“Managing Feelings of Despair”
“Often feelings of hopelessness and despair can arise when we are in stressful or difficult situations – and these can be very difficult to manage. It can be useful to try and understand these a bit better, and consider ways of managing them as they arise.
Most people will describe feelings of despair as some of the most difficult of all the emotions – these can arise after a significant loss (eg. loss of a relationship), during periods of depression, or in response to substance use or exhaustion.
Sometimes we can feel the physical manifestation of these feelings as fatigue, overwhelming sadness, tearfulness or emotional numbing – for some people, the experience of these emotions can be similar to a physical kind of pain.
In those moments you are experiencing those moments of despair, there can be an inclination to try to not feel that way and we can be motivated to take away those feelings by using substances such as alcohol, food or drugs, or by doing numbing behaviors such as using the internet or social media. Sometimes this works, but a lot of the time this can actually make things worse, since these can sometimes amplify negative feelings.
The technique of acceptance is one that is a good option in these moments, since it doesn’t try and take away those feelings – rather, it accepts that those feelings are there for a reason, and that sometimes we need to make room for them and accept this. Acceptance allows us to let go of the struggle to feel a certain way (happy, energetic) and allows us to feel exactly how we are – even if this involves connecting to pain or sadness in the moment.
Once we have made room for these feelings, the next step might be to practice some self care and listen to what it is that you need right now.
If those feelings of despair are coming from an experience of loss, perhaps you might need some connection or help from others. Often those feelings of despair can come from a number of heavy things happening all at once, and talking them through with a friend or professional can help to sort through them and understand what is happening.
Other times, taking some time to write out what is happening and the kinds of thoughts and feelings you’re having allow you to work through those feelings and understand where they are coming from. Mind Ease has an exercise called ‘Reflective Writing’ which is a useful tool for moments like this – in it, you are encouraged to write about something that is impacting you, and give yourself some time to think through what has been happening.
The powerful thing to remember is that feelings of despair are among the most painful and uncomfortable emotions we will experience – but they can also be valuable sources of information about what is impacting us and what we need.
Being able to sit with these feelings and be curious about their cause, and what needs to change, allows us to then take action to make our lives better.
We hope you have found this useful, and that you’re able to make some room for those painful emotions if they arise in the future.