10 Things to Do When You Feel Sad, Hopeless, and Defeated

“Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.” ~J.K. Rowling

I’m no stranger to feeling hopeless and defeated. After many failed relationships, physical, sexual and emotional abuse my entire life, two bankruptcies, and the recent loss of my online business (October 2020), you could say I’ve been through enough to last two lifetimes.

I’ll admit, there were many times I wanted it all to end. There were many days I just didn’t know how much more I could handle. My recent loss has devastated me beyond words. Everything I’ve worked so hard for in the last three years has completely been obliterated. I’m numb and feel defeated almost every day.

At fifty-eight years old, starting over doesn’t interest me, but I have no choice. I know what to expect. I’ve been here before. It’s ugly, messy, frustrating, stressful, and exhausting. Every day I wake up I don’t really feel like getting to the computer to work.

I don’t really feel like doing anything, to be honest, but lay in bed and cry. I go through serious waves of anxiety throughout the day. They hit me fast, hard, and without warning. I want to throw up. I want to curl up in a ball and die. I want someone to tell me this is all a bad dream and tomorrow things will be back to normal.

None of that happens. And I force myself to get to work and start a new day.

Your Struggles and Pain Are Real

Pain is pain, chaos is chaos. No matter what it looks like to you. Never let anyone tell you your feelings are ridiculous. Don’t ever think that you’re overreacting. What your feeling is real, and you need to honor your emotions, feel all the feels. Just don’t stay there. The longer you stay down, the harder it is to get back up.

Here are ten things to do when you are feeling defeated, hopeless, helpless, and sad—all things that have helped me, that I hope help you too.

1. Cry your eyes out.

Too many of us hold back our tears because we think it’s a sign of weakness. It is absolutely not, and it’s almost mandatory to get those tears out. Go back to the last time you had a good cry fest and try to remember how you felt afterward. I’m guessing you felt like a ton of bricks was just lifted off your shoulders.

Crying is very therapeutic. Do it. As often as you have to. Scream and cry into a pillow if you have to but get those tears out.

2. Call a friend.

While this almost sounds too simple, most don’t even think about doing this either because they don’t want to burden their friends, or because they’re too stuck on their problems to consider talking about something else.

Pick one person you absolutely love talking to and just chat your cute little face off. You can talk about your problem if you think it will help, or you can use this as an opportunity to get your mind off of things. Just talk!! About anything, everything, silly things and nothing.

I remember the day my business crashed, and I was so angry and upset but also embarrassed because I didn’t want anyone to know what happened to me and that my business was gone. After a week I decided to call one of my dear friends, and not only was he great at comforting me but also reassuring me that things were going to be okay. It was such a huge relief to get this confirmation from a friend.

Sometimes we need to hear comforting words!

3. Volunteer.

I tell everyone this. If you’re sad, go volunteer. Like right now. You can’t even imagine the power behind helping someone or something (aka furry critters) in need. Your heart fills up and then explodes, you cry happy tears, and it honestly just gives you so much joy.

Find an organization that resonates with you and call them. Go spend an hour a week there. This will soon become your happy place and something you will look forward to every week.

4. Write yourself a love letter.

I’ll be honest, I haven’t written one in a while, but I think it’s time.

A love letter to yourself is so powerful and therapeutic. In this letter you tell yourself all the amazing and awesome things about yourself. You list all the reasons you shouldn’t feel like a loser. You tell yourself to brush off your bum and pick yourself back up again.

You can go on and on about how wonderfully amazing you are. Write out all the things you love about yourself and all your radiant and redeeming qualities.

Now before you say, “Oh, I don’t love anything about myself,” stop right there.

Go look in the mirror right now. I bet you have the most beautiful eyes and the most sweet smile ever. Or maybe you are a feisty, determined person. Or maybe you have a heart of gold! I bet there are a million awesome things about you. Find them and write about them.

5. Put on some loud music and sing and dance.

Oh yeah. Choose the loudest, thrashiest music you have (and love) and crank up the stereo. Or maybe you love country or jazz or whatever! Turn it up and rip off the knob. Dance, sing, jump around your house like a silly fool.

Sometimes when I’m feeling down, I put on the saddest music with the hardest hitting lyrics, sing loud, cry my heart out, and remarkably afterward I feel a million times better!!

