“Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise.” ~Victor Hugo
Last year, my life was in ruins.
I had to visit two different hospitals almost every day of the week. At noon, I’d watch my grandmother suffering on her deathbed. In the evening, I’d sit beside a close friend who’d fallen off a building, broken his spine, and couldn’t even go to the toilet on his own.
All the while, I was toiling in the dark every night until the sun rose. I needed to save my career, which was on the verge of complete failure.
Nothing seemed to be working for me. My life was hopeless. Worse, being a natural introvert with few friends, I had no one to turn to. I couldn’t even find one person to share my burden with.
Every day was a struggle. I would take one step forward and two steps back. I was stuck. I was losing my strength to inch forward because I realized nothing I did would ever work.
I thought I was destined to be homeless and lonely till the day I die (which I thought was not that far off, by the way). There was no way out.
I know things may be hard for you too. Perhaps, like me, you march on to fight the same battle each morning, only to end up losing every time. You may feel defeated, hopeless, and depressed every night.
All this frustration and agony drives you insane. You wish you could scream at the top of your lungs and just quit.
But I got through the darkest time of my life to date. While I’m sure a much darker and harder time awaits me, I am not afraid anymore. Even if it comes, I am confident I can smile at it from my heart, because now I know, from experience, how to properly deal with it.
1. Don’t try to stop feeling hopeless in any way, not even by meditating.
If you feel defeated and sad, don’t force yourself to feel otherwise.
Whatever you’re feeling is a huge rolling snowball. Fighting it in your head is like trying to stop the snowball by throwing more snow at it. Instead of stopping it, you only make it bigger and faster.
Likewise, you are giving too much importance to your hopelessness if you try to fight it directly with your mind. You are only feeding into its momentum.
You might think meditation is the key to feeling better, but it can’t help you numb your emotions. I know, because I’m an experienced meditator and I’ve fall into this trap.
When I was struggling, I tried everything to make the pain go away: walking meditation, observing my emotions and thoughts, focusing on my breath. The result? I felt worse.
Why? When you try to get rid of an emotion, you are actually just wrestling with the emotion in your head.
When you meditate not for the sake of it, but to stop a certain feeling, it’s no longer meditation. It becomes just another vain attempt to suppress your emotions.
2. Engage your mind by doing what’s fun, not what’s right.
Don’t dwell on the hopelessness. You need to do things to get you out of your head and into your body.
And no, you are not going to do anything purely to suppress your emotions. It doesn’t work. Instead, do things because you like to do them.
What do you do for fun? What do you do to relax? What you normally do when you feel bored?
Don’t force yourself to do anything just because somebody says it’s good for you. Not even me. Running is good, no doubt. But what’s the point of forcing yourself to run if you hate every second of it?
Discover which activities are fun and engaging to you personally. These activities engage your mind and body the most, and they can take you into the present most effectively.
Make any healthy choice that makes you feel better. Watch TV, eat a little dark chocolate, play video games, surf the Internet; just be sure to stay away from drugs and alcohol, which will only make things worse.
Me? I did things I’ve never done before: downloading an addictive mobile game, eating fatty foods (in moderation), and reading YA novels (blush).
Balance your life with some truly relaxing “you” time. This is the time where you take all expectations off. No self-improvement, no studying, no work, no meditation. Nothing. Just play, and do whatever calls to you. This is what self-care really is.
When you do this, you completely disengage yourself from your overwhelming sense of hopelessness. And while the snowball will still roll on in the background, it will end sooner or later because you won’t be feeding into its momentum anymore.
This is how you really stop resisting your emotions and thoughts. This is how you really let go.
3. Put your worries on paper.
When you are hopeless and worried, you live in your head. You keep reminding yourself of the same hopeless future projections again and again.
When your worries exist in thought form, you can never solve them. Problems look bigger than they really are. This is why often we turn a small problem in to a big one.
Just sit down for a moment. Take time and write down all your problems on paper. When you do this, you stop dwelling on them because you can physically see them with your eyes. Problems will become real objects you can analyze and solve hands-on.
And even if a problem still looks huge, you can now break in down into smaller and easier chunks—something you wouldn’t be able to do in your head entirely.
4. Create your destiny, starting with your dishes.
You can’t expect a deus ex machina.
Sure, luck plays a huge part in our lives. But when you are stuck in a rut, you have to save yourself. Even if you can’t, you still have to take action to ask for help. Things will not miraculously get better on their own. Dwelling and sulking is not going to make your seemingly hopeless life any better.
I understand it’s very hard to take action when you feel depressed or frustrated with life. But taking action is your only way out. The good news is, you are not stuck. Your life isn’t hopeless. You can actually get up and start moving again quite easily. Here’s how:
Once you’ve written your worries down, target the easiest problem you can solve without much effort. To make things even easier, break that already easy problem into extremely small chunks and work through it one step at a time.
Say you are feeling hopeless about your failing career, just like I was. But as you brainstorm your problems, you discover many other trivial problems, such as a faulty computer, a messy room, or even a pile of unwashed dishes.
This is good. For now, forget about your career and work on the small problems first.
Why? Because if you got yourself a good computer, you may work more efficiently. If you now have a tidy room, you’ll be calmer and more relaxed. You’ll sleep better. This gives you more energy and focus with your career, too.
Truth is, anything you do will begin a positive upward cycle. The more trivial (but related) problems you work on, the easier your bigger problems will become. So take some pressure off, and just focus on tackling that one tiny and easy task at hand.
The Biggest Secret That’ll Get You through The Darkest of Times
I am not going to lie. Eventually, you will face a challenge that will be your last one—we all will. But likely not this time. This will not be the end. Think of all the struggles and hardships you’ve gone through. No matter how vividly painful and traumatic they were, you somehow managed to get through.
On the outside, you may look weak and worn-down. But I know that deep inside you are a strong soul. And I know that just like before, you will survive, and you will become even stronger because of it, just like I did.
So don’t worry. Don’t even worry about trying not to worry. Whatever happens, just remember the only thing that matters is the process. Ignore the urge to fight your feelings, and focus on finding your own balance between action and self-care.
If it helps, remind yourself this daily:
“As long as I am consistently taking care of myself and taking tiny steps to create positive change, I will come out a better and wiser person in the end.”
And then, put all your trust into yourself and in your actions. Believe what you do will get you out of this nightmare. This is the biggest secret that will get you through the darkest of times.
I trust you. And I want you to trust yourself. When you do, not only will you truly let go, you will also be able to look at your difficult life and smile from your heart, because you know victory will be yours in the end.