MAINTAINING HOPE IN TURBULENT TIMES
GEM Mental Health Therapy and Coaching has decided to offer Skype Video Calls, WhatsApp Calls and WhatsApp Video Chats in order to reach as many people as possible. I have also decided to incorporate Counselling via Email, which seems a bit unorthodox, but some clients do not have the freedom and privacy to discuss heart matters in the enclosed environment that they find themselves in at this time. Please do not hesitate to reach out so that we can work together on your mental health as we face these challenging times.
Currently we are being confronted by so many stressors. The prospects of the future seem more daunting, which makes us crave for hope and positivity even more than ever. Important life events are being cancelled or postponed indefinitely, distance and connection with those we love are restricted and we can’t just jump into the car and go for a visit, window-shopping or stroll around the area without the fear of being infected. Some are closed into an environment that is not safe, mentally or physically. Some had strained domestic relationships before the lockdown even began and are now confronted by these unresolved matters daily. So, with all this going on and the silver lining dwindling to a mere speck, how do we then maintain and cultivate hope and allow it to shine bright again?
You might surrender and accept the circumstances that you find yourself in, but that doesn’t mean that you need to give up the good fight of keeping yourself healthy, safe, sane and relatively free.
I must admit that I love the positive quotes and poems that I receive through my various social media platforms. I always hope that these beautiful messages reaches the people who really need it at just the right time and that it helps to brighten up their day and give them the strength to face whatever challenge it is that they are going through. Nobody should ever feel that they are alone in their battles and life journeys.
I have already written about “How to Cultivate Positive Thoughts” and “Feeling Stressed or Overwhelmed” and will try not to overlap to much with this blog, but you might want to read those if you haven’t done so yet. Maintaining and building hope runs very closely with these topics, although I do have a few more tips in this blog for you that (I hope) will help you.
People who maintain a higher level of hopefulness are healthier and do better in life, especially when it comes to dealing with anxiety and depression. Hope is also closely linked to self-esteem and creativity when facing and overcoming challenges. Trust me, I know what it’s like to feel hopeless. That feeling of powerlessness, alienation, helplessness and feeling uninspired sucked. It’s normal and human and most, if not all of us, feels that way sometimes in our lives. But that doesn’t mean that we must give in to hopelessness. There are steps that you can take to build and maintain hope and here are some of them.
Steps towards Building and Maintaining Hope:
- Recognise that you have hope within you right now
By just reading this blog, you are taking the first steps in growing and maintaining hope. You are already showing yourself that you have the hope to improve your emotional wellbeing and the situation that you find yourself in. You are basically hopeful in changing your outlook and that by itself is a positive first step into the right direction.
- Learn to laugh at yourself
We all do silly things and that is okay. Instead of punishing yourself with negative talk, take a good laugh at your silliness and react in a positive manner to what happened. Sometimes it may feel that you are failing and are worried that things will never change and get better, but they will. Your mindset plays a crucial role in how you react to little failures and mishaps. If we change our mindsets to a more positive and uplifting manner, things tend to look more brighter and a good giggle can’t do any harm, except for lifting your mood.
- Talk to yourself in a positive voice and believe in yourself
I can do it . . . I have the skills . . . I have the knowledge and abilities . . . I have the determination . . . I know what needs to be done . . . I believe in myself . . . These are just a few examples of positive self-talk. Quite often we tend to be very hard on ourselves. We are our own worst critics and we punish ourselves over things that actually doesn’t need any judgement and punishment. Developing self-love is very important and to cultivate and maintain that self-love and positive self-talk influences the way in which we see the world and our circumstances. You will be able to adjust to situations more readily when you know yourself and trust your talents, gifts and motivations whole heartedly.
- Look at previous successes in your life
Do you remember previous rough times that you went through? Do you remember how you dealt with those times and situations and what skills and knowledge you used to handle them correctly. Even if you didn’t handle those situations quite as proficient as you could have, what adjustments can you make in the future to similar situations? Basically, an event occurred in your life, your emotions and thoughts influenced your behaviour which in turn caused a particular outcome. What happened, how did you feel and how did you react? Believe in your abilities by looking at your past successes. This will give you the hope and trust in yourself that you will be able to handle difficult and rough situations in the correct and healthy manner.
