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Do you feel confused, stuck, aimless, adrift, and disconnected from your life and everything in it?
Like you are drifting in the ocean, with no land, destination, or purpose in sight?
You are just there, lost, with blue skies and turquoise waters all around you – and you feel terribly small.
If you relate, then it’s likely that you are feeling lost in life. You may be having an existential crisis, you may be completely and utterly overwhelmed by life in general, or you may be feeling out of sorts (just because).
Sometimes, there is some good in feeling lost because it means that something better is waiting for you, it’s an opportunity to (re)connect to your true self, and it can be a worthwhile adventure all on its own (once you get over the initial fear of all that “unknown” around you).
However, you don’t want to stay adrift for too long, falling into a depressive slump and not finding your way out at all.
So when you feel lost in life, here’s what you can do to find your way, purpose, and path again.
What Does It Mean to Feel Lost?
When you feel lost in life, you feel adrift and you just go with the flow. You wonder about the point of it all (and is there even a point or meaning to life?), you feel confused, numb, unmotivated, disinterested in doing anything, and like you have no direction or purpose.
You may not even know who you are at the moment and spend a lot of time thinking about your old self, whoever that was, and try to get back to that person.
Since you feel so lost, you may also struggle to see the light at the end of the tunnel or a way out of that feeling. It can be a frustrating place to be, but you can also choose to “enjoy” the opportunity for change, wondering where the universe will lead you as you drift along.
Some may think that when you feel lost it’s similar to (or the same as) depression, and while feeling lost can be part of why you are depressed, you can be lost and not depressed. There is always that moment of inaction between what was and what you do next.
You may think there are only certain people in life who are prone to feeling lost (like those highly sensitive souls). Yet, it’s a feeling most of us feel at some stage or another. You just may not be aware that you are actually feeling lost.
I remember that I felt a bit lost in my junior and senior years in high school. Making those big decisions about what I wanted to study, what career I should pursue, and which colleges to apply to was a lot.
I’ve felt lost a few other times in my life too, such as when there were major life changes (moving to Brazil and Taiwan) and the loss of grandparents who meant the world to me.
Symptoms of Feeling Lost
There are various behavioral and emotional symptoms you can experience when you are feeling lost:
Why Do You Feel Lost in Life?
There are certain things in life that trigger a lost feeling:
11 Things to Do When You're Feeling Lost in Life
When you feel lost, it usually signifies that it is time for change or that you need to grow. However, if you sink deeper and deeper into the lost spiral or whirlpool, you need to get help ASAP.
If you are tired of feeling lost in life, here’s what you can do to find direction, purpose, and growth in your life.
1. Call a Hotline or Talk to Someone If You’re Feeling Suicidal
Perhaps you’ve tried all the usual avenues, but you still feel as if you are sinking deeper into a bottomless abyss, and you don’t know if you can continue through or find your way again.
However, when you feel utterly lost, all you need is a compass, which in the case of being emotionally lost, can be a caring voice, a kind ear, and a compassionate soul.
Finding a good therapist whom you can connect with can offer you all these things.
If you are feeling rash and don’t know where to connect with a therapist, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) helpline can assist you for free at any time of the day or night.
They can assist you in English or Spanish at 1-800-662-4357, or text your zip code via text message to 435748 to find nearby help.
2. Sign up for Volunteer Work
When you begin to feel like you are losing hope, it’s often the best time to be exactly what you need to someone else. Signing up for volunteer work can help you become the beacon of light in the dark for someone else, which can help you find your way too.
Connecting with other lost souls through charity work can help you realize you are not alone in your search for meaning. It can help you become aware of all the valuable gifts you have in your lifeboat, and you may even find someone to help you see your purpose.
By helping others, we often end up helping ourselves as our purpose is revealed through the acts of kindness we practice.
3. Take Care of Yourself
Feeling lost can cause you to lose sight of yourself. Instead of hearing yourself, seeing yourself, and meeting your own needs, you can begin to neglect yourself.
You may not even notice you have been neglecting your own needs, which is why you should intentionally focus on meeting your needs and taking better care of yourself in all respects.
Physical Care Check-In
Have you eaten enough, or healthily enough? Do you exercise or move your body enough? How many hours of sleep do you get a day? Are you ensuring your future health by taking a supplement?
Have you enjoyed a long bath or washed your hair recently? Perhaps you are due for a shave or wax? When was the last time you bought yourself new clothes that fit you well?
Mental Care Check-In
Are you stimulating yourself intellectually by reading nourishing books? Do you challenge yourself with puzzles and games? Do you talk to people who hold stimulating conversations?
Perhaps you need to watch mentally challenging movies or series that make you face your own preconceptions?
Emotional Care Check-In
Can you speak about how you feel? Should you be engaging in activities that help you express your feelings such as art, yoga, and group therapy? Are you giving yourself time to really feel what you feel?
Acknowledging your feelings and not being made to feel guilty about them is important too.
Social Care Check-In
When you feel lost, you probably don’t want to see or spend time with other people, but you need company too, right? Are there social groups that have similar interests to you, whom you can feel safe associating with?
