As a kid, I was constantly reminded by my family and my teachers that I could grow up to be anything that I wanted to be and that I could change the world. I was told that with consistent hard work and focus the stars were my limit. The thought that I could change the world inspired me and made me feel hopeful. As I grew older, realizing the cruelty and injustice that existed in the world tested my hope, but I knew that these realities only account for a portion of what happens in the world. Now, as I watch the unjust things that repeatedly happen in our world, that spark strong and unified vocal objections but do not bring about change, I feel hopeless and helpless. As children we are taught to speak up for what is right, but what do we do if our voices continue to ring out without achieving change?
Stay Hopeful By Acknowledging, Understanding, & Managing Your Emotions
Acknowledging, understanding, and managing your emotions can help you stay hopeful. Constant objections to the change that you are working to achieve can take an emotional toll on you. You may experience a range of negative emotions including stress, anxiety, anger, hopelessness, and helplessness. You may also experience burnout, which is a point of physical, cognitive, and emotional exhaustion. These emotions may feel overwhelming and can erode your hope for achieving change. Therefore, it is important to acknowledge, understand, and manage the way that you feel so that you can stay hopeful, focused, and motivated to enact change.
To acknowledge your emotions, be honest with yourself about the way that you feel, and remember that your feelings are valid and that you are not wrong for experiencing them. Try to avoid dismissing and judging your emotions, which can add to your emotional strain. If you are finding it difficult to recognize your emotions, try completing statements such as “This experience makes me feel _____.” by filling in the blank with any emotion or emotions that you are feeling. Try to delve into your emotions by avoiding vague responses such as “weird” or “okay.” If you find yourself giving vague responses, delve deeper by explaining what “weird” or “okay” means. This activity can also help you understand why you feel the way that you do. Acknowledging and understanding your emotions can help you mitigate negative emotions, stay in control of the manifestations of your emotions, and continue being hopeful and focused on achieving your goal.
Managing your emotions involves coping with the way that you feel so that your emotions do not negatively impact your mental health and productivity. Emotions are often the driving force behind our desire to enact change and can lead to both positive and negative actions, the latter of which can have consequences for us. Accordingly, managing your emotions can help you prevent negative emotion-driven actions. Managing your emotions requires the use of a versatile mindset, which is a dynamic and adaptive way of thinking that can help you successfully address the different situations that life throws at you, by preventing you from labelling these situations as good or bad and helping you address the situation objectively. A versatile mindset involves evaluating your emotions, acknowledging them, separating them from their cause(s), objectively assessing the situation that you are facing, and adapting to or addressing this situation, which may involve enacting change. Employing a versatile mindset when you are feeling overwhelmed by emotions that are eroding your hope, can help you take a step back and objectively decide on the best way for you to achieve change while preserving your sense of hope.
Keep Working On Achieving Change
In the face of hopelessness and helplessness, you cannot give up on working to fight injustices against you, your family, your friends, and broader society. When things are not going the way that you had hoped, take a moment, re-energize, re-focus, and resume. This four-step process can motivate you when you feel defeated or overwhelmed by objection and resistance to change. Take a moment by mentally removing yourself from the situation that is causing you to feel this way. To help, take five deep breaths at a relaxed pace. Now, continue deep breathing, but as you exhale say the word “change”. As you repeat the word “change” visualize the change that you wish to make taking place. Use the word “change” and this visual to help you re-energize and re-focus on your goal. When you start to feel empowered by what you are repeating and seeing, try resuming your work.
The road to change can be long, winding, and full of ups and downs, but try to remember that the work that you put in now will not only benefit you and your community today, but can create a new conscious and more inclusive world for future generations. Remember that progress is progress no matter how small it may seem. If you ever feel like your work is failing to make a change, consider that through sharing your hopes and goals with others, you have likely inspired them, motivated them, or even showed them a different perspective. You are not failing to make a change. The change that you want to see may not be fully achieved immediately, but small consistent changes add up to monumental changes over time. Believe in yourself and your capability as much as you believe in your goal to achieve change.
Can you relate to feeling hopeless and helpless? How do you cope with these feelings?
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