Dealing With Despair


We have all been in situations where we have felt desperate, where everything is hopeless and nobody can help. When your self-confidence has been undermined, even minor setbacks can make you ill; a misunderstanding at work, a minor accident in the car, receiving a parking ticket, failure of a family member to call.

Despair is defined as: The complete loss or absence of hope.

The difficulty with IBS is that when things appear to be going ‘wrong’ whether that’s with the illness or with life, it can trigger a downward spiral where mood and thoughts feed into symptoms and vice-versa.  Things start to feel hopeless.

What can I do to stop this vicious cycle?

What can I do to stop this vicious cycle?

First step is to:

Notice it:  Creating self-awareness around your IBS can be really helpful.  But this is not hypervigilance to do with lots of niggly symptoms, this is stepping back from your situation and asking ‘what is going on?’  It requires a process of first knowing when you need to step back, and you can be alerted to this by recognising your ‘signature’ thoughts, feelings and behaviours that you get when you’re experiencing a period of hopelessness.  These can be things such as your thoughts telling you everything is hopeless, when your body feels heavy and you can’t be bothered, and even when you are being snappier with people and can’t tolerate life very well.  Once you have noticed your sense of hopelessness, you can then acknowledge it.

Name it:  This is about acknowledging when you are experiencing a sense of hopelessness.  At this point you can take a couple of deep breaths in and out, really feeling the sensation of the breath as you inhale and exhale. 

At this part of the process, some people like to put their hand on their heart and name the experience, so you would choose a word which best suits what you are experiencing: ‘Hopeless’ or ‘despair’.  Once you have acknowledged and named it,  then grounded yourself, you can then ask ‘How will I deal with this’.

Neutralise it:  This is about how you deal with the experience.  There are lots of ways to do this.  Sometimes simply acknowledging that you feel hopeless, rather than avoiding it can be helpful. 

But you can also do other things such as:

  • Practice some self-compassion, as with IBS it is easy to start beating yourself up.
  • Practice some self-care/kindness with an activity that meaningfully gives something back to yourself.
  • Reframe your thinking through self-talk so that you can understand that when you’re feeling vulnerable, your brain starts to provide you with unhelpful suggestions.  Strange as it may seem, these thoughts are designed to protect you, though they are unhelpful.  You can think of your brain’s natural tendency towards negativity as ‘Radio Doom and Gloom’.
  • You can take a break, as feeling stressed and hopeless can be incredibly tiring, especially when it exacerbates symptoms.  Give yourself permission to take time off.

If you feel you are struggling and need some support, reach out to someone.  This can either just be for a chat or some practical help.

To Read More Join today to access Members' Exclusive Content
Join Login Donate