How to turn feeling hopeless into hope

Turning feeling hopeless into hope (c)

Feeling hopeless is human. It is a very dark and destructive place to be. How can you turn feeling hopeless into hope?


If you read this you might hope to find some hope. And if you have not yet felt hopeless, then chances are you will in the future.

Much is written and taught about hope and hopelessness. I believe that anything said or written with conviction and from the heart will reflect the writer’s own experience of hopelessness. What I am going to share here with you is grown out of my own journey through hope-lessness.

1. Why feeling hopeless matters

Often we talk about why we need to keep hope. While we all will agree with the importance of this need, that in itself is often not enough to turn hopelessness into hope. Why?

Because hopelessness can be deep, compelling, seductive and powerful.

Hope is a key motivation in our lives. Finding hope, holding on to it, losing it, getting it back and strengthening it – that is the subtitle of our lives. Hope keeps us going.

Feeling hopeless, on the other hand, can stop us in our tracks. It can block energy, growth, happiness and love. Hopelessness at its worst can be deeply destructive – to our potential, health and ultimately our life.

2. Some key points about hopelessness

Do you recognise any of these?

You can feel hopeless without knowing it.

Hopelessness tends to feel “heavy”, while hope feels “light”.

If you are stuck in depression, anxiety, indifference, anger, sadness and such, and cannot shift it, then check in with yourself. Could these be symptoms of feeling hopeless? If you are in therapy for any of the above, then I suggest explore your relationship with hope.

At the core of feeling hopeless is the belief, that improvement, a solution or healing – you name it, are not possible. We are all capable of holding this belief for short or longer periods in our lives. It all depends on what has or is happening.

Equally, hopelessness can be more or less intense: a momentary and short-lived frustration and pause before we commence doing what we need to do. Or the belief of hopelessness festers into a conviction, which is re-inforced by a growing resistance to try or do anything different.

Hopelessness can be permanent or it comes and goes.

Hopelessness is not always noticeable. You might think you know someone well, yet you have no clue of what is really happening deep inside.

3. Reasons for feeling hopeless

They can be as varied as you and I:

We might have tried and so far seemingly failed to improve areas in our lives like love, relationships, income, health, wellbeing, work and more.

We are tired and disheartened of trying again and again. Disappointments, regrets and set-backs zap our energies, motivation and hope.

When we have a heavy burden to carry all on our own, that can be extra hard.

We may be lonely, grieving or lost what used to give us a purpose and our identity – a person, a job, an income, our home, our youth, our looks, our health, our beliefs.

We might generally be more prone to negative thinking and cynicism, the glass half empty approach to life.

If we are in a crisis and the clock is ticking, sometimes something snaps, and we give up.

We may be ill, with little hope of improvement.

We may be dying.

4. Feeling hopeless and feeling suicidal

We cannot talk about hopelessness without talking about feeling suicidal. While there may be many reasons for wanting to end one’s life, feeling hopeless will figure somewhere.

Severe hopelessness can lead to feeling hopeless about life. Then death and dying can look like an acceptable option. Feeling suicidal because of hopelessness, does not necessarily make people upset. It can be a quietly lingering idea. A silent conviction people may not even act on, but may be more likely to act on in moments of despair or moments that hold more evidence that life and their predicament is hopeless.

If that is you, then I put it to you, that talking about it with someone independent, who is not involved in your life, may help. I have added a list of contacts to the bottom of this article.

5. How not to get stuck in feeling hopeless

As much as feeling hopeless is understandable and human, there is a lot we do, that keeps us trapped in this darkest of feelings. And when that happens hope-less-ness can become the signature tune of our life. If you play it again and again you will make it more powerful.

Here are some suggestions that can help you:

→ Don’t let your hopelessness disempower you

Often we feel hopeless because we feel disempowered by others, life, ill health, fate, destiny and such. Yet feeling hopeless is also a very powerful emotion in itself. Whenever I feel hopeless I also feel reluctant and resistant to try anything to get myself out of this place. Odd, isn’t it? Why? It might be different for you, but for me, I think it is temporary tiredness and anger about the situation.

You have the power to disempower your hopelessness.

→ Stop digging the hole

If I kept telling you in words, acts and in the way I carry myself, that I feel hopeless, then sooner or later you would regard me as a hopeless person and a hopeless case. You would  withdraw from me, because of the hopeless energy I send out. That would make me feel abandoned and disappointed. It would justify and reinforce my hopelessness.

The same applies to negative self talk. If you keep telling your self again and again, that it’s hopeless, then you are less and less likely to keep trying. You leak positive energy and will.

Observe your language and change it. Period. Move on (even with a heavy heart).

