Have you experienced a sense of hopelessness recently?
It seems that there are a lot of people out there that feel stuck in situations that are draining, depressing and going nowhere.
Don’t give up! I want to offer you some hope. I want to extend to you some suggestions on how to overcome your hopeless and trapped feelings.
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A story of a woman feeling hopeless and trapped
This is a true story. I know a woman, let’s call her Jane, that feels hopeless and trapped.
Jane has worked full-time the last 20 years for a large retail chain. Her schedule often includes working evenings, weekends and holidays. She hates her job because it keeps her from spending more time with her grandchildren and other loved ones.
Her employer demands more and more from Jane all the time. They continually raise her sales quotas and put pressure on her to meet them. This stresses Jane because she really wants to meet their expectations, but it is becoming increasingly difficult.
Jane lives paycheck to paycheck and doesn’t have any savings. Retirement is just around the corner for her and fortunately she has already started to receive Social Security benefits, but she isn’t sure it will be enough to live on once she has to stop working.
Jane has arthritis in her knees and has to stand on her feet for most of her 8-hour shifts which is sometimes painful. There are times she misses work because the pain is too much to bear.
Of course, Jane is also concerned about how to cover the high-cost of healthcare once she retires. She knows she’ll need prescriptions and a doctor’s care to manage her arthritis, but she doesn’t know how she’ll afford these things.
Jane lives alone in an apartment where the rent continues to rise. She fears that eventually she’ll no longer be able to afford to renew her lease. Of course, this presents a multitude of issues because Jane doesn’t have the money to pay moving expenses never mind finding a new place.
Adding to her troubles, Jane’s employer is suffering from the recession and closing stores. She doesn’t think her store will be one of the ones to close, but since she is older and makes a higher salary, she wonders if they might lay her off.
Jane’s feelings about this downward spiraling situation leaves her negative, depressed and fearful. Of course, this is a further strain on her health, relationships and happiness.
Jane feels hopeless and trapped.
Let’s examine Jane’s overwhelming situation
I won’t kid you. Jane’s situation isn’t pretty. It is a mess, but I don’t think it is as rare as we would like to believe nor do I believe it is completely hopeless. I think there are a lot of people feeling stuck in a similar situation as Jane. There are people dealing with seemingly crushing issues with their:
These are usually the big five that create the most anxiety in people’s lives.
Jane is struggling in three of these areas. She has trouble with her job, finances and health.
These three issues are intertwined which is what makes the whole situation seem so complicated and therefore hopeless.
We must take a pragmatic approach to help Jane sort out what to do.
The steps to overcoming the feelings of hopelessness
Feeling hopeless and trapped comes from the notion that there is nothing that can be done to resolve the situation. We must exert control in order to regain hope. Here’s how to do it:
1. Write down the issues that leave you feeling hopeless and trapped
When problems swirl around in our heads, they often grow out of proportion. They also become entangled with our emotions. This quickly overwhelms us.
Writing down the problems helps us to organize them and to separate the emotion from the real, practical issues. This simple step will start to give you a sense of power.
Be as specific and complete as possible. Try not to leave out any factors influencing your decisions. We’ve already completed this step for Jane.
2. Determine the root issue that is causing all the other problems
Usually, there is one root cause that is leading to all the other issues occurring. In Jane’s case, her lack of financial resources is largely responsible for most of her trouble.
If Jane wasn’t so financially strapped, she could look for another job that might initially pay a little less, but that would offer her a better schedule and maybe allow her to sit while she works.
Don’t fret too long about determining the root cause. In fact, I would suggest going with your first inclination after writing things down. Once you start to take some action, the situation will unfold and you’ll be able to adjust, if necessary.
3. Decide where you are willing to make some sacrifices
People usually wind up feeling trapped and hopeless because they don’t see any flexibility. In order to address the root cause of the problems, you have to make room for change in your life.
This generally requires you to make some sacrifices in one area so you have the room to make changes in another. Normally, these sacrifices are temporary so they shouldn’t cause too much panic.
For instance, in Jane’s case, she might decide to find a much cheaper apartment for a year or two so she can change jobs. The cheaper apartment won’t likely be as nice as what she enjoys today, but what’s more important?
This temporary sacrifice in lifestyle might give Jane the flexibility she needs to find a job with a more stable employer offering her a better schedule that doesn’t require her to stand all the time on her arthritic knees.
Who knows? Once Jane feels better about her situation, she might perform better in her new job which may lead to a promotion and even higher pay than she had before!
4. Make a plan for change and take immediate action
Once you determine the root cause and decide where you might be willing to make some sacrifices, then you are ready to formulate a plan for change and take action.
Write out the steps toward change that you need to make to address your root cause. A written plan will help you stay on track.
For Jane, she might have the following plan:
1.Find a cheaper apartment.
3.Save some money.
4.Find a better job.
Jane should immediately break this down to the smallest actionable steps possible. For instance, she could breakdown Step 1 as follow:
2. Look in newspaper for cheaper apartments.
3.Call and set appointments to view 2 to 3 apartments.
Once Jane has such a list of action steps, she should act immediately. Any delay will allow the small momentum gained through this process to evaporate. It is imperative that action is taken with as little delay as possible! Jane could go right now and buy a newspaper.
5. Constantly review progress and re-evaluate the situation
Chances are that just getting started with this process will make you and Jane feel better because it restores a sense of some power and control.
It opens one’s mind to the possibilities. It creates hope.
Refer often to the your original assessment of the issues, your root cause and your plan for change. Has anything improved? How are you feeling? What else can you do to make positive changes?
This constant process of re-evaluating the situation will ensure you stay on track and will also give you the ability to make adjustments as necessary.
Warning: Read this before starting this process!
Taking some action in a positive direction is absolutely, positively necessary in order to overcome your feelings of desperation and hopelessness.
However, you should take small steps and go slowly. You need to clear the fog from your head before making any rash choices.
For instance, do not go in and quit a job you hate before you have another source of income. This will only lead to more trouble!
Also, do not tell your spouse that you want a divorce unless your situation involves extreme abuse, drug use or other unlawful activity. Instead, I encourage you to take positive action to fix your relationship. Divorce will introduce all kinds of problems of its own.
Whatever your situation, go slow, be deliberate and be practical. You might even enlist a trusted advisor to review your plan with you to reveal potential kinks before taking any big steps.
Action is necessary, but it must be positive and prudent!
You can beat the trapped and hopeless feelings!
There is hope. It is possible to dig yourself out of any hole. It just takes some time and effort.
Do not continue wallowing in your misery.
Take action today to beat your hopelessness and to set yourself free!
What is your situation and what do you plan to do about it?
Craig is the founder of LifeGuider, he is dedicated to improving not only himself but also others in being more physically fit and mentally capable of handling life’s challenges. He is not your regular life coach, no fancy clothes or fast cars, just a regular “Ole Joe” who has experienced the ups and downs of life like everyone else.
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