How To Deal With Despair: 5 Steps To Deal With Lingering Emotional Pain

How To Deal With Despair: Effective Strategies To Heal

Living with despair and dealing with it day in and day out can be an exhausting thing to go through. However, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Knowing how to deal with despair, especially knowing the right strategies can help you transform your pain into strength. Let’s explore what it feels like to deal with despair, and how to deal with despair.

KEY POINTS

  • Every life is eventually touched by tragedy. No one is exempt from sufferings such as illness or the loss of a loved one.
  • Ways to reduce despair include acknowledging rather than hiding it, avoiding toxic positivity, and seeking out fellowship.
  • Despair can bring a deeper understanding for the suffering of others.

When you’re agonizing under the weight of despair, simple tasks feel daunting; getting out of bed, showering, or leaving the house requires herculean effort. To live with despair means to wake up every morning with a heaviness pressing down on your chest and a feeling of exhaustion no matter how many hours you slept.

Perhaps problems that you face seem insurmountable, such as financial ruin, chronic illness, or grieving the loss of a loved one. Such daunting circumstances can make despair a way of life.

It’s understandable that many people, desperate to escape the intolerable hopelessness generated by despair, turn to drugs or alcohol for relief. Sadly, when they sober up, they discover that the problems that they ran from have grown even worse.

What do you do when despair doesn’t go away?

Related: Understanding and Managing Anguish: 7 Powerful Tips To Turn Suffering into Strength

Battling Despair

Recently a beloved family member was diagnosed with an incurable illness. The shock of it knocked me down. It was inconceivable. No matter how I tried, I couldn’t believe it. How could someone I love so dearly receive such a damning diagnosis?

I withdrew from the world, stopped talking to friends and family. I even turned my back on my fellow Buddhists, who called relentlessly, trying to encourage me. I felt like part of my heart had cracked and fallen off, leaving me with a raw, exposed wound that would never heal.

“Why is this happening?” I wondered. “I’m a good person. Aren’t I supposed to be spared from such misery?”

Over time, as I started to connect with others who faced similar hardships, I was forced to recognize a stark reality: Every life is eventually touched by tragedy. Life’s most painful tragedies strike with cruel randomness.

After a long period of recalibration, I stopped asking “Why me?” and started asking “Why not me?” Did I really think that I would be absolved from universal hardships? Was it narcissism that led me to believe my family would be spared while other families would not? How callous of me to think other families should suffer while mine would be an exception.

Over time, a benefit of despair began to materialize: deeper empathy and understanding for the suffering of others. I left behind the delusion that we are all safe from harm; we are all equally vulnerable. In fact, in acknowledging that vulnerability, we unearth the deepest parts of our humanity.

How to deal with despair

Living with Despair

I wish I could say I resolved the despair that I felt. But the truth is, I’ve had to learn to live with it. When I was a younger, less experienced therapist, I thought there was a solution for every dilemma. I now realize how naïve I was. No happy ending lasts forever.

Deep despair has a sinister, punishing quality. To regain your footing is to go to battle with your most brutal demons. Though you may not be able to resolve the problems that you face, here are some tools to weaken despair’s grip on your heart.

Related: Navigating Pain: 5 Strategies for Dealing with Emotional Debris

How To Deal With Despair: 5 Ways To Cope With Despair

These tips won’t resolve despair, but they can take the edge off and open up a space for healing.

1. Take your despair for a walk.

Once a day, try your best to get out of the house for some fresh air.

A brisk walk raises your metabolism, boosts endorphins, and will give you much-needed headspace. Shaking off tension and gaining some vitamin D can also offer some relief.

2. Give your sorrow words.

When I can’t find the words for sadness, I always turn to poets and writers who are masters at capturing elusive feelings.

Finding the words for your despair offers comfort and solace. As Shakespeare wrote in Macbeth: “Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak knits up the o-er wrought heart and bids it break.”

3. Honor your despair.

Please don’t deny it. Don’t push it away. When you acknowledge your despair, you take away some of its power over you.

For example, a friend who was struggling said to me, “Today is a dark day. I think I need to be alone.” I understood what he meant and was glad he shared his true feelings rather than “perform” feeling better. When he honoured his despair, I could too.

How to deal with despair

4. Seek out fellowship.

Isolation fuels despair. Seek out the company of people who share your experience. Faith-based communities or support groups such as AA or Al-Anon are free and give you a chance to connect with others.

As the Buddhist reformer Nichiren Daishonin wrote, “Even a feeble person will not stumble if those supporting him are strong, but a person of considerable strength, when alone, may fall on an uneven path.”

5. Avoid toxic positivity.

A patient in her weekly session shared with me that a friend cheerfully told her, “Don’t worry, everything will work itself out.” These may seem like comforting words; they had the opposite effect.

“I know he meant well,” she said, “but I felt the strong urge to punch him in the face.”

