If you’re looking for ideas on how to get unstuck from this feeling, here are some tips.

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Life can be unpredictable, and events don’t always work out in your favor.

Maybe you’re unhappy in your career or relationship. Tragedy or unexpected circumstances may have forced you down a new path. Or you may have an underlying medical condition that causes you physical or emotional stress.

No matter the cause, these thoughts are natural.

The very fact you’re having these thoughts likely means you’ve recognized an aspect of your life you wish was different. And this realization is often the first step toward making a change.

All emotions are reactions to how you perceive the world around you. Both feel-good and uncomfortable emotions play an important part in mental health.

Enjoyable emotions activate your brain’s reward system. They can improve your focus and may help expand your ways of thinking.

Uncomfortable emotions can help protect you. They let you know when things aren’t right. For example, anger might let you know when someone isn’t respecting your boundaries.

Like anger, many other intense emotions can be traced back to our survival instincts. Anxiety and fear were likely important reasons why our ancestors didn’t all get eaten by wild animals.

In the modern world, you may not encounter life-or-death situations every day, but these emotions are still here as part of your early warning system.

Research suggests that accepting negative thoughts and emotions is a key component of overall mental well-being. But how do you do that when you’re feeling hopeless, frustrated, and dissatisfied with life?

You may have multiple reasons for feeling the way you do.

Whether these feelings are the result of one experience or years of feeling overwhelmed, exploring parts of your life that are making you feel unhappy could help you find ways to address them.

No two people have exactly the same reasons for feeling frustrated and hopeless about life. Here are some common contributing factors:

Childhood abuse

Childhood abuse can have significant long-term effects on your mental and physical health.

Experiencing abuse may increase your chances of anxiety, depression, and chronic physical illness later in life. All of these can influence how you feel about life.

Underlying mental health conditions

Mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and many others can cause feelings of hopelessness.

Life stress

Life is full of stress for most people, and it can come from a number of areas:

  • Your career path may not feel fulfilling to you.
  • You may not be happy in your personal relationship.
  • You have experienced racism or discrimination.
  • You may not enjoy the neighborhood you live in.
  • You may have major home or property expenses.
  • Medical conditions might cause you discomfort or make tasks challenging.
  • You may not be able to meet your bills.
  • You may be experiencing conflict with friends, co-workers, or family.

Your life circumstances are unique to you. Over time, many of these situations can result in chronic stress and less hope for the future.

Substance use or addiction

Early research suggests that substance use or addiction can increase your chances of experiencing mental health conditions as an adult — and current research backs this up. Some of these conditions, like depression, can influence how you feel about your life.

If you’re already living with a mental health condition, research also indicates that feelings of sadness could increase your chances of developing an addiction.

Grief and loss

Experiencing the death of a loved one or a major life-changing loss may be a significant source of grief.

Like with other emotions, how you experience grief is unique to you. There is no “right” amount of time it should take you to grieve.

In some cases, grief can lead to depression or thoughts of suicide. You may experience “complicated grief,” in which you feel like life is meaningless.

Low self-esteem

Negative thoughts about yourself can impact how you feel about life in general.

When you’re unhappy with a part of yourself, those negative feelings may carry over into other aspects of life. You might start to withdraw from others or pull away at work or school.

A review of literature found that low self-esteem was common in young people who internalized intense emotions — especially those also living with depression or anxiety.

Examining why you’re feeling this way about life can help you figure out how to approach making it better.

When negative thoughts about life are persistent, speaking with a mental health professional is just one way to sift through them. Therapy could help you identify sources of unhappiness and start making small, achievable steps toward a life you feel better about.

You can also do this yourself. Asking yourself, “What might make life better?” could help you find ways to change things that are within your control.

For example, if your co-worker across the aisle makes your work day miserable, it might be time to ask for a new desk location — or even a new position in the company.

Sift out what you can and can’t control

Not everything in life can be controlled.

Worrying about things you can’t control can take up time and energy. It may also cause unnecessary amounts of stress.