Let loose and lose all your cares and woes in your favorite music. You’re gonna feel amazing, you’ll even get a little workout in, and your adrenaline will be pumped up a wee bit, so you’ll maybe even feel unstoppable! Go you!

6. Go for a walk.

Another simple thing to do that we often overlook. For many of us, when we’re feeling really sad, we don’t want to get dressed and go out. We want to stay inside and cry and eat junk food (more on that later), but you can’t stay there forever.

You have to get yourself out of your dark place. You have to take action steps (pardon the pun) to move forward and be happy again.

Get your shoes on and get outside. You never know who you’re going to run into or what kind of super cool things can happen to you. Be open to surprises and chance meetings. Or maybe you’ll just find and see little things that bring a smile to your face.

7. Watch funny movies and eat junk food.

Yes, I said it. Eat junk food, aka comfort food. They call it comfort food for a reason. Because that’s exactly what it does. And yes, I get that we may have a teeny sore belly in the morning, all depending on how much comfort food you consumed the night before, but really, chocolate and chips and donuts and cake really do the soul good.

A small word of warning here, though: Only do this if you can let yourself enjoy eating and aren’t mindlessly binging to numb your feelings, and please don’t make this a daily habit. We all know eating junk food is bad for us. It’s a nice quick fix on a really sad day but not something you should do all the time. Remember, life is all about balance too. That includes your eating habits.

So find your fave movies—I usually opt for funny ones or super action thrillers—and lose yourself in it. Forget your cares and woes even if only for two hours or so and let yourself indulge a little.

8. Write a truth letter.

Yes, I love writing letters. It’s the best therapy out there, I swear! Much like a love letter to yourself, a truth letter is a letter you will write to someone or something that is causing you grief and sorrow.

This is where you get to write out all your anger, all your hurt; every damn emotion you feel about this person/thing, get it all out! I know some people who have written truth letters that were thirty pages long. You write until you can’t write anymore!

This is something you can do every time you have hateful or angry thoughts about this person or thing. Eventually the thoughts won’t show up so often.

9. Set a timer.

We already know we can’t stay in this sad dark place for too long, or it will consume us. After a few weeks of feeling like this set a timer for fifteen minutes, twice a day. In this time slot, feel angry, sad, cry, scream, or do whatever else you have to do, but when the timer is up try to compose yourself and shift your attention elsewhere—on your work, a hobby, helping a friend, anything other than your own problems.

Negative thoughts will arise outside of your time slot. But remember, you can choose whether or not to engage with them. You always have a choice to let your thoughts pass without getting caught up in your mental stories. That’s up to you to do.

Yes, this is hard to do, but the benefit is that you are allowing yourself time to grieve without allowing your grief to totally consume you and dominate your days.

10. Have a ‘me’ day.

Even if you can’t take the whole day, try to take at least a few hours to pamper yourself. Get a manicure or pedicure or do one for yourself at home. Get your hair done, take yourself out on a date. Do something you enjoy, something that gets you into a state of flow.

Whatever it is that you do, do it in honor of yourself and how amazing you are. Take this time to love yourself, as hard as that may be, and just be present with you and only you.

As I go through my difficult time, I keep telling myself that this is temporary, I’m gonna be okay, and to keep the faith. I believe everything always works out in the end, exactly the way it’s supposed to, whether we understand it or not, and this brings me comfort.

But don’t deny your emotions.

I think the most important thing to remember is that you must honor and feel your feelings, but you can’t stay there. It’s important to take steps to get back to your ‘normal,’ whatever that looks like for you, or to accept that it’s time to create a new normal.

Baby steps are better than no steps at all. Do one or two little things every day and before you know it, you’ll be smiling and feeling better about yourself and life again.

You got this, babe!

About Iva Ursano

Iva is a retired hairstylist turned freelance writer from Northern Ontario Canada living a life of freedom, peace, and joy in sunny Guatemala. Her two main goals in life are to inspire people around the world with her blogs and to feed hungry little bellies in the poor town she now calls home. She has a mini-series of self-help eBooks you can check out here or you can head over to her website for more inspiration and sign up to her weekly motivational and inspirational newsletters.

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