I often see people in my office who are going through a difficult time and struggling to hold onto hope. Whether it is marital problems, addiction, depression, or grief, most of us have experienced despair. There are countless situations in which simply having hope can feel dangerous. I’m talking about those times when you take a step forward only to get pushed back several.
Hope is different from wishful thinking or blind optimism. When we believe there are things in our control, no matter how hard the situation may be, then we are generally able to cope better. Hope is so important to hold onto throughout our lives, particularly when things are tough. However, it can be a challenge to allow ourselves to be vulnerable.
Even when things start to go well, all of that time we spent dreaming and praying that things would change or this would happen means that once again your heart is feeling vulnerable. Resolving an issue or achieving a goal doesn’t erase the roller coaster we’ve been on.
So, what should you do when hope feels like a risk?
Validate your feelings
The biggest thing here is to give yourself the ok to have fears and doubts. The power of acknowledging our emotions astounds me. It’s normal to need a little more time to heal and trust.
Engage in self-care
Give your body, mind, and soul the attention it needs and deserves. Implement small regular self-care habits. Incorporate as many senses as you can. For me, this means taking a warm bath, lighting a candle, and playing some spa music.
Seek comfort in others
It helps if you have one or two people you can talk to about how you're feeling. If you find that the transition is harder than you thought it would be, get in touch with a professional who can help you find ways to cope. Reaching out for support/help is a strength and skill to be exercised.
Your mindset could be standing between you and your goals. Our brains are naturally wired to look for things that are unpleasant, going wrong, or risks we’re facing. We need to deliberately pause and shift focus on what can we do, what is in our control, rather than areas of helplessness. Cognitive therapy can help with this but even therapy can be problem saturated. For that reason, I try to make a conscious effort to highlight what is working in my client’s lives regardless of the circumstances.
I participated in a meditation experience through the Chopra Center on Hope in Uncertain Times awhile back. I found it to be extremely valuable with easing anxieties from the past and worries regarding the future, which are just not helpful. Whether it be meditating, praying, journaling, deep breathing, or any other countless mindfulness exercises, I’ve found them to be very helpful with embracing the unknown…a crucial element in hope.
Cultivating a mindset that supports your future is a critical decision. Persistent negative thinking patterns will take time to break but it is doable and 100% worth it! Be patient with yourself.
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About the Writer: Whitney Clarahan, LMHC
Whitney Clarahan enjoys assisting individuals with a variety of issues and is well-versed in clients’ common concerns of anxiety, depression, and stress management. In addition, Whitney has experience in areas of trauma and substance abuse. Her passion is to assist individuals in identifying and reaching their goals.