Older research suggests that a sense of control is important to mental well-being and is associated with positive emotions. A lack of control — or a lack of choice — is often associated with negative feelings.

As you examine the factors that influence your feelings about life, you may also find it helpful to decide what can and can’t be changed. You can even start with something small, like the clothes you wear, what you eat for lunch, or what you do for the next 5 minutes.

Focusing on those controllable aspects can give you more hope for the future.

Changing what makes you unhappy all at once probably isn’t possible — or practical — but it’s also not necessary. Even small steps can make a difference when it comes to your mental health and satisfaction with life.

A plan to address unhappiness in life will be unique to you and your situation. In some cases, you might want to enlist the help of a mental health professional or supportive loved ones.

If you decide to make a plan, here are some questions to get the ball rolling:

  • Is there a boundary you’d like to set with yourself or others?
  • Is there a communication skill you’d like to strengthen?
  • How’s your self-care? Would incorporating some different foods, more water, or movement into your day help you feel better?
  • How’s work? Would having a candid chat with a co-worker or finding a different job put you on a path you feel better about?
  • How’s your day-to-day mood? Do you think mental health support or medication could benefit you?
  • Do you need outside support that you’re currently not getting? Can you identify some steps for connecting with that support?

Start small

If you’re unhappy with a co-worker at your job, quitting on the spot may not be only answer.

By starting with a minor change, like a new desk or separate office space, you may make enough of a difference to change how you feel about that aspect of your life.

Small adjustments can have major effects. And having success on this smaller scale can help build your confidence to make the bigger changes.

Set boundaries

Saying “no” can be difficult, especially with family and friends. Before you know it, you can overextend yourself.

Boundaries also help protect your energy and resources, and they let others know what you will and won’t tolerate.

Maintaining boundaries can help prevent you from experiencing situations that may spark emotions like stress, sadness, or anxiety.

Strengthen communication

Being able to express your needs and feelings can keep you from internalizing them.

Open communication may help you work through concerns rather than allowing them to swirl in your head, causing anxiety.

Take care of yourself

Exercising and eating nutritious food could boost your mood. Even making sure you’re staying hydrated can change how you feel in a big way.

Moving your body can stimulate the brain and produce feel-good hormones to help combat depression. And research suggests there’s no need to overdo it. Even moderate-intensity exercise could give you the mood-boosting effects associated with exercise.

When feelings of hopelessness linger, consider reaching out for professional support. Some causes of unhappiness in life may require in-depth exploration and discovery.

You may benefit from certain treatments or medications.

If speaking with a professional isn’t an option for you at the moment, other resources are also available, including:

If you’re in need of local resources, many physician offices will have a list of names and numbers to contact.

You can also find a complete list of crisis resources here if you’re looking for immediate help, or explore these free mental health support options if you’re feeling unsure about the cost of therapy.

Making a plan might not impact how you’re feeling right now. While unpleasant, the feelings you’re experiencing are real and valid.

Chances are you won’t feel like this forever. But if you’re feeling overwhelmed and need something to take your mind off these thoughts as they pass over you, here are some ideas for what to do in the meantime:

  • Take a nap.
  • Read a book or magazine.
  • Take a 15-minute walk.
  • Listen to some good music.
  • Chat up a close family member or friend.
  • Spend time with a pet.
  • Order or whip up some comfort food.
  • Watch a movie or show you feel like watching, whatever it is.
  • Take a bath or shower.
  • Doodle, write a poem, or vent in a journal.
  • Blast some music and start dancing.

It’s natural to feel frustrated with life’s challenges. Almost everyone has felt this way at some point, and there’s no shame in having these thoughts and feelings.

If these thoughts are frequent and have been affecting your day-to-day life, it could be a sign to check in with your doctor or another healthcare professional. When these feelings are persistent, they could be a symptom of an undiagnosed medical or mental health condition.

Sometimes when we feel like this, there’s a lot of pressure to “feel better” right away. It’s OK to let that pressure go and spend some time just letting yourself be.