It’s been a tough couple of days. Even those of us who make it our mission to spread hope have down times – after all, it’s why we know the value of offering hope to others. The dreary weather today, and lack of sleep, doesn’t help. During these times, finding hope can be a challenge. The world looks bleak and dark – both literally, with the storms we’re having today, and emotionally. It’s these times, though, in which hope is particularly essential. So how does one go about finding, and even spreading, hope when depression or anxiety takes a turn for the worse, giving the feeling that there is little of it to be found?
There is, of course, no concrete answer that would work for everyone. We’re all individuals with our own set of ideas of what we find hopeful. But here are a few tips I’ve found that can help me in darker times, and I hope they help you as well.
Ask others. Reach out to family, friends, loved ones and ask them to name a few little, day to day things, that give them hope. Not all of their answers, of course, may apply. But they may help you look at certain experiences or situations slightly differently. Or it may help you seek out their suggestions. One thing I have found in doing the 365 Days of Hope project is that there is a vast array of items, activities, and experiences that represent hope to others, and while I connect with so many of them once suggested, I never would have thought of them as “hopeful” on my own.
Help others. One of the most consistent truths I’ve found is that doing for others, even in tiny ways, makes me feel better. To clarify, I don’t mean doing for others at the expense of yourself. Taking on a coworker’s project when you’re already struggling with anxiety and depression most likely will not have a positive effect. But holding a door, buying a coffee for the person in line in front of you, complimenting someone, or stopping to see if someone who looks to be having trouble is OK, are all simple and free or inexpensive ways to help others without having to give up much of yourself.
Allow yourself to feel how you feel. That’s right – you have every right to experience what you’re experiencing. You have an illness that affects how you feel, and while it sucks, to be totally blunt about it, it’s not your fault and there’s often little you can in the acute stages. So give yourself permission to feel this way. Fighting it often only makes it worse. You then feel bad about not being able to change how you feel, on top of struggling with your illness. That can really destroy hope. So let yourself feel this way, and try to remember that at some point, it will end. There is the simplest of hopes in knowing that you can, eventually, get through this.
Pay attention to your senses. Is there anything at all that helps lift the struggle momentarily? Anything you see that is pleasant or hear that you enjoy? It may even be a smell that evokes a positive memory, or the feel of something soft and comforting. Make note of it. If you can, keep a list that’s easy to reference if needed. These will show you that, even in dark times, there are things that can ease it ever so slightly, if only for a minute. That offers a glimpse of hope. Hang on to those things. Surround yourself with them if at all possible. But at least just know they exist.