Are you in a hard place right now? Feel like you’re stuck? Helpless and Hopeless? There is hope for that helpless feeling.
Don’t Diminish Your Feelings
You know you’re not alone. And in your heart of hearts, you believe your hard place isn’t anywhere near as hard as those of people of color or police officers or medical workers or even some grocery store clerks. And that’s part of the problem.
Other people having hard times in their lives doesn’t negate your troubles. Your troubles still disrupt your life. Cause you pain.
Troubles in trying to write or not being able to go to the movie theater or being unable to visit your loved ones are painful. But they aren’t really the problem. You focus on a smaller problem. Because you feel helpless.
You cannot cure COVID or right the wrongs of racial inequality. And you cannot heal the rage and the hate and the hurt of the world. You wish you could. And when you realize you’re not in a position to help, You feel impotent. Helpless. Paralyzed.
Trauma affects you mentally and physically. You say, wait—I’ve not experienced the trauma—I’ve just watched it on television, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, or some other social media.
Yes, people who’ve been at the blunt end—who’ve experienced racial hatred, experienced police brutality, those who’ve fought to protect people who seem to hate them, those who’ve cared for the sick and dying day-after-day—they are at the blunt end. They are experiencing trauma. And they need to take care of themselves in much the same way I discuss here.
But even if you’ve not been at the blunt end. Trauma is happening all over the world. Cover-19, protests, brutality, wars, hate, death—there is some kind of trauma in the media 24/7. You can’t help but see it. If you have a heart, you can’t help but have an emotional reaction to it. And feeling helpless in the face of all that’s happening is natural. But there is hope for that helpless feeling.
If your feelings of helplessness or hopelessness overwhelm you to the point it interferes with your daily activities—get professional help.
SAMHSA’s National Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357), or TTY: 1-800-487-4889 is a confidential, free, 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year, information service, in English and Spanish. Call or visit the website for more information.
Each of us has certain things that trigger more anxiety and more feelings of helplessness. Be aware of what your triggers are. Name them. There’s power in being aware. Seeing or feeling someone’s rage can be a trigger. And there’s a lot of rage being expressed these days.
Sometimes we can see patterns. Have you ever had this kind of anxiety or helpless feeling before? What happened right before you felt that way? Any patterns between then and now?
If you’re aware of your triggers and your patterns of behavior, you can choose healthier behaviors.
Be in the Moment
Focus on where you are (assuming that you are in a safe place.) Breathe. Hear the sounds around you. What are you touching—how does it feel? What do you smell? Which of your muscles are tight? Breathe. Center yourself.
Focus on Action
Take a healthy action. Take care of yourself.
Walk or exercise.
Do deep breathing or relaxation exercises.
Drink plenty of water (avoid alcohol).
Speak to friends or family (social distancing doesn’t mean you can’t use the telephone, Zoom, or even a driveway chat).
Set a small, achievable goal. Even as small as you will wash your face or brush your teeth. Then take that first step toward getting it done. Achieving the goal will help remind you that you can do this.
You Can Do This
Change the story you’re telling yourself. Instead of focusing on what you can’t do, remember that you have choices. Do what you can do. Your choices won’t change the trauma. It will change you.
Remembering that you have a choice helps. Make a choice be aware of your triggers. Choose to be in this moment—feel the hard or soft surface of the place where you sit. Feel the tension in your legs and shoulders. Movement helps reduce tension. Sharing with a trusted friend helps. Reach out to help someone else. Hope for that helpless feeling is in extending a hand to help someone else.
There is hope for that helpless feeling. It’s one of the antidotes to helplessness. Hope is for something to come. Hope is for the future. Believe in the basic goodness of people. Believe that you can help. It may be in a small way, but if you help one person–that’s more than enough. You can do it. Find hope. Tell me one thing you’ll do today to find hope.