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How to Deal With Feelings of Hopelessness

by Elise Wile

The very nature of hopelessness means that if you are experiencing this dark emotion, you may have difficulty remembering that any other feeling exists. Do not give into despair, however, as hopelessness is an illusion. This feeling tells you untruths about the future, such as, "I'll never be happy," or "Things will never change." You have more control over hopelessness -- and your life -- than you may think. Do not give in; instead, examine what this feeling is trying to teach you so you can move past it.

Doubt

Doubt your hopelessness, advises psychologist and author Robert Leahy, Ph.D., in "How to Overcome Your Feelings of Hopelessness," on Oprah.com. Although circumstances certainly may feel and appear hopeless, if you entertain the possibility that you are wrong, this can enable you to improve your situation. For example, if you are despondent because you believe you can never be happy again after the death of your husband, challenge that thought, and make dates with friends, anyway. You just might find that light at the end of the tunnel does exist, after all.

Don't Give Up

You may think you have tried everything, notes Leahy -- but you haven't. Although you may have attempted to smother the seeds of depression and hopelessness by trying different medical treatments, changing your diet and other common approaches, rest assured that other approaches exist out there that you have not tried. You may need to overhaul your thinking, for example, if you are in the habit of mulling over negative possibilities. Alternatively, you may find that a new kind of exercise proves to be a panacea. Each person is biologically and emotionally unique, and what works for one person may not work for another. Keep trying.

Recognize the Purpose

Hopelessness often serves as a way for people to protect themselves, notes social worker Elana Premack Sandler in the article, "Promoting Hope, Preventing Suicide," in Psychology Today. Work through your feelings gently, instead of shoving them to the side, advises Sandler. For example, if you are feeling hopeless because finding adequate treatment for your son's schizophrenia has left you battered and exhausted, recognize that this despondency may protect you from getting your hopes up when confronted with another new treatment -- only to be disappointed if it does not work. Allow yourself the space to feel and process your emotions. This is a process and it takes time, and you cannot expect miracles over night, but only after you allow yourself the time to process your feelings will you be ready to regroup and put on your fighting gloves, once again.

Acceptance

Some things in life truly are hopeless -- or very close to it. For example, you may have invested five years of your life in a relationship in which he does not value you. If trying to make things work has worn you out, your feelings of hopelessness may be a healthy indication that it is time to cut your losses and move on. As you transition from a situation that is not going to improve, remember to focus on aspects life that are not hopeless -- such as having loving friendships or a job you enjoy.

About the Author

Elise Wile has been a writer since 2003. Holding a master's degree in curriculum and Instruction, she has written training materials for three school districts. Her expertise includes mentoring, serving at-risk students and corporate training.

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