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How to Deal with Helplessness

It seems like this past year everyone has been dealt with their unfair share of feeling helpless. Between the election, a deeply divided nation, various groups losing or having their civil rights greatly diminished, and fears over a potential nuclear war, anxiety and depression is at an all-time high. It could also be on a smaller and more personal scale. Personal tragedies like the loss of a child or parent, watching a beloved friend or family member go through an illness, seeing a friend struggle with addiction, or losing friendships for seemingly no reason or explanation at all. I know I’ve personally experienced many of these. You feel like there’s no one you can trust, and nothing you can do. The definition of helplessness is the inability to act effectively. By its very definition, the reason helplessness is so scary is because it makes you powerless. And sometimes there is simply nothing to do, but feel what you’re feeling and that is terrifying and deeply unsatisfying.

In these moments of feeling powerless, the control-freaks amongst us (slowly raises hand) might try and find other solutions to deal with the problem at hand. Like lecturing, lashing out, trying to convince others (and yourself) of the point you’re trying to make, being judgmental, or sometimes just flat out withdrawing. None of these are great solutions, and can sometimes make the problem even worse.

So what can you do when there really isn’t anything to do? That’s quite the conundrum, isn’t it? You don’t want to feel stuck or powerless, when the thing you’re experiencing is exactly that. And trying to take control in the ways mentioned above is not loving to yourself or others. Well, there are some things you can do. They may not seem like much, but with practice and time, the feeling of helplessness will eventually dissipate (hooray)… until the next overwhelming life experience jolts you.

Identify What’s Causing The Feeling

This might seem obvious, but many times we think we’re feeling a certain way because of one thing, but it’s really about something else (usually it’s the bigger thing you don’t want to talk about). Once you know what’s causing the distress, it becomes a little easier to deal with.

Reach Out to Your Support Network

It’s terrifying to admit you have a problem or are going through something, but true friends will often surprise you by their kindness. Reaching out to others also makes you feel not as alone or isolated. And if people don’t exactly “get” what you’re going through, they’ll be able to offer support in various ways you’ll need, even if it’s just being there to listen. Sometimes that’s the most helpful thing of all.

Practice Self-Soothing Techniques

This can be anything from breathwork, meditation, journaling, or even going for a walk. All of these give you essential coping tools, which are particularly helpful in times of crisis. Also, having a regular self-soothing practice can allow you to become more independent and self-healing in the long-term. Yay!


Whether this is acceptance that there isn’t much you can do to alleviate the situation, or acceptance of the situation itself, acceptance is a powerful method to help you deal with what’s ailing you and eventually move on. It doesn’t mean you’re washing your hands of the situation, it means you’re letting it go… for now. Because what other choice do you have?

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