Your feelings are valid. You’re not alone and support is available.
Maybe you feel that life is too painful, or you question why you’re here and whether you can handle it all. This is a natural response to many of life’s events.
Even if you can’t quite put your finger on why you’re feeling this way, your emotions are real. But they don’t have to be permanent and you don’t need to go through this alone.
If you’re having a difficult time right now, it may be a good idea to seek the support of a mental health professional. This can help you manage and overcome your emotional pain.
If this isn’t possible at the moment, contacting a crisis line may also help.
No matter why you’re feeling like it hurts to live, or how dark your thoughts are, there’s a valid reason for it. Your reason. And it really doesn’t have to make sense to anyone else.
You may be facing difficult times that cause you great pain and distress, or you might have unresolved emotions from traumatic experiences. It’s natural to feel that it hurts to live this way.
In any case, when emotional pain is too much, the way you see yourself, others, and life in general, may change.
It’s like wearing a pair of sunglasses. Even if you don’t intend to, you’ll see everything else through that filter, and things may look darker than they actually are.
But if you look at your pain this way — if only for a minute — you may realize the darkness could be in the sunglasses, and if you can find a way to take them off, things may not look as dim anymore.
Thinking it hurts to live doesn’t have to mean you want to act on it. Emotions and thoughts are sometimes just that: emotions and thoughts.
Many people experience passive suicidal thoughts from time to time, explains Danica Copp, a licensed independent clinical social worker in Woodbridge, Virginia. “It’s okay to have these thoughts. A depressed brain tells you that the world is better without you, and the folks who love you won’t miss you. These are lies.”
So, if you wonder “Why is life so painful?” or “Why am I hurting this much?” know you’re not alone and, although natural, these emotions don’t have to be permanent. There’s a way out of pain and into a meaningful and fulfilling life.
If you’re feeling life is painful at the moment, it’s highly advisable that you reach out to a mental health professional, or contact a crisis line and similar resources.
Once you’ve reached out, you may also want to try some of these techniques to help you find relief from your emotional pain. Developing coping skills for grief can help.
Re-evaluate your thoughts right now
“Feeling hurt is an okay emotion to have. It is a part of you but does not define you and does not need to have all the power,” says Sabina Mauro, a psychologist in Yardley, Pennsylvania.
You can take away this power by shifting how you approach emotions.
“Instead of saying ‘I feel hurt’ — a form of the emotion defining you — use the phrase, ‘Right now I am experiencing hurt because…’ and then fill in the blank. This is a way to acknowledge the pain, without letting it control you,” says Mauro.
And if you find yourself asking, “What’s wrong with me?” try this instead: “What happened that caused me to experience this pain?”
Remember, you’re not feeling this way because you want to.
Reframing your thoughts to be more loving and compassionate toward yourself may help you.
“When we’re in crisis, oftentimes we are judging ourselves and ashamed of what we’re feeling,” explains Merissa Goolsarran, a licensed therapist in Miami, Florida. Instead, try “thanking yourself for caring and worrying so much. It may sound counterintuitive but being grateful can bring a sense of calm.”
You’re doing the best you can with the resources at hand.
Do grounding exercises
If you’re overwhelmed with pain, it can be difficult to connect with the present moment. But drawing attention to your senses may help you step away from the hurt.
Consider these tips whenever you feel your emotions rise:
- Sight. Count the pieces of furniture around you, color in a coloring book, put on your favorite movie, or read a comforting book.
- Smell. Diffuse calming essential oil scents like lavender, light a scented candle, bake cookies, spray air freshener or your favorite perfume, or put on a nice lotion.
- Sound. Put on music or soothing nature sounds, talk out loud about what you see and hear, hum to yourself, or repeat a mantra like “I’m love and light.”
- Taste. Chew a piece of gum, let a mint melt in your mouth, sip some tea, or eat something sour or spicy.
- Touch. Give your pet a soft cuddle, hold a warm beverage in your hands, let an ice cube melt in your palm, splash cold water on your face, take a cold or warm shower, wash your hands with foamy soap, or scream into a pillow.
“The nice thing about grounding is that many of these techniques can be done in any environment,” says Anjani Amladi, a psychiatrist in Sacramento, California. “Grounding is highly personal. What works for one person may not work for another. It may take some time to find out which grounding techniques work best for you.”