→ Draw a line and stick to it

Yes, some things and situations in life may be hopeless. You may never get what you want and deserve. You may need to change directions. That does not mean giving in or giving up. It means doing the smart thing.

There are some jobs I’d like to do. But I also know for a fact, that I have no hope in hell of getting them. Why? Because I don’t fit (for a number of reasons). Why should I keep pushing? Why should I put myself through the disappointments? I tell myself, if I don’t fit, then that job set-up does not fit in with me.

Stop banging against the door that will never open.

→ Don’t suck it in

If you are being disappointed and feel a sense of hopelessness coming over you, let it pass you by. Shut all the doors and windows, and let that toxic cloud pass you by, without breathing it in.

Whenever I pitch an article or idea to a newspaper or magazine I no longer get my hopes up. One place in particular, where I used to contribute regularly, has changed their guidelines. Now my submissions get declined on a regular basis, with little or no explanation or dialogue. It hurts and I had to learn to switch off my feelings about it. I must not suck in disappointment and hopelessness. It stifles my creativity. I know my worth. And I have to keep looking elsewhere, or refine what I am doing. And each time I do that, I learn something new. And I am grateful for that.

Feel proud when you let the toxicity pass.

→ Acknowledge the good moments

When you are stuck in hopelessness, very little may excite you. Because it’s a lonely, dull, dark and numb place. Therefore, make sure you acknowledge the good or reasonable moments in life. Say it out loud “This has been good. I enjoyed that. I did well.” That way you will build a buffer, bonus points. When hopelessness hits, it might not hit you as hard or for as long.

Remembering better times helps keeping hopelessness in perspective.

6. An example of turning feeling hopeless into hope

Allow me to use a personal example of how I turned feeling hopeless into feeling more hopeful. It is not a blue print. But it may give you some useful clues.

The last time I felt deep hopelessness, it crept up silently and knocked me for 6, almost all in a blink of an eye. Looking back, there were tell-tale signs. And even when it happened, it took me a while to realise that hopelessness was at the bottom of it.

What had been going on?

I had been busy with self care – a complex programme of physical, mental, emotional and spiritual cleansing and strengthening while waiting for a cancer operation.

At the same time life does not stand still. Money worries, family worries, an ill dog, repairs for my home, a heat wave, craving for comfort food I must not have, noise I am getting increasingly sensitive to, trying to keep on top of my writing, reassuring others all will be well, missing my work, sadness about the cancer having come back, wondering whether I am doing the right thing, not many people understanding what I am doing and why, grieving for my myself, fear of cancer treatment side effects and fear of dying.

These are just some, but you get the picture. I soldiered on. I say “soldiered”, because what I was doing did not come easily. I had to dig deep.

And then – snap. No more.

I lost the connection to my programme, the reasoning behind it and the belief in it.

No longer felt my mind free and empowered. Instead my mind started switching between past sorrows and misgivings and fear of the future.

Was I tired? Had it become too much? Was it the heat, the worries, the cancer, the time pressure, the not knowing … the possibilities are endless.

The well-intended recommendations I received from concerned friends seemed equally endless.

No, No, No and no again.

Nothing was shifting it. I was digging in my heals and resisting it all. I became stubborn and despairing at the same time. I did not want to feel this way, but there was seemingly nothing that could unlock me, or motivate me to unlock myself from this dire predicament.

At the same time I started feeling physically weak and uncomfortable: shallow breathing, bent posture, fatigue, feeling lifeless and stressed. Feeling hopeless can also manifest itself physically.  It is a state of distress, which the body picks up on. And when you are not well, that’s the last thing you need.

I could feel the heavy cloud coming down on me, and worryingly I started feeling indifferent and increasingly angry and with that increasingly frightened.

But I still had a tiny bit of hope, that I might get to the bottom of it all. Because I knew from experience that sooner or later I would work it out, and turn things around.

And so it happened on an early morning walk with Lilly, my dog. The reason why I felt disconnected and stuck was that I had lost hope. I had started feeling hopeless regards the cancer, my life and what I had been doing about it all.

Turning it around

While I had found an answer that made sense, I also felt an emotional release.

Sadness, anger and fear started pouring out of me.

