How to Stay Positive and Hopeful in Hard Times

How to Stay Positive and Hopeful in Hard Times

Several years ago, as we were emerging from an economic downturn, I wrote an article based on my popular presentation “How to Stay Positive and Focused in Uncertain Times.”   The suggestions in that article still hold true and offer hope today.

Focus on what you can control

You can’t control the national economy or who is currently in this country’s most powerful positions.  However, you can control your own day-to-day choices and how much time you’re willing to spend worrying about it.

You can’t control the threat of downsizing in the organization you work for, but you can control your positive career-enhancing steps such as staying connected to others in your industry, taking professional development workshops/courses and above all, demonstrating competency in your current position.

You can’t control negative people or situations around you, but you can choose how you react to them.  (Remember…how people behave is about who THEY are, not who you are, so don’t take it personally!)

Use Resiliency Resources

You might not be able to escape from negativity and uncertainty, but you can choose to engage in positive activities to counteract it.  Here’s a strategy I share when I do keynotes on “Adapting, Succeeding and Thriving in the Workplace:”

  1. Identify five activities that you enjoy. I refer to them as “resiliency resources.”  Zumba classes and other fun classes at the YMCA are high on my list.   A workout shirt I recently bought has bold lettering on the front that says it all: “Working out is cheaper than therapy.”
  2. Check yourself: How many of those five activities have you participated in during the past two weeks?  Ironically, when we’re focusing on challenges and negativity, we sometimes forego the fun, which is when we need it the most!


Ask for help

In the words of Helen Keller, “alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.” There are many opportunities to minimize our anxiety and stress by asking for support…everything from requesting help at home from the rest of your family to asking your boss to restructure your work schedule or collaborating with colleagues to make better use of resources.

Here are some of my favorite phrases for seeking support, especially when the other person is a peer or in a more powerful position.  (i.e. – When you’re not the boss of them!)
Would you be willing to…?
What do you think about…?
Would it be possible to…?

How would you feel about…?

             In my book If You Can’t Say Something Nice, What DO You Say?–available on–I offer a variety of ways to effectively communicate your requests, including 105 Phrases for All Occasions in the Appendix.

Hope thru Humor

As my mother used to say “sometimes you have to laugh to keep from crying.”  That might be a worthwhile mantra, and a reminder that when times get tough, it helps to inject a little levity.  Having a sense of humor helps us stay hopeful.

Also, take a look at my blog How to Be Content for thoughts from those I surveyed on how to stay hopeful and positive.

So, if you focus on what you can control, use “resiliency resources,” ask for help and maintain a sense of humor, there is hope in hard times.

Tomorrow is a New Day Pic Quote