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Finding hope when everything seems hopeless

I keep hearing about hopeless people, and I’ve got to tell you — I hate that term “hopeless.” It suggests “helpless.” Paints a picture where there is no way out and no recovery.

I prefer to think in terms of light and dark, rather than hopeful and hopeless. There is always a glimmer of light somewhere, even in those circumstances where there is no way you are going to get the outcome you want.

These are hard times that have pounded on good, decent, hard-working people, robbing them of their security and their confidence. What can I say when someone I care about has lost his or her job, has run out of savings, has applied for more than 300 jobs and has lost hope? Any sort of Pollyanna Positivity is going to come off as dismissive and insulting. And yet, positivity may be the only thing worth clinging to when all is lost.

With burdens that heavy, it is impossible to stop the worry. But, it is possible to mute the worrying voice that can take charge of the brain and emotionally cripple a person.

How do you do that?

Take your problems on individually. When you add everything up together, life can look like it really sucks, like there is no hope, like all is lost. How can you fix everything at once? You can’t. But you can fix some things by either taking them one at a time or taking baby steps.

Size up each problem: This seems obvious, but people tend get in hysteria loops once their problems start to compound, and small issues can seem to be as threatening and devastating as large ones. First, rate each problem on a scale of 1 to 10. If it’s life-threatening, give it a 10. Anything less is less than a life or death situation has to score less than a 10 because if you and your loved ones have their life and health, there is much for which to be grateful.

Schedule your worry time. Give yourself an hour or two, or even a full day. But don’t leave it open-ended, because worry compounds itself, magnifies the fear and heightens the severity of the crisis. It warps perspective. You certainly have seen someone obsess about a problem for too long. It’s easy to see obsessive worrying manifest in someone else, but that kind of endless worrying suddenly seems permissible, excusable and even required when you are the one who is feeling vulnerable or victimized.

You may look at your problems and feel absolute justification to dive into your worries, traveling as deep into that black hole as you can possibly go. But, what is that doing to help you? Nothing! It grows your suffering and blocks your recovery. You can assign yourself a worry period where you can go ahead and worry, obsess and fear all you want. When you catch yourself slipping into the worry loop during other times of the day, you just have to postpone the negativity until the proper time.

Take charge of your brain. You may not feel like there are any alternatives to suffering and worry, but there are. You have the ability to consciously choose tenacious, bold living, but that choice requires mastering the natural and habitual inclination to worry. Worry drags you into a negative vortex and holds you captive.

I you have big problems, you have big worries. But, what do endless hours of worry accomplish that scheduled worry doesn’t? Nothing. Nothing at all.

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