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March 26, 2021 17 min

What does feeling helpless actually mean? According to the American Psychological Association, learned helplessness occurs when someone repeatedly faces uncontrollable, stressful situations, then does not exercise control when it becomes available.

Helplessness can come from a single event, like trauma, or a series of events that are recurring. it can lead to depression and often puts your brain into fight or flight mode.

Helplessness basically is a feeling of not being in control. Powerlessness. You can overwhelm the areas of the brain responsible for problem solving and judgment and things get cloudy - you can’t think on your feet, find solutions to make things better or problem-solve. 

Often when feeling helpless or other emotions, people tend to ‘buffer’ which is a way to avoid the emotion or feeling. They turn to binge watching netflix, over eating, binge drinking or having a night out to unwind - but don’t really tackle and face the emotion. Avoidance and running away from the emotion might feel good for the moment, but it doesn’t resolve anything does it? 

Are we really helpless though? This is a feeling - and feelings are often not facts. It doesn’t mean we should disregard those feelings, but we should consider how we approach them. 

Yes, absolutely, there are things we may not have control over, but we have to shift and find out what we DO have control over. Identifying what we have control over helps to reduce the feeling of helplessness - but it’s not always an easy way to get there. 

  • Turn to your senses - grounding
  • Three types of grounding: Physical, Mental and Soothing
  • Focus on the now Mindfulness - Focused on the present, not the past or the future
  • Journal - Get your emotions out - release what you’re thinking
  • Get support - Talk to someone you trust. 
  • Figure out your resources - Make a plan
  • One step at a time, one day at a time.
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