If we can be sure of anything in life, it’s that we will all experience hardships. Set-backs in relationships, business, finance, health, and mindset are an inevitable part of the human experience, and for some, the natural reaction is to give up. Even people with the most positive outlooks can feel defeated by difficult challenges.

What to do when you feel like giving up
What to do when you feel like giving up

When we feel like giving up it’s easy to fall into a slippery slope of negativity that takes us further from our goals. Those that succeed can persist to avoid this, and the good news is that this can be learned. It all starts with a few acts of giving in.

Why do I feel like giving up?

When we reach our limit, feelings of loss, doubt, and overwhelm can overpower our will to persist

When we experience loss, it can feel like we have lost an essential part of us. Losing a loved one, a job, ending a relationship – these can all leave holes in our lives. When we lose something that defines us, it’s difficult to know how to move forward.

Self-doubt can lead to a lack of confidence. When we are overpowered with doubt, our self-talk tends to be negative. ‘I can’ turns into ‘I can’t’, and our will fades.

When we’re overwhelmed, we can lose our sense of fight, and instead, default to flight or freeze. Rather than fight through our challenges and move toward our goals, we leave them behind or become paralyzed by the moment.

It can be tempting to see these feelings as obstacles to success that should be pushed aside. But this overly positive view can steer you towards failure. Ignorance is not bliss in this case, and the practice of giving in is the first step away from giving up.

Give into your emotions

As much as we can try to control our emotions, in difficult situations it’s more likely that they’ll control us. So rather than trying to ignore them, we should learn to acknowledge them, understand them, and learn what we can.

Ask yourself why a challenge or set back is making you feel a certain way, then break that emotion down further.

When you understand the root of your general feeling, you can then try to understand why you feel this way, then take small steps to address them.

For example, in an event of a job loss, you might say that you feel ‘down’. But where is that feeling come from? When we feel ‘down’ because of unemployment, we usually feel ‘inadequate’.

If you feel inadequate because of a job loss, reflect on why. Did you lose your job because of something under your control? If so, what can you do to learn from past mistakes in the workplace? How can you be better?

Did you lose your job because of something out of your control? If so, think about whether your feelings of inadequacy are warranted. Remind yourself of why you are a good worker and of the realities of the situation that led to this outcome. It could be a financial crisis - this is out of your control and didn’t occur because you weren’t good at your job.

In either case, it’s important to note one small thing you can do to shake the feeling of inadequacy. Write down one thing you can do to be a better worker (if you were always late, set yourself an alarm for the next morning, and don’t snooze past it). If it was out of your control, set yourself the task writing down three things you achieved in your last job.

Taking a deep and honest look at our emotions helps us to understand why we feel them. This, in turn, can teach us how we can move past them.

Give into disruption

When we’re in our stride, there’s no reason for us to reflect on our lives. Why fix it if it ain’t broke right? Well, when we reach a point where we want to give up – something is definitely broken. Rather than seeing this as disrupting our usual routine, take it as an opportunity to reflect on your path.

The end of a relationship or friendship is jarring. Suddenly, you’re faced with the reality of life without someone significant in your life. You also have more time with yourself - take it.

Reflect on the lost relationship and take note of how it positively contributed to your life, and how it negatively contributed to your life. Reflect on the person you lost in the same way. Finally, reflect on yourself. Take stock of what positivity you brought to the relationship, and how you could improve in future relationships. Understanding this can help you find better companions, and become a better companion yourself.

Without a break from the relationship, you would’ve never had a reason or time to reflect. Embrace the disruption for the chance it gives you to decide whether you were going the right way.

Give into negative thoughts

Fear and doubts will fill your mind. Don’t shake them off. Notice them. Ask yourself why you are thinking this way. Ask yourself if it is based on any sort of reality, or if it’s something that your mind is creating out of fear.

If the negative thoughts are based on reality, ask yourself what you need to do to solve the problem that is overwhelming you.

