Have the changes that came suddenly with the pandemic left you fighting feelings of despair?
Something fascinating is that when we tell ourselves there is no hope about something, our body actually begins shutting down – isolating and withdrawing from situations, engaging in more rumination (thinking and obsessing over our problems), wanting to sleep more to conserve energy… feeling depressed. This is meant to conserve what we have in the face of a powerless situation and lead to resolving it. The narrative or brain command we give ourselves is that powerful.
You Have A Choice!
The first suggestion of how to respond in the face of feeling hopelessness or despair is to recognize there is another option, there is an internal conflict and choice, and how you frame it will result in how you feel and emerge from this struggle.
Grieve But Don’t Give Up
There is a lot to grieve right now during this pandemic – loss has been nation and worldwide, ranging from the loss of small simple pleasures… to the loss of jobs, savings, and the death of friends and/or family members.
Sometimes in the onset of our troubles when we feel out of control and overwhelmed… when it seems like there isn’t much we can do about a situation and we succumb to despair… this feeling of helplessness moves us into a passive state of accepting the helplessness without fighting back.
What’s important is to validate that feeling of hopelessness, even acknowledge the desire to give up, without resigning to stay within it. Let’s talk about how to cope with despair.
How to Fight Feelings of Despair
1. Acknowledge Your Feelings
When you notice these feelings getting stronger (like a 5+/10 from intensity) first, name the feeling. I am feeling ______________ (hopeless, helpless, unhappy, in despair, desperate, discouraged, lonely, lost, disconnected, sad, heartbroken, grieved – name it!). Say it out loud, write it down, share on social media, add #pandemicproblems!
2. Try Different Thoughts
Notice the thoughts most linked to the feeling. I am thinking _________________ (“there is nothing I can do”, “this will never end”, “I can’t win/be successful/be happy”). Your beliefs and thoughts – the things you tell yourself are POWERFUL. Tons and tons of research shows the power of words and self-narratives. It literally changes our brain structure and brain and body responses
3. Fight Back!
Can you try on a feeling or behaviour linked to an opposite feeling to your hopeless, helpless, despair, sad feeling?
What would empowered, resourceful, strong, happy, optimistic, encouraged, connected, uplifted, inspired or renewed look like?
What thoughts connect you to that feeling?
FIGHT BACK at the despair with an opposite response and keep fighting. Recognize the battlefield is your thoughts and if you win this fight you not only will survive this time of struggle but one day, even if not today, you will be happy once more.
Your Free Handout – How to Fight Despair
Click this link to view in a new window & download: Fighting Despair