Her chronic illness was not going to work itself out. Such phrases, like “Everything happens for a reason,” are insensitive to those who are truly suffering. Life’s most devastating problems may be helped by a positive attitude but can’t be solved by one. Toxic positivity from others feels insulting when you’re faced with insurmountable grief.

Related: 5 Ways To Help Someone Who Is Dealing With Loss And Grief

In the end, you can learn to fly on wounded wings. Despair may knock the wind out of you, but when embraced and managed effectively, it can also lift you to even greater heights.

Want to know more about how to deal with despair? Check this video out below!

Ways to cope with despair

Written By Sean Grover L.C.S.W.
Originally Appeared On Psychology Today
living with despair
Ads

— About the Author —

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *



Up Next

Can Gods Go Mad? The Startling Reality Of Mental Disorders In Mythology

Startling Discoveries of Mental Disorders in Mythology

Ever wondered about how mental illness was perceived in ancient times? With mental health awareness becoming an increasingly important topic these days, it is about time we took a closer look at mental disorders in mythology.

Ancient times have witnessed a profound fascination with and exploration of mental illness. Mythology has served as the lens through which mental disorders have been portrayed, analyzed, understood and even revered across cultures. 

So let us dive into the world of mental disorders in mythology, analyzing how different cultures and ancient societies interpreted and portrayed it. From mental illness in ancient Greece to Vedic literature, understanding the past can help us better understand how to deal with mental health issues in future.



Up Next

Shame Exposed: The Psychology Of Shame And How To Break Free

The Psychology of Shame: Tips for Overcoming Shame

Ever felt utterly humiliated? Vulnerable? Exposed? Ever felt so ashamed that you wanted to just run away and hide in a cave where no one would ever find you? We’ve all been there thanks to this intense emotion called shame. Let’s explore the psychology of shame and understand this often-hidden emotion.

Psychology of Shame: Unmasking The Silent Whisper of Self-Criticism

Shame is a universal yet complex human emotion that arises from a deep sense of inadequacy or unworthiness. Unlike guilt, which focuses on specific actions, shame targets our very essence and can permeate every aspect of our lives. 



Up Next

BPD Love Bombing: 8 Warning Signs Of Overwhelming Affection

BPD Love Bombing: Unmistakable Signs You Are A Victim

Dealing with the ups and downs of any relationship can be like a rollercoaster ride, but when it comes to BPD love bombing, you might feel like you’re buckled in for the most intense ride without knowing when it’ll stop.

This behavior is known for its strong wave of love and attention—it can knock you off your feet in a confusing way. If you find yourself suddenly the star of someone’s world out of nowhere, chances are you’re experiencing this intense strategy.

Let’s look at the 8 signs that might mean you’ve been caught up in borderline love bombing, all while keeping things light-hearted and insightf



Up Next

7 Signs Of Endogenous Depression And How To Treat It

Signs Of Endogenous Depression And How To Treat It

Endogenous depression is classified as a major depressive disorder, a mood disorder characterised by persistent and intense feelings of sadness that can last for extended periods of time.

Psychology differentiates two types of depression: endogenous (causes from within the person) and exogenous (causes relate to external events in a person’s life).

Understanding Endogenous Depression

It is thought of as a type of depression in which there are no external changes that



Up Next

3 Reasons Why Alcohol Affects Your Relationship And What To Do About It

Alcohol Affects Your Relationship? Critical Reasons Why

Is alcohol impacting your relationship? If your answer is yes, then you’ve come to the right place. This article is going to explore how alcohol affects your relationship, the reasons behind it, and how to cut back on alcohol.

During an interview on the popular podcast The Tim Ferriss Show, famous entrepreneur and businessman Sir Richard Branson once suggested a simple yet important thought experiment to listeners.

We’ll paraphrase that thought experiment here:

Think back to the few biggest mistakes or arguments of your marriage. Now think how many of them occurred when one or both of you were und



Up Next

4 Signs Of Relationship OCD And How To Make Sense Of It

Signs Of Relationship OCD And How To Make Sense Of It

What is relationship OCD and what are the best ways of dealing with relationship OCD? This article is going to talk about all that and more.

Relationship OCD refers to someone who has become consumed with obsessive doubts about their partner and their past.

Experiencing changes in the emotions we feel towards a romantic partner is a natural part of developing an intimate relationship. At the same time, we all might pay more attention to our partner’s flaws as the relationship progresses.

But for people in the grip of relationship OCD,



Up Next

How To Help A Grieving Loved One: Embracing Empathy

How To Help A Grieving Loved One: Embracing Empathy

When you see someone you love grieving, it can hit hard, and might even make you feel helpless. If your intention is to support a grieving loved one, then you have come to the right place. This article is going to talk about how to help a grieving loved one, and helping someone who is grieving.

KEY POINTS

It’s natural to want to make a grieving loved one “feel better,” but the task should be to help them feel less isolated.

Some well-meaning statements can cause feelings of isolation for those experiencing grief.

It’s important to show grieving loved ones caring, presen