For example, if you are facing a daunting presentation at work and feel as though you aren’t ready for it, your negative thought might be “I’m going to do a horrible job and stumble over my words.”

Write down a list of exactly why you think this will happen. Maybe you don’t feel confident in your public speaking skills. Next to this point, write down what you can do to about it. In this case, it can be to practice your presentation at least three times a day, or talking to strangers (even just asking your Barista how they are) to get more confident speaking out loud.

If you reflect on your negative thoughts and find that they are automatic, or have no basis, talk yourself through why this might be happening. For example, if you have always given excellent presentations, there’s no reason to doubt yourself. You may simply be so anxious that you’re talking yourself down. In this case, tell yourself that this negative self-talk is not serving you and let it go. Whenever you have a negative thought, think back on a time when you successfully delivered a presentation instead.

When you examine your negative thoughts, you give yourself the opportunity to face them with actions or use them as a reminder of past successes. You still might stumble in the presentation, but by setting yourself tasks to help you get prepared, you’ll walk into the meeting without being weighed down by your own judgement.

Give into faking it

Improving our emotions doesn’t only happen in our minds, it can come from our physiology too. Psychologists believe that the act of smiling (regardless of how you feel) can improve your mood. On the flipside, frowning or scowling can make you feel worse.

Dressing up and making yourself look well-presented can also improve your mood. As can wearing your favorite shirt or a little makeup. When you look good, you feel confident.

So next time you feel like giving up, dress the opposite of how you feel. Put on some nice clothes even if you’re only going to the store to pick up milk. Smile at a stranger. It will make you feel good, and getting a smile back will make you feel even better.

Give into mistakes

When we are in a funk, we can be especially hard on ourselves. As you gear yourself up to try again, remind yourself that you will make mistakes and that doesn’t make you or your efforts a failure. Being honest about this from the get-go will help prepare you for when you hit another hurdle.

Instead of seeing mistakes as failures, think of them as opportunities for learning. Take the time to reflect on what happened, why it happened, and what you can do in the future to prevent it from happening again. Don’t expect to be able to do this in the moment. You may need some time to cool off and feel negative emotions before you have the clarity of mind to look back on your mistakes without feeling upset.

If the misstep is work-related, take time at the end or beginning of each day for this task. It will also help if you reach out to co-workers – maybe they’ve made the same mistakes and have advice on how they managed their situation. Not only will this help you feel like you are actively working on the issue, but talking to someone else will remind you that everyone makes mistakes as you share in their experience. No one is perfect, so don’t expect yourself to be.

Give into all of your wins

Life is hard, and when you’re on the verge of giving up, it’s even harder. This is why it’s so important to celebrate each and every win - regardless of how big or seemingly small. Taking a tiny step forward is still a step forward. It’s progress. It’s an achievement. You need to acknowledge that!

So often we pay more attention to our failures, doubts, and shortcomings. We don’t shine enough light on what we have achieved or how far we’ve come.

When you feel defeated, any progress is proof that you aren’t defeated. Take stock of that.

This can be part of a daily gratitude practice. Give gratitude to yourself for what you have achieved. If nothing jumps out at you, think hard about what feelings you were struggling with, what they have prevented you from doing before, and anything you’ve done that shows progress.

For example, in the case of learning how to live with the loss of a loved one, simply getting out of bed, getting dressed, and going to work is a win. Once upon a time, this would’ve been impossible. Being able to do this shows progress and growth. Make sure you look for your wins and give them as much energy and time as you do your losses. They’re there.

When the going gets tough, the tough get going

Giving up is a natural feeling, but it doesn’t mean that you’ve failed. When you feel like giving up, you know that you are in a deep challenge, but there are habits and thought patterns that you can practice to help you find motivation.

Many of these start with acknowledgment and honesty rather than ignorance. By giving in to your challenge, you can better understand why it has happened and what you can do for yourself.

Next time you feel like giving up – pick one of the actions above to try, and pick an easy one to get an instant win. Take it action by action and day by day until you feel like you’re back in your stride.