How to Cope When You’re Feeling Hopeless About the World

By Lauren Krouse

We have access to more information than ever before, but constantly scrolling through bad news about huge problems like war and conflict, mass shootings, hate-based violence, and climate change can become a huge source of stress. It’s even harder to cope when you and the people you love are directly impacted by these crises. 

In the face of collective trauma—shared experiences that make us feel like our lives are at stake—you may find yourself feeling anxious and concerned about the meaning of life and your purpose. How can you continue to move through the world and feel joy and excitement for the future when all of this is happening? What could you possibly do to make a difference? Experts call it an existential crisis. 

If it sounds familiar, you are not alone. These are difficult and legitimate questions many of us face and loop back to throughout our lives. Here are a few ways you can begin to sort through them and regain a sense of power and hope. 

1. Sit With Your Worries and Feelings

Know that what you’re feeling is real, and give yourself some space to acknowledge that. Talk through your feelings and thoughts with a friend, or take a few minutes to write them out. That may sound simple, but putting what’s overwhelming you into words—instead of avoiding it or fixating on it 24/7—can help you begin to release what you’re holding inside and feel a little better. 

2. Reach Out for Support

You may want to hide from the world or block it all out, and it’s certainly OK to dedicate some alone time to self-care (a few ways to do that right here!). That said, you also need other people to lean on and share some of the burden you’re carrying. 

Ask yourself: Who can I text, call, or meet with right now? What would make me feel better? Let them know what you need. If you can’t think of anyone, talk to an adult you trust, such as a parent, caregiver, teacher, guidance counselor, or coach. Another option: Contact a helpline to connect with someone who shares your identity or has faced similar struggles. They can help validate what you’re going through and brainstorm ways to cope. 

Find out how connection is the ultimate form of self-care

3. Get Professional Help

If your heavy feelings about the state of the world are bringing down your mental health or could be attached to other things such as anxiety, depression, or trauma, tell someone you trust that you want or need help. A great first step is to connect with a primary-care physician or therapist for a mental health checkup. With their support, you can find ways to cope. You might also ask how you can connect with others who share similar struggles, such as in a peer support group or group therapy. 

Learn how to find affordable mental health care and get the care you need on campus

4. Find Ways to Take Action

No single person can solve all the world’s problems, which were decades if not centuries in the making. But you can find other people who care, then build each other up and make a difference together. Worried about a specific issue (or a few)? Shift your focus from the big-picture problem to small, specific ways you can do something to make the world a better place. Instead of focusing on how many people can’t afford food right now, for example, turn your attention to finding and following food justice advocates online, signing up for action alerts, or joining a local mutual aid group or support organization.  

Learn how activism can be a powerful form of self-care

5. Remember You Are Not Alone

We honor dark moments in history and celebrate the people and peoples who fought for peace, freedom, equity, and justice to remind ourselves that we have elders who survived and fought for change. Realizing you are part of a community of survivors can help ground you in a rich history of resistance and resolution and give you the lessons you need to carry into the future you want to live in. 

You get to decide what comes next and how you’ll live out your own legacy. With the support of a community, regular time to rest, and inspiration from others, you can begin to accept existential despair and see it in new ways. In time, you can also find space for other feelings, like energy, hope, and joy.

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If you or someone you know needs to talk to someone right now, text, call, or chat 988 for a free confidential conversation with a trained counselor 24/7. 

You can also contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741-741.

If this is a medical emergency or if there is immediate danger of harm, call 911 and explain that you need support for a mental health crisis.