You may be inherently positive, but even the most optimistic people lose hope when life hands them unexpected challenges. Yet retaining hope is the best way to get through hard times. "If we lose hope, we fail to try and failing to try guarantees an overall failure in achieving whatever it might be that we desire," says Durban-based clinical psychologist Sherona Rawat.
"Perseverance gets us to where we want to go every time," says Rawat. "Life is inherently cyclical and we need to acknowledge at a deep spiritual level that whatever we are currently going through will pass, whether good or bad. Hence if we begin to weather the good and the bad with equal reverence, we are likely to achieve a lot while still maintaining our sanity." If we keep trying, hope always remains.
Rawat suggests the following ways to stay hopeful even when things seem bleak:
- Practice gratitude. Count your blessings regularly.
- Affirm to yourself: "This too shall pass" on an ongoing basis.
- Pray. Prayer helps you stay calm and keeps you grounded.
- Enjoy the fruits of your labour in your leisure time.
- Try to incorporate productive work into your daily schedule. These can include hobbies such as gardening, painting, and so on – anything that has a beginning, middle and an end and produces a tangible product.
- Acknowledge on a daily basis that you are worthwhile, valuable and loved by spending loving, rejuvenating and nurturing time with parents, partners, children, family and friends.
If you've tried everything to boost your spirits, but you can't seem to believe that things will get better, it's time to take a deeper look.
According to Rawat, your feelings of hopelessness point to a deeper problem if:
- You find that the feeling of hopelessness and/or depression is consistent and persistent over time and you are unable to shake the feeling.
- You find yourself unable to stop thinking about your problem/s and your mind never seems to rest.
- You find that your mood is significantly affected by these feelings.
- You find that you are experiencing severe problems with relationships in general and with loved ones in particular.
- You experience significant problems with sleeping and eating.
If you are experiencing any of the above signs, Rawat suggests the following:
- Take some time out and calm yourself to fend off any debilitating anxiety.
- Find a place of solitude, a place where you are not likely to be disturbed, to think about your problem and consider possible solutions.
- Set smaller, more easily achieved goals and put those goals into action.
- Speak to a friend and get a different perspective on your problem.
- Seek professional help if you find that you are unable to progress to a viable solution, or if you are experiencing suicidal thoughts.