When it happens to you, you might cry, sob, get still. Follow these steps:

  • Whatever you do, let it come out. Do not, under any circumstances block the out-pouring.
  • In that moment, don’t talk much about it to others. That will weaken the release. Stay on your own if you can.
  • Stay really tuned into you. Don’t be frightened. What’s happening is healthy.
  • Then comes a really important moment. Don’t stress about it. You will feel it. It might not last long. Like when the tide turns, if you have ever seen that. Water comes rushing in with lots of power, then it stands still, then the tide turns and slowly starts running out the way it had come. That’s your cue for turning and catching the hope boat back the other way. In that moment do what you need to do to feel good and at peace: walk, run, sit, close your eyes or not, listen to music, have a cup of tea (something calming, nothing stimulating), chant, pray, chill – whatever works for you. More often than not you will get a glimpse of courage.
  • Do not dismiss that glimpse of courage or hope. Watch your mind. Because hopelessness knows the gig and is waiting to come back in. Stay strong.

What did I do?

I needed to reinforce my feeling and make it real. So I started writing this article. I am back to thinking about hope and why I must not allow what may lie ahead, destroy what I have now.

And I am ready for the next visit from hopelessness. It is part of who I am.

But, like you, I am a lot more than my moments of hopelessness.






If you feel suicidal and need immediate support, then contact for free The Samaritans.

Photo by Garrett Anderson on Unsplash

Thanks to you, my website is among the Top 10 UK Psychotherapy Blogs


  1. Thank you for this article…Karin, I feel hopeless about my elderly parents. My mother is 90 and tries to care for my 87 year old father who is blind, diabetic and extremely frail with poor mobility. Mum has very poor short term memory and as such, she forgets that Dad can no longer do things for himself. I have been staying with them in my childhood home (as I live 120 miles away). I married 1 year ago and my husband is very understanding, but I feel that our life is interrupted. Both my brothers and sister live around 70 miles away but have jobs ( I am a retired nurse). I feel hopeless about them not having the quality of life any more. I feel hopeless that they won’t accept outside carers coming in and I feel hopeless that I cannot control any of this…As I look at what I just wrote, I sound selfish…but my husband is 70 years old and we won’t have as many quality years together as most people. When I talk to my parents about this, they say that they are fine and I don’t need to be there, but I worry that Dad May fall again ( he fell last November and lost all his confidence). I wish I could find some sort of hope in this situation, at the moment I feel hopeless, guilty, overwhelmed and so tired of it all…

    • Dear Jackie, thanks for reading and sharing a bit about your own reasons for feeling hopeless. The topic you raise is such an important one – elder care vs self care. When we see that older relatives are struggling and start living in potentially risky circumstances, yet refuse outside help, we may feel compelled to sacrifice parts of our own lives to help. If we don’t we may end up feeling guilty. If we do, we may end up feeling resentful, or sad and unhappy, because of the limitation we may pose on ourselves. Do we impose outside help, in the hope that our relatives will ultimately get used to it? Do we respect their wishes of no outside help, and sit back and wait for worse things to happen? These are difficult decisions and choices. Personally, I would try and leave feeling guilty and selfish out of it as much as you can. You might have your reasons, or it might be a habitual but unjustified way of looking at yourself. Try and remain practical. Something has to be done, and due to COVID these are challenging times for us all. Is there a trusted live-in carer that can be found? Or starting out with introducing external help, while you are there to ease them into experiencing that outside help does not mean losing their independence? When my mum looked after my dad it was unimaginable for her to accept the help of a cleaner. She would stand on chairs to take down heavy curtains to wash etc. While still physically and mentally fit, it did get too much. A fall made her realise that she needed to rethink, in order to retain her independence. Now she realises that external help was a smart move and she has accepted that at this stage in her life it is “the done thing” and part of taking care of herself. It sounds like it may be difficult to get this point across to your parents. Perhaps starting off small with introducing someone to help you to help look after them. If you take on the whole job, then of course why would they want to accept anyone else? Would you? There is a lot more to be said on this important topic. I hope to have given you some idea. There are choices, and ultimately your parents also make their choices, and they may have to, indeed may be willing to accept the consequences. With best wishes. Karin

  2. I found this article with my mum’s help. Since I have been sectioned (31 months in hospital) I feel increasingly hopeless. and angry. I frequently despair about my life and what it has come to. I never thought I’d have to religiously count the days when I’m incident-free to motivate myself to stay safe. There was a time before any of this, when every day was effortlessly incident-free, why can’t I return to that state? I am so overwhelmed with thoughts, urges and desperate feelings all the time. Hopelessness leads me to want to give up, though I won’t if I can help it.

