Two Counterintuitive Steps to Overcoming Helplessness

By Dean Yeong on October 9, 2017

Have you ever felt stuck? Had no idea how you ended up where you were or what to do next?

You can’t get yourself to do anything but you’re not exactly resting either.

Feeling stuck consumes energy and cognitive power that — eventually — makes you feel worse than ever when you find yourself getting nothing done at the end of the day.

Allowing Yourself to Feel Helpless is Dangerous

I will generalize the feeling of being “stuck” with most of these negative emotions: upset, disappointment, anger, and depression. But the best definition for this particular emotion will be the last one — feeling helpless.

For example, you’re feeling:

  • Disappointed with your fitness progress. Despite all you’ve done, you never get fit.
  • Helpless with your business after trying every single tip and trick to make it work.
  • Low self-esteem even after you’ve done a lot to improve yourself.

These statements can be harmful to ourselves. The more we repeat them, the more dangerous it will be. We might have inherited them as a belief without even noticing.

To get unstuck, we need to adopt a concept that better describes how we feel at the moment. And here are two simple strategies I use whenever I feel overwhelmed and helpless.

1. Shift Your Timeline Focus

Every time you’re feeling stuck, you’re actually feeling helpless in that particular time frame. It may be the past, present or the future.

We tend to feel stuck about things that happened in the past, or when we don’t get expected results in the present. Sometimes we feel helpless when we’re feeling uncertain about our future.

By understanding this concept, you’re free to shift your time frame in order to prevent yourself from falling deeper to the limbo of helplessness.

  • If yesterday was a terrible day for you, think about how you can make it better today and tomorrow.
  • If you’re not sure what to do with your future, focus on what you do best now.
  • If you’re feeling helpless with the overwhelming obligations that you have right now, know that today will be a past that paves the path for your future.

There are many ways to make yourself feel better using this simple technique. The key is to shift your focus and break the negative thought pattern quickly.

2. Change Your Movement

Our emotions change how we feel and act physically. When we’re excited, our heart rate rises. When we’re stressed, our muscles get tense. This reaction is caused by the chemical reaction in our bodies that is triggered by our emotions.

However, chemical changes occur in our bodies all the time. The process doesn’t happen in a single direction. Often, how we act and move changes how we feel emotionally too.

How is your facial expression when you’re angry? How is your body moving when you’re feeling upset? How about joy? Happiness?

Our emotions create movement. But the truth is that our movements lead to our emotion too.

We might not have 100% control over our circumstances, but we have control over how we see and perceive them. Sometimes, we can’t help feeling stuck and helpless, but we can break the negative state by changing our movement.

  • Feeling upset? Smile, laugh!
  • Feeling angry? Jump, sing out loud!
  • Feeling stuck? Dance, laugh out really loud.

These movements don’t just bring you out from the negative emotional state, they break the negative patterns and bring instant joy into your life.

Kill The Monster When It’s Small

Getting out of a state of helplessness isn’t easy. It can be challenging sometimes when the stakes are high. Most of the time, we put ourselves in the position of feeling helpless because the other way around is equally overwhelming.

We trap ourselves in a story that, we have zero influence on our reality — forever — because being responsible is scary and challenging.

When that happens, ask yourself what do you really want, and what do you fear. Instead of focusing on how difficult your current situation is to focus on the things that can lead you to your desired outcome.

The choice will then become clear: Staying in a state of helplessness may make you feel safe, but only by moving out of it and taking constructive actions, can you achieve what you truly desire.

And remember, the journey and process might be long. But the first step is right in front of you. You don’t need to accomplish anything right away. All you need is to break out of a state of helplessness so you can perform at your best.

Enjoyed this article and wanted more? Here's a few interesting things I have for you.

  • Become one of the 3,900+ (and growing) creatives & entrepreneurs who receive my articles about behavioral psychology & performance improvement, every Monday. Join the community here
  • Download my popular book Habit Hacking to learn the research-backed strategies in breaking bad habits and build good habits that last a lifetime.
  • Inspired by Derek Sivers and James Clear, I decided to summarize every single book I read, to a list of reading notes. Access all my reading notes here
  • Love this article so much that you want to buy me a cup of coffee? Sure! Go here. (You're awesome)