- Enjoy the process of getting to your goals and give yourself praise for the small victories
It isn’t just about attaining the end goal; it is the journey of reaching that goal that can be exhilarating. When you break a goal into smaller pieces and reach one of these smaller goals, give yourself credit. Go ahead, pat yourself on the back and praise yourself for what you achieved. Say you want to lose weight; your ultimate goal could be the amount of weight that you want to lose in a reasonable amount of time. The smaller steps would be how you are going to attain your goal. It might be starting to eat healthier and not snacking in-between meals, doing exercises three times a week and cutting down on unhealthy habits. You don’t want to get on the scale every day, because that could cause demotivation, but when you climb on the scale at least once a week, then you will be able to see your progress more clearly. You were craving a snack after dinner, but you stuck to your guns and persevered and the snack stayed in the pantry. Good on you, well done, you can give yourself credit for a job well done and for having the strength and determination to a healthier you. It creates hope that you can achieve your ultimate goal after all, even though it might be hard.
- Realise that being hopeful is a choice and you might need to change the way you think
You need to become flexible in the way that you are thinking. Our world is full of colour, even black and white has different shades of grey in between. It is when we hang our heads down in despair that we cannot see the horizon and the many avenues of alternatives that’s available to us. I have found that when we invite the worst thoughts into our minds and allow them to shoot root, then these worst things tend to happen. And when these worst things keep on occurring, then we tend to learn from the negative and not from the positive and that creates a vicious circle of pain, losses and worst expectations. The light of hope then diminishes into nothing, but that isn’t the way that things must stay. Change your mindset to a more positive mind-set. Learn from your mistakes and past experiences. Believe that things will change for the better and that good things will happen to you. Invite the positive into your life and into your mind.
- Write about it
I have written about journaling before and cannot emphasise how beneficial such a simple tool can be. There are many types of journaling, from experience journaling, to mood regulation journaling, to gratitude journaling and then there is also positive journaling. You can even find that you might mix and mash all these different styles of journaling together, because at the end of the day, it is your release and safe space to express and record how you are doing and what you are experiencing, not only in the outside world, but also within your own emotional world.
Positive journaling is where you focus on an intensely positive experience. While you write this positive experience down, you want to capture everything that you remember, for example the smells, how you felt, your emotions, the sounds, the people, the textures, what was said, your mood level and the actions of that day. You want to try to take yourself back to that time as much as possible. This little bit of positivity can boost hopefulness in a big way. It might be that feeling of connectedness with loved ones or nature that drives you in just the right way.
- Be that someone
It’s a bit hard to reach out to others with all the restrictions that this pandemic has placed on us. Some of you might be a bit more hands-on through physical charity work while others are happy to donate money towards a good cause. By just helping others and seeing how others help those in need gives us hope for a better world and shows us the compassion of humanity. My mom told me that I shouldn’t wait for somebody else to help and do the job, but that I should be that somebody. I should be the one to affect change and that I can make a difference. That stuck with me and although I wish to do more, I do not always have the skills to do what others can do so much better than me.
I remember this one time when I went out for some retail therapy, feeling yuck, grumpy and not pretty at all, the lady behind me in the que said that she loved my hair and that it looked so soft. This blew me away. She basically reset my whole day and caused my frown to turn around into a smile. We ended up talking for another five minutes before saying our goodbyes, but to tell you the truth, I will never forget her. Don’t be afraid to give somebody a heartfelt compliment with the right intentions, you never know what effect it might have one somebody else.
Before I get to off track to much . . . if you would like to volunteer your time while in quarantine or any other time, please register your skills on www.forgood.co.za You can either donate your time and skills or money, it’s up to you. It is an excellent initiative and the more people become involved, the better.
- Keep connected and involved
We all need to feel connected within our communities, to feel part of something. We also need to stay connected to family and friends. Although we might not see them physically, it is important to stay in touch through remote face-to-face contact. Become involved in discussions on chat forums, but only when it is positive, uplifting and constructive. I do not mean that you should stop listening to the news or that you should stop chatting to people on Facebook or other social media platforms. What I am saying though, is to keep it positive, hopeful and encouraging. Do not let the people who want to spread doom and panic drag you down into a pit of hopelessness.