    • Hi Sarah, thanks for reading my article and taking the time to share a bit about your own situation. I hope that the treatment and care you are receiving will assist you in starting to feel better, and help reduce the incidents you mention. It is a very personal process. Sending you my very best wishes. Karin

  3. Hi Sheila. I ran across this article while googling help for my loss of hope. Funny thing is I am a therapist. I was just recently licensed at age 50. I achieved my dream of a masters in social work just 2 years ago. I was so happy and confident that I had gone back to school, chased my dream and achieved it. Now I’m in my second job, currently a child and family therapist under supervision. I feel that I am very good at the therapy part and am very fulfilled when I know that I have helped someone, particularly children and teens, find hope. I however have become increasingly insecure and I feel like I’ll never get the paperwork part of the position down right. I keep making mistakes, I feel like an idiot, my boss is really nice, but a perfectionist, and I’m sure she’s disappointed in me. My mind has started to drift into the thoughts and feelings that I just don’t have what it takes to be successful. The fact that I am 50 years old and just starting out has become a liability instead of a blessing. My whole dream in life has been to get a masters degree. I was the very first in my family to achieve this. I achieved the dream, spent years off and on sacrificing time with my husband and children. And now it feels like it’s all been for nothing. Every time I make a mistake or something negative happens in my life now, which is way too often, my mind quickly goes to death as the answer. This scares me. I just want to feel like I can do this. I’ve done everything else it takes, why can’t I do this?

    • Hi Kimberly, thanks for reading and commenting. I can think of a number of reasons, why you may feel the way you do. I suggest you raise this with your supervisor and in personal therapy. There may be issues of transference in the work that make you feel de-skilled when you are not, or like being an imposter when you are not. Or there may be other personal triggers. Do not give up hope. You have come so far. If we continue to tell ourselves “I cannot do this”, then we set ourselves up to fail. You have made it happen and deserve to enjoy and thrive in what you do. With very best wishes. Karin

  4. Dear Karin. Thank you for your podcasts and articles. I got breastcancer and operated BCT and sentinel node january 16. Every time someone ask me how I am doing I get anxious, and hopelessness is never far away. There is hope in my situation, like MRI scan doesn’t show any metastasis to my lymp nodes.But I don’t know why I react this way. Maybe I am afraid that the radiologist is wrong, or that I don’t like the attention because people behave differently than they used to.

    • Dear Hege, thanks for taking the time to read and comment on my article. I am sorry to hear your news. So early into your diagnosis and treatment emotions can be confusing, overwhelming and we are extra sensitive. I remember when I had my first diagnosis I lost a lot of trust in my body. I had been feeling well. How can I have cancer? Now I understand a lot more about it. Also I had never been in the situation when my life was literally in the hands of others (on the operating table, diagnosis and recommending treatment). And as for others – no-one could get it ‘right’. We have to gradually develop a different outlook on life and how to cope with the realities of cancer. It may take time and it may not be straight forward. It is a process. And you, like everybody else, me included, will find your way. As I say in my article, there are moments of hopelessness in life, but that does not have to make life or us hopeless. I had a look at your own website and hope you will continue with it. With my very best wishes for you. Karin

  5. As eternal optimist I want to be, I keep getting pushed to brink almost daily from past 8 years…. 12 years back my first bankruptcy came in from Leukemia treatment of my father.. we had to shift residence for this, entire life changed… by time I came of debt for same while he was been in remission for over 9 years that was hopeful.. but every week’s tests/followups in these years & my own struggle to sustain health in my 12+ hours work + 3-4 hours travel daily schedule final got me sick with headaches spanning weeks/months at a time.. I had to resign looking for flexibility in work-life.. but in past so many years hardly got flexi job in India for my experience profile. Meanwhile Cancer struck again & all savings I had been banking on, gone & me bankrupt for past 2.5 years now with rare income & my own health issues… While once upon a time, people used to come to me get comfort in their bad time, I cant go to anyone.. People hardly have time, only get on board when one is well off.. Just saw this forum, just venting out.. not sure how long can bear wherein- leave aside i get my parents health taken care of, I cant even pay rent or expenses… Its just that I am good at many things, coordination,writing, speaking /sharing knowledge etc.. none garnering value in form of income past few years.. just stuck, tired & contemplating how long I can hold on shamefully.. Hope world was a bit more hopeful in form of opportunities, not sure what to expect when automation & IT takes over many more livelihoods…

    • Hello V, thank you for reading and commenting. Sometimes venting can create useful space. The link between financial security and our wellbeing is a huge. As I only know too well. Got to keep on … My best wishes. Karin

  6. I am stuck in a job in a city I don’t connect with. My social life has ended and I am not allowed to take a location transfer also. I am scared to leave this job but getting up from my bed is getting more difficult with each passing day. Some times I just feel if I could die in my sleep painlessly and drift away.

