19 Oct Yes, There is Always Hope
Has 2020 has brought you tremendous uncertainty and challenges leading to deep feelings of sadness, grief, anxiety and depression and wondering “Am I going to get through this?”
It is so natural to experience feelings of grief during a crisis or tragedy…I know. I have been there. And in my darkness, I discovered how hope can be my pillar and source of strength. I can see and feel how people are in search of borrowing some much-needed hope. Perhaps you are. I was so overcome with my beautiful discovery that, I found myself yearning to write about hope, because, especially during difficult times like these, it is indeed this pillar that gives us the strength and resilience needed.
As an accredited counselor that specializes in PTSD & Grief, I advocate for our human need to acknowledge and embrace our darker emotions. We should be better at honoring loss and supporting others who are grieving as this is a part of our lives. Let’s not tend to focus exclusively on the happy, or the distracting, or the fun.
What’s the answer? It’s a question of balance. You need both. You need to honor the light and the dark, the happy and the sad—and EVERYTHING in between—because it belongs. All of it is authentic. And whatever is authentic is normal and necessary.
Usually you’re out of balance because you choose to shine your awareness only on the “good stuff”, right? It’s true, isn’t it? But in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, you’re at risk for the balance tipping in the direction of fear and despair.
I am here to tell you that there is always hope. Yes, during these difficult times, you must remember to hope.
But, what is hope? How can it be described or explained? I see hope as “a good that is yet to be.” It is an inner knowing, a gut feeling , if you will, that the future holds positive things. When I surrender to trust, no matter the current circumstances, I begin to feel powerful feelings of hope. Hope to me is something that is forward-looking—yet experienced in the now.
Like mourning, nurturing hope is active. It’s something you can do. So what can you do to embrace hope even as you experience the losses caused by this pandemic?
My favorite go-to is Mindfulness. And I do not mean this lightly…going “inward” is a game changer.
As I write this, most of North America is sheltering in place. Though our “normal” lives have been disrupted and in many cases turned upside down, and we may be experiencing VERY real personal losses (sick friends and family members, financial jeopardy, lost connections with loved ones, to name just a few), many of us are also, in this moment, safe and comfortable.
What is a practice in mindfulness? It means learning to be present to your immediate surroundings right NOW. As I write this, the sun peeks out from billowy clouds in a denim-blue sky. I see the glorious colors of fall everywhere. One of my cats is sleeping at my feet. Whenever I am mindful of the present moment, I find gratitude, and gratitude helps me access hope…hope resides in all of us. You just have to access it. I think of hope as gratitude for what is to come.
What else can this practice do for you? Being mindful in the now can help build relationships with the people you care about. In the now you can share quality time with those you love and care about, and even though you can’t visit them in person, you can also spend time each day on video calls with your children and friends. I have been Skyping with my mother who lives in a personal care home in Winnipeg and the more I do this, the more hope I feel because my heart overflows with gratitude. By practicing mindfulness daily, I feel blessed for what I have.
There exists a fine line between a) informing yourself about the pandemic and steps you can take to keep yourself and others safe, and b) over consuming information (and misinformation), causing stress, anxiety, depression, fear, and even despair.
In this age of technological advancement, you have limitless content right at your fingertips. You can read, watch, and listen to new information about COVID-19 daily and still never be “caught up.” It is only natural that you may be tempted to over consume information in an effort to feel in control of what is happening. The difficulty is, that, you cannot control this epidemic, and you cannot even fully control what happens to you and your loved ones.
Relinquishing control can lessen your feelings of stress and anxiety and help to build trust in your own capacity and ability to cope…whatever happens. If you practice and focus on mindfulness, you are less likely to obsess and worry. Instead, you can learn to be OK with your lack of control and trust in your own resilience. When tomorrow comes, you will be handle what comes tomorrow. Today you are only responsible for today.
Creating and Building Hope
If you believe that your future will include moments of joy, love, and meaning, you already have within you that spark of hope. We all do. And you can grow that spark into a flame by intentionally creating and building hope into each new day.
SO, what do I do/ what am I doing to create and build hope during difficult times? Here are some of the ways:
- I only take part in activities I care about to the extent that I can while sheltering in place.
- I engage in spiritual practices daily.
- I make a collage of words or pictures that symbolize hope in my mind and heart.
- I intentionally imagine/visualize the future I desire.
- I only make future plans that excite me and that I know I will enjoy and find fun.
- I help and serve others in my private practice as a Naturopath and Counselor.
- I remain in close contact with the people I deeply care about, through Skype and phone calls.
- I take care of my body, my mind, my heart, and my spirit with a daily and disciplined yoga and meditation practice.
Choosing Hope Consciously
Hope is not something that will just passively float into your life. Instead, hope will enter when you create ways to consciously bring it into your day. Despite these challenging times, the door you open to hope every day will dramatically influence the quality of your life.
What do I mean by choosing hope consciously? I mean deliberately focusing on it…paying attention to it, inviting it into a given moment, and letting yourself feel it completely, as it enters. It’s being creative with how you give attention to hope and invite it in. Moment by moment, you can choose hope over fear. You can choose hope instead of despair. It is a choice. It is something you can control.
If hope feels out of reach right now, consider borrowing a little to get you through. When you simply do not have the energy to cultivate it yourself, it’s possible to receive hope from others. It’s appropriate in times like these to turn to people who have hope to lend.
How do you know if someone is hopeFULL? Seek out your friends and family members who have a hopeful outlook on life. These are the people with positive energy when they are in your presence, and they make you smile when you simply hear their voice. They are also usually caring, nonjudgmental listeners. The energy they radiate can anchor you right now…and help elevate your vibration. Don’t forget—hope is a renewable resource. Borrow it now, and know that in the future, when the time is right, you can pay it forward to someone else in need.
I love this quote by Victor Frankl, and share it with you, “Everything can be taken away from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” As you choose your own way during these challenging and unprecedented times, I invite you to nurture hope and to be grateful for what you have each and every single day.
A little about Irene
Irene Andrejczuk, ND is a clinical naturopath, Reiki Master, NLP practitioner, Kundalini Yoga practitioner, counselor, and owner and founder of Optimum Health Clinic, Montreal, Qc. She provides counseling in the areas of PTSD, grief/loss, bereavement, depression, anxiety, adjustment to injury or illness and trauma. Irene is a frequent blogger on PTSD and grief. She continues to offer support during the pandemic through Skype, phone, or email. She is offering special “never seen before” promotions during Covid and an additional discount to Essential Care Workers and First Responders.