By Dr. Linda Sapadin
There are some days in which you feel anything but optimistic. So much stuff is going on that is problematic - in your personal life, in your family life, in the world. It just gets to you. You feel overwhelmed. Your mind is clouded with worry. Your soul is burdened with heaviness. And you feel there's nothing that you can do to make anything better.
You try hopelessly to quell your worries. Yet they still keep haunting you. You may feel ready to give up. But hold on. Though there may be no easy answers to resolving your issues, here are two things that you can do right now to ease your burdens.
#1. Change "I don't know" thinking to "One thing I do know is...."
The phrase "I don't know...." (i.e. I don't know why I stay in this awful relationship)" is usually tossed off casually as a way to avoid confronting a deeper, more revealing assessment of a situation. "I don't know" avoids the need to address specific, underlying fears and insecurities. Though this may initially seem like a good idea (why get into something so complex), the downside is that it makes you feel powerless. You can't find solutions for what is indecipherable.
If you want to become more optimistic, challenge yourself to be bolder and clearer. For example, you might say "One thing I do know is that I stay in this awful relationship because I'm afraid to be alone." Or, "One thing I do know about this awful relationship is that the constant fighting is draining me." Does this solve your problem? Certainly not. Does it create the possibility, that owning up to what the problem really is, might help you find a solution? Yes, it does.
#2. Make an "I can't" statement into a compound sentence: "I can't ... But one thing I can do is..."
The phrase "I can't..." (i.e. I can't quit my job now") can leave you feeling pretty hopeless. No choice. No power. No strength. You're stuck!
Instead of continuing in this powerless position, shift the focus away from what you can't do to something you can do. For example, you might say, "I can't quit my job now, but I can start exploring other career moves." Or, "I can't quit my job now, but I can go back to school to prepare myself for a more satisfying career."
How do these easy-to-make changes help you become more optimistic? Because knowing what the problem is, even if it's really serious, helps you understand what's going on, then sets you in the right direction to find a solution. Instead of amorphous smoke, you've got a defined dilemma. And once you understand what your dilemma is, you can explore options, you can develop strength, you can establish power.
Linda Sapadin, Ph.D. is a psychologist in private practice who specializes in helping people enrich their lives, enhance their relationships and overcome self-defeating patterns of behavior. For more information about her work, contact her by email