Dear Therapist: Finding hope in hopelessness

hands hold a stone of hope finding hope in hopelessness
Hands of Hope

Dear Therapist,

How does one find hope when it all feels hopeless?

Sincerely, Hoping for Some Answers

My goodness! What a great question. A few words, but it packs a punch and offers up a true conundrum for the times we are living in indeed. Finding hope in hopelessness!

Earlier this week, I was spotlighting eco-anxiety, a place where it is easy to melt into a state of hopelessness even as people say there is still hope to be found. And it is not just worries about our environment, but, in general, in America there is a lot we can look around at and feel hopeless about. Poverty, gun violence, political discord, cyber attacks, and the list can go on and on.

It also doesn’t help that everything seems to be moving at the speed of light — faster even than that! All of this hopelessness and doses of hope are served up like a fast food meal. There is hardly time to know if one can dwell in both or must we decide to be hopeless or hopeful in our lives?

Whatever it is that is causing you to feel hopeless, it is important to slow down and consider the matter. And not alone, but in community with others. If you don’t feel there is anyone you can share with, then finding other voices in media and community may be a way to feel less lonely in whatever you are considering.

From there, think about all angles of the matter. What are the positives and what are the negatives? Is there a history to the matter? What do more than one voice and opinion say. From here, you can form your own ideas. If it is a problem that can potentially have a solution, creating those ideas and implementing them may move you along into a hopeful stance.

However, sometimes we have to simply sit in what appears to be hopeless and make the matters we are thinking of “our friend” and inviting them in without having to do much of anything, but be present to our sad/bad/angry/hopeless feelings. Sometimes it is healthy to dwell in these states and gain a curious stance over what it all means for you.

Hope seems to be the thing we are all chasing and hopelessness the thing we are supposed to avoid. Flipping that idea on its head and dwelling in them both but not getting bogged down in either place may be a more authentic and honest place for all us to strive to be in during these times.

Dear Therapist: Procrastination Exhaustion

Procrastination Exhaustion – It’s Real!

Dear Therapist:

I am the worst procrastinator. Ever since I can remember, I have always put off whatever I need to do. It could be anything from work projects to school papers to getting my errands run on any given day. Help! By the time my back is up against a wall and I have to get it done, I am exhausted from all the energy I put in to not having ever started in the first place. Not good. Is this hopeless or are there any ways I can mitigate my procrastination?

Wow! I hear you! I feel you! Procrastination is a bugaboo that hounds many people. Some will say this is actually how they work best, i.e. putting things off until the last minute and then being forced to get it done (and done well) in a limited period of time.

However, if it is causing you to feel exhausted so that when you have to get to the grocery store because there is no food left in the house or the paper is due tomorrow or your big work presentation is here, then it’s not an effective way to actually work and get things done. Rather, it sounds anxiety-provoking, exhausting, and overall stressful.

However, if you have been doing this for most of your life, this is not going to be an easy habit to break. So, my first tip is to go slow with this and be gentle with yourself as you work to undertake your tasks over the course of time rather than at the last minute.

Second, it is a mental trick, but one that is helpful. Back up any due date by a couple of days to a full week. If you hear that a due date is Wednesday the 10th, in your mind and in your calendars, make the due date Wednesday the 3rd. When you play this time trick, you will be left with anywhere from a few days to a whole week to get the project/paper completed without procrastinating through the actual due date.

Third, in terms of errands, make a “to do” list for any given day and stick with it. Need to pick up the shirt at the dry cleaners today for an event tomorrow? Add it to the “to do” list and get it done – so you can cross it off. Never underestimate the utter gleeful feeling of marking off an item on a list like this. If you think it will be impossible, do you have a partner, friend, roommate who is good at getting tasks done like this and would be willing to help you out? Then delegate and ask if the person can help you out. Perhaps you can offer one of your strengths to them to return the favor.

Procrastination is never fun when it leads to anxiety and exhaustion. Finding solutions to help you out of this loop is key, but remember it will take time. One last thing you may want to ask yourself — how did it all begin with anyway? Thinking about the baseline issue of how it started may also help you gain more of an understanding of yourself as you seek to change the behavior.

Here’s to completing things on time every time without stress, anxiety or exhaustion!

Dear Therapist: Gift Disappointment

Dear Therapist:

I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, but this time of year stresses me out in a way that may sound selfish. To be perfectly honest, I give good gifts to my family and friends. What I mean is the gifts are perfect for the person because I have heard them when they get excited about some item or another. The holidays are a time for me to surprise them with the thing they have told me they love. Not the case for me. I get a bunch of stuff that could be for the mailmxn quite frankly. I am always disappointed, but I never tell the person but rather hide it. I find myself taking a big bag of stuff to Value Village every year. How can I avoid feeling this disapppointment for yet another year?

Gifts – pretty as they are packaged – may sometimes disappoint!

Talk about a taboo topic! So glad you wrote in and brought some breath to what I believe many people feel in their hearts this time of year when they are opening their gifts from friends and family. Instead of genuine surprise and joy, most people have to put on their best role to pretend that this is the best present ever. How uncomfortable and tiring.

And, yet, as you point out, to show anything less than gratitude would mean you are selfish and ungrateful. Neither of these look good on anyone this time of year so we smile, act out our appreciation, secretly feel hurt and disappointment, throw it into the bin, and take it to the charity come January. We simply chalk up our disappointment as par for the season.

Ugh! To think this is what millions of people do each and every year. I can see why you want to avoid this uncomfortable rut.

Your question further delves into being someone who takes time to think about someone and then thoughtfully purchases something for the person to delight her. When this type of thought is not reciprocated it is doubly hurtful as you can easily begin to question if the friend or family member even knows you.

Well, what to do?

We cannot control anyone else but ourselves. It sounds important that the people whom you buy gifts for have something special from you. Feel good about this just for the way that you honor your loved ones.

Regarding the presents you receive, you could try moving into your truth by speaking it in a kind way. Letting the other know how much you appreciate that she thought about you and that this doesn’t feel like you for x, y, z reason. Even as I type these words, I feel how this sentiment can be taken as selfish,. Yet, being honest in a world where people smear over hard feelings to make the other feel OK, is actually a gift one can give another person.

First, that person is going to notice that you noticed what she gave to you. It’s not just one other thing you have now, but something that either suits you or does not. This leads that person to knowing two important things about you: one. you care about what she gave to you and two, she now knows what you do and do not like. It could be the person was just regifting something she didn’t want and didn’t know you cared so much. Either way, your truth will offer emotional vitality behind the gift received and given.

If you are truly sick of the cycle, but can never imagine bringing your truth to the table for whatever reason, you could also create a boundary and simply not exchange any longer. Perhaps these gifts are from long ago friends who really are out of touch with who you are now, but keep up the annual gift exchange without thinking. It’s OK to call it a day and say no to the entire exchange. This may also bring relief from your disappointment.

The holidays always offer some awkward moments, particularly around gift giving. Owning your feelings and bringing them forth in your truth is one way to set yourself free from this cycle of disappointment.