When one is dealing with a chronic health condition, particularly one that is complex and may defy both conventional and natural medicine in many ways, it is easy to fall into the trap of despair from time to time. Although this is a natural and normal response to duress, it is not a place we want to allow ourselves to remain for very long. Harnessing the power of hope is a vital element of the healing journey and living life in general.
As long as you have hope, you can get through anything. It reduces the stress and negative impact of the current situation, changes our perception and outlook on life, motivates, inspires, comforts, supports, improves coping abilities, reduces feelings of powerlessness, and helps us to live our lives more fully and carry on regardless of the situation. In most cases, the healing journey is long-term, it is always filled with peaks and valleys; without hope, one will stop trying and the journey will come to a screeching halt.
Having hope is not about looking at the world through rose-colored glasses or having a pie in the sky approach. It is simply the belief that the current situation can change or get better. The key word here is “can.” Because it doesn’t necessarily mean that it “will.” Having hope does not require a guarantee that we will get the desired result. There is a “possibility.” And, as long as there is a possibility that things can change or get better, then all is not lost and we can go on. We can live on hope alone.
If you find yourself in a position where you have lost touch with the power of hope, here are a few things to keep in mind that can help you get back on track.
- Be kind and compassionate with yourself. Most of us lose hope once in a while, so don’t beat yourself up. Just mindfully acknowledge it has happened and gently guide yourself in the direction you need to go. It may take a while, so be patient as well. Don’t judge, deny, or repress. Accept that this is the way it is for the time being. Sometimes acceptance can be the key that opens the door to a new outlook on life.
- When you’re in the pits of despair, there’s no place to go but up!
- Review the facts. Most aspects of a chronic health condition, or life in general for that matter, are transient. Don’t allow yourself to get stuck in thought patterns like “always” and “forever”. “This too shall pass.”
- Change is inevitable. Besides death and taxes, change is the one thing we can count on for certain. Nothing, including the circumstances of your health condition, remains the same. We are continually learning new things about the human body and how to optimize health. There is always a new treatment option on the horizon that you can try.
- Don’t surround yourself with other people who feel hopeless.
- Have a good cry. Crying is one of nature’s most powerful stress relievers. Our tears actually contain cortisol (our primary stress hormone), so it appears that crying literally helps wash away our troubles, which can help us view our lives in a whole new light.
- Talk with someone who can help you develop a new perspective.
- Reflect on some past events that seemed hopeless and remind yourself how you rose above and survived.
- Commune with nature. A little time with the elements can have an amazing impact on our mindset.
- Keep moving forward even though the future is uncertain.
- Don’t let obstacles or setbacks squelch your hope. Use them as a springboard to go forward.
- Continue to take action, even if it’s baby steps. One step will lead to another and eventually bring you to a place with a different set of circumstances.
- Try to stay focused on what you have left in your life that is good and going right, not on things you may have lost and what is wrong.
- Reframe. How we perceive what happens to us and what we say to ourselves about those events largely determines how much negative impact they will have on us. For example, instead of being devastated by a microbe’s ability to create biofilms or some other aspect of their behavior, be awed and fascinated by their ingenuity and will to survive. Instead of seeing yourself as unfortunate or deprived for having to change your diet and lifestyle, see the knowledge you have acquired as a gift.
- Be passionate and relentless about your diet, living healthy, educating yourself about your condition, and the human body. When you have a cause to invest yourself in, it keeps your focus off the problem and gives your life more depth and meaning. This also keeps you in touch with the new developments that may be just around the corner.
- Acknowledge and accept that none of the aforementioned are easy. Our brains are actually hard-wired to focus on and remember bad or negative things because being alert and watching out for something that might harm us is essential for our survival as a species. So it takes work and conscious effort to cultivate hope.
On the other hand, there are times in our life when we must let go of hope. Sometimes holding on too long can become counterproductive and stifle our efforts to move forward. A couple of examples might be; when it becomes clear that we must end a relationship or that a particular treatment remedy we are trying is not going to work. But, ironically, letting go of hope can help us become more empowered and rejuvenated and then find new hope. We don’t give up altogether on the issue, we just transfer our energy in another direction. Yes, there will be a temporary period of loss and grieving, but then we come out on the other side stronger, freer, and renewed. We gain clarity on what steps we need to take next and are more motivated to do so. Therefore, we must learn to differentiate between when to hold on to hope and when to let go.
I think the following quote sums up the power of hope quite beautifully.
“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.” ~Desmond Tutu