also help eliminate your present hopelessness.
When you write in a journal, you write everything you feel – happiness, sadness, excitement, and hopelessness. Then, after the hopeless situation, write down how you felt and the steps you took to make the feelings vanish.
Revisiting the journal reminds you that you have overcome hopelessness before and can do it again.
9. Maintain A Healthy Lifestyle
A healthy lifestyle in which you eat healthily, exercise regularly, spend time in nature and sleep well could help keep hopelessness at bay. This is because you are well-nourished, constantly active, and indulging in activities that make you happy.
This is because they enhance the secretion of feel-good chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin in your brain and inhibit the production of cortisol – the stress hormone. This goes a long way in keeping your hope alive.
10. Seek Professional Assistance
Therapy is not only for people with mental illnesses. You could also see a professional if you feel hopeless. You would be encouraged to say how you feel without fear of being judged.
Your therapist could also proffer solutions to your problem and tell you what to do the next time you feel hopeless.
If you are a person who regularly asks yourself the question, “how do I regain hope?” then the above steps are sure to help you in your quest to end your hopelessness.
When To Seek Help When You Feel Hopeless
Hopelessness could be a temporary feeling that shows up when you have a setback. In this case, you can bounce back from it and overcome the setback after applying the knowledge of what to do when you feel hopeless.
Sometimes, hopelessness could occur for no particular reason. You have tried all you can but cannot seem to regain hope. If this continues for more than a month, it may be time to seek professional help because it could be a sign of a mental health illness.
Hopelessness could also spur suicidal thoughts. If a person is hopeless for too long, they could start thinking of ending their lives. This is when they start making ‘harmless’ comments like ‘Why am I still living?’ or ‘I don’t have anything left to live for.’
If you notice that your thoughts are starting to stray towards suicide, please seek help. You are not alone. Hopelessness doesn’t have to drag out for a long time before you seek help.
If you feel extremely overwhelmed and cannot handle it alone, you could also seek help by seeing a professional. They are adept at recognizing the problem, talking you through it, and proffering a solution for it.
Hopelessness can be overcome, and sometimes you cannot do it alone because you may not always know what to do when you feel hopeless about the world. It is perfectly okay for you to seek help and accept it when it is offered.
How To Help Someone Who Feels Hopeless
Sometimes, it may not be you who feels helpless. Instead, it may be your spouse, your friend, your colleague, or even your child.
If you notice the symptoms of hopelessness in your loved ones, and they don’t seem to be getting over it, you may be in the best position to help them.
People who feel hopeless may not be able to help themselves or bring themselves to ask for help. Here are the steps to help someone who feels hopeless:
1. Ask Them If They’re Okay
The first thing to do when you notice that someone is feeling hopeless is to ask them if they’re okay. A person who is feeling hopeless wouldn’t say anything about it for fear of being judged.
2. Expect A Fake Reply
Because they don’t want to bother other people with their feelings, a hopeless person will reply with the classic ‘okay’ or ‘I am fine.’ Expect this answer, and know that they are trying to protect themselves.
3. Be Specific
When they give you the expected fake reply, press a little harder. Be specific about which of their welfare you’re asking about. Tell them what you’ve noticed in their behavior and your conclusion about it.
They will realize that you’re genuinely concerned and will start to open up to you.
4. Listen And Reflect
Listen to their story and do not interrupt. Try not to offer a solution or tell them that ‘everything will be okay.’ They don’t believe that. Instead, listen and help them clearly understand what they are feeling.
5. Let Them Know That They’re Not Alone
Reiterate to them that they are not alone and that they have you. Let them know their problem has a solution, and you will walk them through it.
Explain to them if you know what to do when you feel hopeless. This will make them understand that they can overcome hopelessness.
6. Emphasize The Effectiveness Of Getting Help
Let them know that therapy and professional treatment are not only for mental illnesses. Treatment is effective for all kinds of mental health issues and will help them overcome hopelessness.
7. Help Them Seek Professional Help
This could include a range of options, such as recommending your therapist to them (if you have one).
It could also be helping them comb the internet for online therapy services or even driving them down to the community wellness center to see a therapist.
At one point or another in our lives, we feel like everything is falling apart. It feels like our life is coming to a grinding halt no matter how hard we try to stop it.
This feeling could be so intense that we want to give up and shut ourselves away. That feeling is known as hopelessness, and it happens to the best of us.
However, you need to remember you are never alone and that you can get better when you do your best to handle it either by yourself or with the help of others.
Save this for later!