Being lost is like being scattered or spread too thinly, and with all life’s pressures, it’s very easy to get like that.
Meditation is like the soothing cloth that helps you collect and gather all of yourself back together again. Try meditating for a few minutes each day, or kick off the habit by going on a meditation retreat to learn the skill and master the methods.
Use your time meditating to consider your thoughts, let go of the negative ones, and identify the recurring themes that you have swirling in your mind. Perhaps the answer to what you are looking for has been inside all along.
5. Keep Doing Your Hobbies (or Try New Ones)
Losing interest in the things you’ve always done is something we all identify with.
When you feel down or disinterested, you want to stop engaging in the same “boring” things. But your hobbies are still important. Consider how you can do them without falling into a rut or diving head first into a pit of boredom.
Perhaps you can try a new spin on an old hobby, or you can try a new hobby that naturally progresses from an old one. So if you were fond of horse riding, you may decide to move from Western riding to dressage riding instead.
Don’t give up on a habit; instead, help it evolve.
6. Attend Inspirational Events
Sometimes, all it takes is an inspirational event to help you get back on track. Whether you want to attend a group exhibit or participate in a local festival, your inspiration is one stimulation away.
Like meeting someone who is truly motivating, you can also become motivated by an event or inspirational moment that happens in your life.
7. Eliminate Toxic People and Relationships from Your Life
When a house has been empty for a long time or you have to move into a house that was occupied by someone else, you often have to get down and dirty to clean up the mess before you can really settle in. There are bound to be a few dead rats, dust, and debris lying around, so you need to clean house.
The same applies in life. You need to sweep the people who are toxic to your continued mental health out of your life one sweep at a time. Identify who are the troublemakers in your life, who has been sabotaging you, and who has been free-riding on your tailcoats, and sweep them out.
Only once your life is fully cleaned out can you move into your safe space and become who you are meant to be.
8. Create a Healthy Routine
When we can’t go any further, it’s often our routines that carry us forward. Start healthy routines to help you carry on when you feel like you want to crawl in a hole and cry.
Get up each morning, even if you don’t feel like it. Make your bed, even though you’d rather just crawl back into it. And go eat a healthy breakfast, despite not being hungry.
Little routines will help you walk in baby steps through your day, week, month, and even years.
Use these routines to help you build new habits that can lift you up and give you wings. If you’ve been putting off meditation because you are scared, then do it each morning once your bed is made. An existing routine can help you build new and helpful practices into your life.
Sea captains of old used to keep a captain’s log, which was essentially a journal.
It mapped where they had been, what they saw, what dangers they avoided, and contained words of their longing for home, family, and happiness. They also plotted where they would travel next, what tides they would use, and which currents they would avoid.
A journal guides, comforts, and inspires. Use yours to help you navigate the oceans of life.
10. Find Growth Opportunities
Everything in life is busy growing and changing.
Grass, plants, animals, and even people are always growing either in height, shape, or complexity. If you start to look around you, focusing on all signs of growth, you may be surprised that you can also find new opportunities to grow.
Can you engage in activities that help you grow and change, becoming more of who you were always meant to be? Using your journal, meditations, and hobbies, can you find something that really interests you and inspires you?
11. Practice Gratitude
Finally, have you considered the power of gratitude in your life?
“Thank you” are two small words, but when you start searching for where you can use them in your life, it’s astonishing how many things there are to be grateful for each day.
From the bus driver in the morning who waited for you (even though you were late) to the doorman at work who smiled pleasantly as he let you in, and the fact that the elevators worked today and you didn’t have to climb six flights of steps to having a nutritious lunch—everything is worthy of gratitude.
Embracing the power of gratitude can help you live life with an attitude of being able, instead of feeling like you’ve been left disabled by the events out of your control. Try keeping a gratitude journal if you are still feeling like you don’t have things to be grateful for.
Final Thoughts of Feeling Lost in Life
Feeling adrift at sea is indeed a confusing, demotivating, and challenging time as you just don’t know anymore.
While you can keep drifting and hope to see land soon, it’s also important to take matters into your own hands and start practicing gratitude, finding growth opportunities and creating a healthy routine. This can include self-care, volunteering, and cutting out toxic people from your life so you can find your way again.
If, however, you have been feeling lost for a really long time and hope is non-existent, no matter how hard you try to see the light, please reach out for help. Call the SAMHSA helpline now!
If you are feeling overwhelmed with life in general, check out our ultimate 7-step guide to help you deal with feeling overwhelmed in life. You may find it useful in preventing you from becoming lost in your frustrations.
Or, for a little pick-me-up, try reading this guide to help you find your purpose in life. Maybe you’re exactly where you are meant to be… but it doesn’t hurt to be sure.
And if you're interested in more articles about life purpose, be sure to check out these blog posts:
- 7 Steps to Live a More Purposeful Life
- Happiness VS Contentment: Which Should You Seek in Life?
- 19 Life Purpose Examples to Find Your True Purpose