If you’re feeling lost in life — stuck, lacking motivation, or aimless — here are some things that might help.
Though most people don’t talk about it, it’s a feeling many people get.
You might feel like you don’t know the next step to take in life. You might feel helpless, emotionally numb, or like you’ve lost your spark.
Many things can make you feel lost, like the end of a relationship, missed opportunities, or an awareness of your life not moving in the direction you imagined. Sometimes, you aren’t sure why you feel lost, but you can’t shake the feeling of being utterly aimless, floating from random task to random task.
There are many reasons why you might feel lost, but there are also many ways you can try to find yourself again.
“Feeling lost feels a lot like depression,” says Carolyn Ferreira, PsyD, a psychologist who helps people rebuild relationships and recover from trauma and addictions.
If you feel lost in life, you might feel unmotivated and uninterested in your hobbies, she says. You might feel “like life is meaningless.” You might no longer recognize yourself.
You also might feel like you’ve lost sight of the person you want to be, says Danielle Kepler, a licensed clinical professional counselor based in Chicago who specializes in treating adults with anxiety, depression, and life transitions, as well as couples with relationship issues.
It also can feel like you’ve always felt this lost, and you always will, Kepler says. “You might struggle to remember a time when you felt like your ‘old self.’” You may “see no way out of it.”
But know that there is a way out. In fact, there are many ways. Here are some things you can do when you feel lost:
Denying our emotions can often do more harm than good.
“When a person acknowledges their feeling of being lost emotionally, they can then attend to it,” says Colleen Mullen, PsyD, a licensed marriage and family therapist, psychotherapist, and founder of the Coaching Through Chaos private practice and podcast in San Diego.
Remind yourself it’s OK to feel sad, disappointed, or helpless, she says. “These are natural consequences when our life path changes abruptly in a direction we did not want.”
It also can help to write about your feelings through journaling. Try writing about how you’re feeling and why you’re feeling this way. Describe your physical sensations. Document your thoughts. Get it all down on paper.
After you’ve acknowledged how you’re feeling, Mullen suggested soothing yourself with practices such as:
Also, try being kind to yourself. For instance, when thoughts like, “Oh, I can’t believe this is happening,” or “I don’t know why I am even trying” arise, you might tell yourself, “I can handle this,” or “If I’m overwhelmed, I can take a break,” she says.
“Remind yourself that although you may feel your circumstances are out of your control, you can still control how you react to them.”
“Any movement you make when you feel lost will feel like progress,” Ferreira says. For instance, you might keep your nourishing bedtime routine and your weekly lunch with your best friend because you always feel better after talking with them.
What matters to you? What’s important? Ferreira suggested working through a values worksheet, which you can find online.
“Pick one or two values that resonate with you and do something that is in line with that.” She shares this example: One of your values is justice, so you start volunteering at a local nonprofit.
Kepler suggests clients think of someone they admire. This might be a mentor, colleague, or friend. She asks them to identify the specific qualities they admire.
For instance, maybe you admire your colleague’s friendliness, kindness, and ability to assert themselves, she says. “These are often values that [you] feel are important; it’s just somewhat easier to identify them in other people than [yourself].”
It might help to see a motivational speaker, attend a guest lecture at a university, or check out a business networking event, Ferreira says.
“Attending an inspirational event can help you remember what you’re passionate about.” It also can help you connect to like-minded people, she said. And “sometimes just the energy in the room from such an event can be enough to get a person going again.”
Consider working with a therapist or joining a support group that focuses on what you’re dealing with, says Mullen. She suggests researching whatever issue you’re trying to navigate. For instance, if you’re dealing with grief, try looking for memoirs and self-help books on the subject.
It’s hard to know what to do when you feel lost. A good place to start is to spend some time acknowledging and understanding why you’re feeling this way.
Even though it might be painful or frustrating, feeling lost can become an opportunity for growth.
“Feeling lost can redirect us toward what really matters to us,” Ferreira says. It can inspire us to take a trip and savor new experiences. It can inspire us to take a different job, which starts to fulfill us. It can inspire us to join a support group to find our tribe.
Looking for mental health support but not sure where to start? Psych Central’s How to Find Mental Health Support resource can help.
Feeling lost can be the first step in creating a more fulfilling life and be the first step in reconnecting with yourself.