- Realise what is within and beyond your personal control
We might want to control everything, but unfortunately things just don’t work that way. There are certain things that we can control and then there are those things that we cannot control. At this moment we have control over how hygienic we decide to keep ourselves and our surroundings, but we do not have control over other people and their level of hygienic preferences. I have control over how I react to the new laws of the quarantine, but I do not have control over others on how they respect and react to the new laws. I can go to the shops for necessities with a mask and gloves and hand sanitiser in my handbag, but if somebody sneezes on me, I really do not have any control over that, except for how I decide to react to the incident. I have control over how my knowledge, thoughts and emotions influences my behaviour and because I know myself and how to control my behaviour, gives me hope and confidence to handle any situation correctly.
- Examine how you can cope with the consequences of uncontrollable events
We thought that we were finished with homework when we finished school or tertiary education, but no, we are not that lucky. We need to do research, weigh our options, make plans, set alternatives and prepare. Knowledge is our friend and with that said, it is better to be prepared than not prepared at all. I do not mean that stock-piling is necessary, but while you have the time, sort out your paper work at home, talk to knowledgeable people and prepare on how you might have to cope in circumstances beyond your control.
- Use the extra time to your benefit
Worrying is easy. We do not need much practise of doing that, but not worrying does take practise. Sometimes a little bit of distraction is a good thing and as a bonus can keep you sane.
Why not sharpen your education, knowledge and skills? Do that online course that you have been threatening to do for so long. Pick up your camera and imagine that you are paparazzi to all the insects who building house in the dark corners of your home. Why don’t you give your creative spirit wings by writing that book that you have planned in your head for so many years.
These small efforts that you put in, plays a tremendous role in heightening your hope level. Once again, building your confidence and self-esteem can do wonders for your hope level for the future.
- Stay connected to nature
There has been many rumours and proof that nature is recovering while we are all in lockdown, from the ozone layer becoming healthier to wildlife venturing into cities across the world. I even noticed that three different types of doves are making themselves very comfortable in our garden, together with many other new birds making their presence known.
Inactivity leads to feeling depressed and lethargic. Inactivity also raises blood sugar levels, especially when the snacks in the pantry becomes irresistible. We need nature and being able to do activities helps us to feel calmer and more hopeful. It also helps to clear our minds and makes us feel better mentally. If it is possible (together with all necessary precautions) to venture into nature within your own garden and do exercises, please do so, it can only beneficial.
- Control your imagination
Remember that you have control over your imagination. If you imagine scary or hopeless scenarios, you need to remember that it is only your imagination and that it is not reality. Try to create images in your mind that is good and positive. Believe that the current circumstances will pass and that you can make it. If you do find that your mind is pulling you back into a dark hole of depression, a little focus shift to the outside can be beneficial, like keeping a routine, doing stuff that you enjoy, getting some exercise and staying in contact with those that you care about. Keep the hope alive in your mind, it helps more than you might realise.
I love to end my blogs with a quote or two and the following really emphasized what I wrote in this blog. The first one is from John Lennon saying “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us. And the world will live as one.”, and off course this one from Emily Dickinson who wrote “Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul and sings the tune without the words and never stops at all.”, and as a bonus this last one from Barbara Kingsolver who said “The very least you can do in your life is figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope. Not admire it from a distance but live right in it, under its roof.”.
Remember that therapy can help by providing a non-judgemental and safe environment where you can discuss matters openly and get the correct tools to assist you with your life challenges. Don’t wait until it is too late.
I mentioned this at the beginning but thought that it may be a good idea to repeat it again. GEM Mental Health Therapy and Coaching has decided to offer Skype Video Calls, WhatsApp Calls and WhatsApp Video Chats in order to reach as many people as possible. I have also decided to incorporate Counselling via Email, which seems a bit unorthodox, but some clients do not have the freedom and privacy to discuss heart matters in the enclosed environment that they find themselves in at this time. Please do not hesitate to reach out so that we can work together on your mental health as we face these challenging times.
Thank you very much for reading my blog. I truly hope that it helped somebody, somewhere. Please send any feedback or comments to email@example.com and remember to have a look out for a new blog every week.