    • Hello Regina, thanks for commenting. I think you may want to consider seeking some professional advice, like counselling, to help you work this through. It can be very frightening indeed to consider making changes, even positive changes, even when the present situation makes you feel so bad. But it sounds like something needs to be done to get unstuck and move on with your life in a positive way. I have written a bit about it here With my best wishes. Karin

  7. I have been in love with a girl from past 10 years and suddenly one day she texted me we cant go together so please just leave me. Few day after it was 7 November her birthday I tried to contact her to wish my love on his festiv eve. She had blocked me from all directions although I managed to text her happy birthday. She replied with thanku and asked for a gift. I thought now both will carry one with our relationship but suddenly she asked me to leave her alone for ever and never tried to contact her by any means. Its been 4 month approx I cant find peace I cant stop crying cant sleep for weeks. I try to study but I cant concentrate
    I am also unable to expain my pain my loss to any1 cose I just cant make her image spoil a bit. Rightnow while typing this text I simply cant hold back my tears. She is the only thing in my life worth meaningful apart from her I have nothing left.i feel depressed alone and sucidal all the tym. I dont kw what to continue in life.

    • Hello Shivam, you sound vey upset, and possibly confused, and angry, unsure why this has happened and how to deal with the pain. Yes, those moments in life, especially a broken heart, can feel depressing and very difficult. The hard truth is, that the first person that makes our life worth it – is us – it is you! You might not feel like that just now. It sounds like you need to speak with someone independent, like a counsellor? Especially if you say you are feeling suicidal. If you are in the UK, then you can phone for free the Samaritans. They also offer support by email. Other countries may have similar crisis support services You will get through this. Even if it does not look like it just now. With best wishes. Karin

  8. My name is Jennifer and I literally feel that I am dying inside and out. I am 56 years old and I have lost my identity in my personal life and my career. I am too old to be young and not old enough to be old in society but yet I am very old in the work world and I am discriminated against daily at work. My personal life is a joke and I have no family who understands or cares enough to care. I have no reason to continue to exist in this world.

    • Dear Jennifer, I hear what you are saying and the bleakness you describe. May I suggest, you do the one thing which may look the least promising and the most difficult. Take control! Don’t wait for others to do it for you. It is never too late. Find some help locally (eg a good counsellor). Work it through and start working on what you need and what you can make happen, whoever small initially. I believe and say it again and again: Whoever we are, whatever has happened, positive change is possible. If you feel suicidal then definitely reach out for help now. If you are in the UK or ROI, then contact the Samaritans here or your GP. If you are elsewhere, then there may be similar crisis support services. With my best wishes. Karin

  9. I found this article as I was searching for a way to help my 17 year old. She is in the midst of college searching, and revealed to me that she has no real hope or positive vision for her future. She is merely going through this process because it is expected. The irony is that she is so smart, so talented, so well-liked, and that her future is literally limitless. She said she does not feel suicidal (we’ve been through that) but that she lives each day knowing that she just has to do it, and that she knows she has to just keep doing it for the rest of her life. But she balked at my suggestion that we reconnect with her psychologist, and is resistant to changing her meds. This article gave me hope, but I’m not sure I can even get her to read it. Thank you for your words.

    • Dear Laurie, Thanks for reading and commenting. For what it’s worth, your daughter is not alone in this, neither are you. Oddly enough, even receiving help, can sometimes reinforce the feeling and view that one is the problem and it can fuel hopelessness. I also want to add that there is a difference between the support a psychologist and a psychotherapist offers. Worth looking into. Also check out My best wishes for you and your daughter. Karin

  10. Hello, I find that my hopelessness is closely linked to feeling overwhelmed. I have far too much on my shoulders and when it is too much, I begin to feel worthless and a sense of hopelessness. It is overwhelming. This article was helpful. I have been using happy memories (moments of joy, pride, etc) to try to pull me back from the brink. It also helps to know I’m not alone. Thank you.

    • Hi Dee, thanks for reading and commenting. You raise a really important point about the link with feeling overwhelmed. That does not leave room for much. Being aware of when that happens, acknowledging it and trying to create some little mental or physical space is important. With my best wishes. Karin

  11. Hi Karin, I read this when you first published it and bookmarked it for the next time I felt these feelings of hopelessness. I woke up this morning with a strong urge to read it again as I have been feeling very down this week. It has been enormously helpful – not just in the practical advice you shared, but to know that I am not alone in feeling these feelings – it’s part of the human condition and that also helped to hear this again. Thank you for the gift of your writing and for sharing your very real experiences with us. I am so grateful to you.

    • Hello Marie, I am grateful for you taking the time to share this. It gives me hope – on so many levels. Yes, it is part of the human condition. And sometimes we go through darkness without realising it. But our feelings will grab our attention. Then we need to be still, sit with the pain and hold onto faith, that this, too, will pass. Warmest. Karin

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