Sometimes, it’s as if the stars align to collapse upon this moment. Despite our strongest effort to endure challenges in life, it can feel like we are going nowhere or not going to get any better. Those moments when it seems to make no difference whether we open or close our eyes.
How do we keep hope alive despite catching no glimpse of light?
As strange as it sounds when things seem to have hit rock bottom, turning around gently to face the darkness might be the only way to rekindle hope.
#1 Acknowledge the Difficult
Few of us take time to pause and acknowledge the full scale of the emotional and physical difficulties we are going through. When confronted with challenges, our autopilot mode is to go on a perpetual search for solutions or a perpetual longing for things to get better, which possibly add to our anxiety, and fatigue rather than resolve it.
Can we take a step back and check in deeply with our feelings; sense the body and acknowledge where it is tense or tired?
“This is all really hard right now.”
“Fatigue and helplessness are here”
Acknowledging is neither acceptance nor rejection, but a gentle allowing of reality to be as it is. From this firm ground of reality, seeds of compassion and kindness can be sowed – the ingredients needed for hope.
#2 One Small Step at a Time
Sometimes the only way to access hope is to only focus on the next step. Moment by moment, things are more manageable and doable. Sometimes it is when we want to resolve the entire issue and problem all at once, which keeps us stuck in bleak disappointment.
We may ask, “What is possible at this moment?”
Scaling the mountain might feel impossible but taking 1 step forward might seem alright. Remember that we need not be courageous and strong all the time. Just for this moment will do.
#3 The Power of Zooming
(Not the video conferencing app)
Many of us don’t realize that our ability to focus or expand our attention moment to moment is a survival tool. It is not turning our attention away from or avoiding the problem; it’s about learning how to consciously and wisely hold our attention.
For example, are you feeling fatigued or burnt out? Learn to zoom in your attention to small and simple steps. e.g. walk this step, take this shower, or eat this meal. However, if you are experiencing rumination and entangled in endless thoughts, zoom out your attention instead – go big and spacious. Go into nature, look at the sky, or look out of the window to allow yourself a more spacious view of the world.
Yes, we don’t have to see the bright side, yet how we see matters.
#4 Relearn What It Means to Fall Apart
Our cultural norms demand that we stay strong. We are afraid to fall apart, not knowing what will happen if we do. We hold back our tears, we put on a strong front, and we numb our feelings. Not realizing that doing these take every ounce of energy within us and leads to a worsening downward spiral.
Thus, do not belittle the power of allowing what is already here to express itself. This sadness is already here. This fatigue is already here. I can allow myself to cry, or sit on this couch and close my eyes, or just yell into the pillow.
Sometimes the kindest thing to do is to give yourself permission to fall apart.
And the strongest thing to do is to trust it’s going to be OK. Maybe it is from witnessing the shattered pieces that we can learn a new way of putting ourselves back together again?
#5 This Moment Is All We Ever Have
It’s easier said than done to stay in the present moment, especially when we are overwhelmed by gloom and doom. It’s so hard to see clearly what is gifted in the present. This is exactly why this is listed as the last tip because all the tips above are meant to guide us to this – the present moment. The present moment is not some magically calm place that we can run to. There is no present moment to arrive at. It is merely an openness, and a willingness moment to moment to be with what is here.
In the present moment, both light and darkness are welcomed. It’s about having the space for everything to come and go. For space is also needed for joy and life to land on us, even if it’s just a brief moment. After all, no matter how brief the moment might be, isn’t it all we have anyway?
Don’t hold back the tears.
And don’t stifle the laughs.
So Where Might Hope Be?
Be it utter grief, fear, disappointment, or ecstatic joy, excitement, and passion, aren’t they all offerings of life? Consider the possibility that not one is less than or more than the other; just a quivering, trembling, and deeply moving aliveness.
Aren’t they all in some ways an expression of common humanity’s loving and longing? Isn’t hope inherently present as long as we allow this full aliveness to come through?
All we need to do is take it one moment at a time…
And hope is here.