Kindling Hope in Uncertain Times

February 01, 2021

Having hope while in recovery can feel easy on some days and much harder on others; sometimes tangible and ripe, other times, elusive. But overall, hope seems easier to sense and channel during “normal” times.

However, the last year has not been normal. If there has been one certain thing, it is that uncertainty has flooded every sphere of life: school, work, home and social gatherings, holidays, vacations, national politics and perhaps most importantly, access to health care, physical and behavioral. Insecurity seems to reign. The future can seem bleak, or at least, blank. How do we plan? How do we move forward into the future when things are so uncertain? Especially for those who may have been in a vulnerable spot in recovery when the pandemic hit, the question arises – how do I hold on to hope?

Dear friend, parent, spouse, sibling or mentor: may I share something with you? Hope is not something that falls into your or my lap. It is something that we must choose, sometimes daily, even hourly. Hope can take whatever form that you give it, and it can be hope for the next ten minutes, or the next ten years.

So, how do we find the strength to choose hope in uncertain times? Actually, the same way we did when things were “normal.” Except the funny thing is, even during “normal” times, the future was still as uncertain as it is now, only we had frameworks, silos, in which to put things, ideas, and plans to make us feel more in control. But this year, I think we’ve all learned, there is much less in our control than we think.

And how freeing a thought! It is an oft-repeated phrase, but rings true each time I hear it: We cannot choose what happens to us, but we can choose our response.

Here is how we choose hope, amidst whatever circumstances we face.

First, stay present. This is the basis of mindfulness. When anxiety about the future or grief about the past threatens like a wave to overwhelm, ground your feet on the floor, and deepen your breath. First, bring your awareness to the present moment, to your body, to your space. It can help to close your eyes, or put one hand on your chest or heart, and the other on your belly, or both hands on your lap if you are sitting. Bringing focus back to the present helps ground yourself in reality, and once you’re there, to bring attention to the little things that you can be grateful for in the moment.

Next, along with staying present in the moment, stay present in where you are at in your life, in your recovery, in this moment. Constantly on a race to pursue what is next only creates more uncertainty and fear. Resting in the phase you are in, not rushing the process, allowing yourself time and space to be, to work through emotions, this is what helps cultivate hope. Why? Because on the journey is where the growth happens, and it takes time. True mental, emotional, and spiritual victories can truly occur when you don’t give yourself a deadline or pressure to accomplish them. Accept where you are in this moment, continue the work of recovery, and celebrate the small wins. When you see your growth happening, without rushing or judgement, you plant and water the seeds of hope in your life.

There are many other ways to cultivate hope, and you may find a technique or a ritual that works better for you that I have not mentioned here. But one more tool I’d like to share with you that worked wonders for me in my own recovery journey.

Talk to yourself. Try it! And not using “I” statements but using “You.” You can do this verbally, in a journal or in your head. Many of us are more isolated than in “normal” times and may not have access to our normal support system, or those who normally can affirm us. This can leave us feeling hopeless – that any of the work we are doing matters, is making any difference, etc., So to cultivate hope, be your own cheerleader. It can be as simple as saying, “I am so proud of you. You have been working so hard on your recovery, on facing your fears, and I see you. I also see you when you feel like you’re not enough. And it is ok to feel like that. I’m still with you, and I still love you. I’m proud of you no matter what.”

Stay present, stay grateful, accept where you are in this moment, and be the proud voice that you need to hear. All of these, and your own tools, are ways to kindle the fire of hope. The world outside may not have the answers – in fact, it never did. But your healthy self, your true voice, your own strength can build a hope more powerful and strong and sustainable, no matter the storm you face. You already have an unshakeable hope within you – and I encourage you to let that fire blaze.

Kirsten Haglund Müller-Daubermann, Timberline Knolls Community Relations Specialist, is an international speaker, mental health advocate and digital media strategist. She serves as the Community Relations Specialist for Timberline Knolls and as Founder and President of the Kirsten Haglund Foundation. She served as Miss America 2008. Kirsten is also the host of “Honest Talk,” Timberline Knolls’ Instagram LIVE interview series @timberlinetoday. Kirsten studied musical theatre performance at the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music (CCM), and graduated from Emory University with a B.A. in Political Science. She is currently based in Zürich, Switzerland.