Feel into your body
If you feel overwhelmed with difficult thoughts and feelings, focusing on your body may help.
You may try some somatic therapy exercises, for example. Or you could start moving.
Beyond being a distraction, movement actually activates important processes in your body that may positively impact your mood.
Moving during a crisis may also deactivate the natural alarm system your body has. It may be difficult to convince your mind to think about something else, so activating your body can shift the focus.
“Run in place for a minute to complete the stress response and utilize the cortisol in your lymphatic system,” says Cass Biron, a trauma-informed therapist in New York. “Massage your neck and armpits to drain the lymph nodes of the stress hormones and adrenaline associated with stress and anxiety.”
This type of lymphatic massage can be performed by a licensed massage professional or it can be performed at home. It’s highly advisable you speak with a health professional before you try it on your own.
Biron also suggests experimenting with “removing one of the senses (wearing a blindfold or closing the eyes) as a way to allow for the brain to function in a different way that will likely reset the router of communication in the mind.”
Journal your feelings
Getting your feelings out on paper may help them feel less intense. Some journal prompts include:
- Why am I thinking this way?
- What evidence supports these thoughts?
- How else can I think about this situation, or this thought?
- What does this emotion need from me?
- Is this emotion helping me?
- Is this emotion hurting me?
- Can I survive this emotion?
- Can I let this emotion hang around?
- When was the last time I didn’t feel this way?
Make a list of things you love
During dark times, it can be difficult to remember what you love about living.
“When things seem impossible, try making an itemized list of things that you love, enjoy, and are looking forward to,” says Amladi. “It doesn’t have to be anything monumental and can be as small as tomorrow’s cup of coffee.”
“When we actively think about things that bring us joy, it trains our mind to look for positives elsewhere,” she adds.
Recall activities you used to enjoy
Do you remember a time when you laughed and felt joy? Focus on those memories and, if possible, try to engage in those activities even if you don’t feel like it right now.
Some ideas include:
- roller skating
- riding a bicycle
- building a fort
- playing a game
- laying on the grass looking at the clouds
It doesn’t mean this will take away your emotional pain. You may still need to do much work to process how you feel. But you can also find temporary comfort and relief in daily activities.
If you’re experiencing unbearable pain at the moment, support is available right now. Consider calling a crisis line and talking about how you feel.
Even though reaching out for help is sometimes hard, you may find that you’re not alone in this and there are people who care.
If you want to try talking with friends or family, try sending out a text or making a phone call to someone you fully trust.
Biron says these steps may help you approach the situation:
- Check for emotional capacity. Hi there, I have something I’d like to share with you. Is this a good time? Do you have the energy to hold space for some big feelings right now?
- Explain what you’re feeling. My mind is racing/upset/scared and I would appreciate hearing your voice and being heard.
- Make a request. Can you tell me a story about your day/pet/life as a way to distract my mind? Could you spend some time with me, just hanging out?
Therapy can help you manage your emotions and thoughts. There are a few evidence-based approaches that can help you. For example,
- cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
- dialectical behavioral therapy
- collaborative assessment and management of suicide (CAMS)
“Seeking out a therapist can teach you how to become aware of your emotions, connect with your emotions, and manage them in healthy ways,” says Mauro.
If you can’t afford therapy, consider looking into these options:
- low-cost clinics or sliding scales
- employer assistance programs
- university and college counseling programs
- city-sponsored support groups
“Feelings of not being enough, not having a purpose, or even questioning what the point of all of this is are extremely normal,” says Dr. Kate Burke, an emergency medical physician in Milford, Massachusetts. “If you feel comfortable, start by talking with a mental health professional to cope with these feelings. Start by allowing yourself to feel these feelings. You are valid and you are not alone.”
If you are ready to take the next step and reach out for support, consider these resources:
- American Federation for Suicide Prevention
- Suicide Prevention Lifeline
- American Psychiatric Association’s Find a Psychiatrist tool
- American Psychological Association’s Find a Psychologist tool
- Asian Mental Health Collective’s therapist directory
- Association of Black Psychologists’ Find a Psychologist tool
- National Alliance on Mental Illness Helplines and Support Tools
- National Institute of Mental Health’s Helpline Directory
- National Queer and Trans Therapists of Color Network
- Inclusive Therapists
- The Trevor Project
- Trans Lifeline