Since 2020, we’ve hoped things would improve: an end to the pandemic, restoration of peace and order to our communities and country, resolution to the war in Ukraine, and cessation of our personal losses. All of this hoping without experiencing relief caused us to grow weary and presented a new problem psychologists refer to as "hope fatigue". How do we motivate ourselves and others to continue to strive in work or relationships when weary and suffering from a deficit of optimism? Hope motivates and inspires us to persevere. While this sounds good in theory, feeling inundated with bad news, such as being overlooked for the raise you expected and felt you deserved or discovering an impending eviction from your home due to missed payments, increases the difficulty of finding hope or believing things will improve.
People tire of hoping the pandemic will end, street violence will lessen, or that the war will end. To make matters worse, a recent Pew Research Center Poll revealed that only 2 out of 10 Americans reported trust in Washington politicians to do what was right most of the time. This insecurity coupled with hope fatigue increases anxiety and leads to tuning out, emotional numbing, or giving up altogether.
Our nervous systems were not designed to handle so many crises at once. Our 24-hour news cycle reporting the ongoings across the globe further increases the crisis we feel on a personal level. If you worry you may struggle with hope fatigue, these suggestions can help you feel more in control and begin to restore hope.
1. Tune out bad news and tune into positive news. Doomscrolling is a negative and addictive behavior which causes you to feel overwhelmed by tragic news. Instead, try positive news networks such as https://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/. Watching positive things happen to others restores our sense of good in the world and provides an opportunity for creative problem solving, shifting your perspective from despair to hope. Not only that, watching positive news is good for the body. It relaxes the heart rate, helping our mind let go of anxiety and refocus vigilant thoughts of fear.
2. Stay in the present. Projecting worry about the future triggers increased anxiety. As much as possible, slow down and stay attentive to your tasks at hand. Washing dishes, doing the laundry, or taking a walk can serve as a meditative practice when you remain focused on your emotions in the present rather than allowing your mind to create a thousand worries. Hope fatigue is not a permanent condition unless you give in to the negative loop of thoughts in your mind.
3. Remind yourself of your "wins". We experience personal bests and victories - no matter how small they may seem. Recalling these moments while reminding yourself of the strength you mustered to achieve them is an important component to hope restoration. For example, a personal best for a new mom may manifest as keeping her baby safe during the pandemic or the 2021 Texas freeze. Keep a list of your successes and read it daily to restore a sense of hope.
4. Focus on what you can do - not what you cannot. You may feel helpless against the global climate crisis or stopping violence, but you can join forces with a friend or group and do good. Taking action to help others’ wellbeing restores optimism for the future; this small step creates hope.
5. Care for your mental and physical health. To stay resilient and hopeful in times of trouble, you must take care of yourself. Are you sleeping enough? If not, begin a practice of good sleep habits. Are you overeating? Ask yourself what you’re feeling before eating. This helps prevent snacking when you're overcome with boredom or anxiety. Instead of eating through your problems, talk them out with a friend or therapist to prevent emotional flooding of negative thoughts.
Hope provides us with a vision of our desired future. The simple act of envisioning what you hope for relieves anxiety and can motivate you to take the necessary steps to create that future. Without hope, we are filled with despair - a creator of depression. The process of finding hope requires you to believe you can contribute something of importance that will make a difference while keeping the faith to carry it through. Every human today has a chance to hold a light in a dark place long enough to see their way out. We must believe this, and we must help to create it.