How to Stop Feeling Hopeless
If you have gone through a big loss or overwhelming life change, or if you are living with a mental health condition such as depression, it is common to feel like the situation is hopeless and will never improve. Hopelessness is a feeling of despair or lack of hope that life can feel better than it does. These feelings may make you pull back from your life and avoid doing things you usually enjoy or being with people you love. If hopelessness becomes severe, it can lead to suicidal thoughts.
If you’ve been struggling with feeling hopelessness and it’s not improving—or it’s getting worse—it may be time to reach out to a counselor or therapist who can help you find the root of the issue and work through it with you. If you are having thoughts of suicide or self-harm, it is time to reach out for help.
If you need help right now:
- Text HOME to 741-741 for a free, confidential conversation with a trained counselor any time of day.
- Text or call 988 or use the chat function at 988lifeline.org.
- If this is a medical emergency or there is immediate danger of harm, call 911 and explain that you need support for a mental health crisis.
Why We Need Hope
We all experience loss, difficult times, or mental health challenges during our lives, and hope is what helps us get through those moments. We need hope, because it helps us tap into the positive belief that even when things are out of our control they can get better. It’s an essential part of our well-being.
It’s important to pay attention if you start feeling hopeless, reach out for support, and make changes to help you find—or reconnect with—hope.
How to Feel Less Hopeless
We can’t always avoid situations that can make us feel hopeless, such as the death of a loved one, the loss of a job, or financial stress. We can, however, work on how we react to stressors. Below are some helpful ways to deal with feelings of hopelessness when you’re faced with a difficult event or situation.
Reframe Hopeless Thoughts
A common thing that happens when you feel hopeless is catastrophizing, or imagining a worst-case scenario. Catastrophizing may cause you to overestimate how bad a situation is or believe that a difficult situation is permanent.
This mindset can reinforce feelings of hopelessness, so one of the most powerful ways to deal with it is to learn to reframe hopeless thoughts.
That can look like:
- Accepting that what you’ve gone through can’t be undone, but the difficult feelings—such as deep sadness, shame, or grief—that come with it will lessen over time. Learning how to be gentle with yourself while it is intense can make a big difference.
- Understanding that, no matter how unfair or devastating this loss or change was, the future holds many more kind, soft, and happy moments than you can see right now—and it is better to be here for that future than not.
- Finding and focusing on the positives in life does not mean you have to forget or invalidate the struggles you’ve experienced; it means you do not have to suffer quite so acutely.
Let’s say you receive a rejection from the college of your choice. If your mind immediately goes to the worst-case scenario, you may start to believe you will never get into a good college and never be successful in your career.
If you are open to other ways of framing it, you may allow yourself to imagine other options that include all the new experiences, people, and opportunities ahead of you. You may, for example, end up taking a gap year and having totally new experiences as a result. It is helpful to keep in mind that there are many routes to accomplishing your goals.
Practice Positive Coping Strategies
Hopelessness can leave you feeling numb or empty, and it may be tempting to distract yourself or find other ways to avoid the feelings. It’s helpful to recognize that this impulse, while understandable, is not likely to help you feel better. Using unhealthy ways of coping, such as drugs or alcohol, self-injury, or other risky behavior such as reckless driving or unsafe sexual activity, is likely to deepen the sense of hopelessness you are trying to let go of.
It’s a lot more helpful to practice coping strategies that will both distract you and help you stop feeling hopeless. You could try creative ways to express your feelings, such as journaling, drawing, singing, or moving your body in ways that make you feel good. Taking care of yourself and practicing gratitude for the things you have can also be a big help, as can being kind to yourself no matter what you are feeling.
Lean on Your Support System
It’s natural to need support during a difficult time, but it can be hard to accept help or believe that help from others will make a difference when you’re feeling hopeless. If you’re having a hard time, be honest with the people in your life about how you feel. Hiding how we feel is understandable because we may worry about burdening others, but it takes a lot of energy to hide and deprives us of support when we most need it. The people who care about you want to be there for you. Plus, if you let them support you when we need it, you can inspire them to reach out for support from you and others when they need it.