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Cultivating Hope when Feeling Down

By Tracy Contini, Therapist

Everyone struggles with being down sometimes. Some know that the description of down doesn’t begin to describe how they feel. The reasons vary but the results are similar in how it plays out in our lives. Our relationships and work might suffer, or we isolate ourselves, often make choices to cope that add to our problems like eating a whole box of cookies, or a drink a bottle of wine, instead of just one. It feels like our brain has been hijacked to thoughts like, “you suck”, “things are never going to get better” and in more extreme instances, “I wish I were dead”.

Some find that at certain times of the year they are more prone to their negative thoughts overtaking them. Others have life circumstances that they feel stuck in or have had things happen in their lives that haunt them. In our minds we may know what could help but turning things around seems larger than life. How do we cultivate hope when the days of November give us less light and it is dark in our thoughts and hearts?   How do we change our thoughts to, “you have everything you need”, “you have the skills to be well” or “this life is worth living!”?.

Clients in my practice have tried a mixture of things which ended up being the magic ingredients for feeling hopeful and improving wellbeing. After all they are the experts of their lives and what works for them. Although, knowing where to start can be overwhelming. That is where a mental health professional can be useful. Professionals such as Psychotherapists, Clinical Registered Social Workers, Mental Health Counsellors and Clinical Psychologists are trained to navigate the murky waters of mood and thought problems and can walk along side you as you learn to cope with what you are living with. They help to reorganize thoughts, perception of experiences and integrate tools in a way that eventually leads to clarity and ultimately feeling better. This builds hope and it may create positive experiences of ourselves, others and life events. These are tools for lasting change!

It may not seem true sometimes, but we have the ability to do things for ourselves when we are down in the muck of feeling sad and alone. Seeing a mental health professional is 100% an initiative by clients to try to drag themselves out of the muck. Feeling comfortable with the person you choose to help you is the key to a collaborative relationship and successful outcome. When we are safe to be ourselves we are able to be authentic and honest with ourselves and others. Less time is wasted in areas that don’t matter to you and more time on what is meaningful.

When ready to make the first step towards feeling better it is like starting a garden, first you choose a spot that has enough sunshine to grow what you plan on planting, then you prepare the soil to ensure it has enough nutrients. This is the foundation of cultivating hope and trusting things will change. Start small and choose actions wisely so as to concentrate your energy in areas that will not sabotage the energy you have for change while surrounding yourself with those that have the ability to support you. Eventually you will grow a beautiful garden to enjoy!

What are my clients reading now?

  • A Man’s Search for Meaning – Victor Frankl
  • The Book of Awesome – Neil Pasricha
  • The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression – Andrew Solomon
  • The Tao of Pooh – Benjamin Hoff

What TED Talks are my clients watching?