Overcoming Feelings of Helplessness

It’s a situation we’re all in at the moment. The Coronavirus crisis has sent the world into a spin of uncertainty - and many of us are feeling out of control. Feeling helpless that we can’t visit friends or family; that we can’t celebrate the weddings that were planned - or attend the funerals of those we loved.

The Stakes are High

If we’re not careful we can drown in our fears.

Here’s the not so pretty picture of what drowning may look like:

  • Depression

  • Lack of care - for oneself and the world

  • Stress

  • Anxiety

  • Flight into alcoholism, drugs or other abusive behaviour

  • Suicide

All can be triggered by what we’re currently going through. For some it’s the loneliness of where they’re ‘stuck’. For others it’s the constant togetherness and friction that results from it.

There’s no cookie cutter solution here to help.

How to Take Back Control?

Here’s the bad news: it’s not going to happen instantly!

AND here’s the good news: YOU CAN get better at it!

Before I show you how, let’s just ensure we’re singing from the same hymn sheet.

We need to make a distinction

Between those things within and those outside of our control.

Let’s start with the things outside of our control, like the weather, the news, the past, the future, and others' approval - it's all out of our control and quite literally, it’s out of our hands.

Next let’s look at a couple of things that are inside of our control. First and foremost your thoughts: your actions and reactions.

You also control what you do with information. So you are in control of whether you want to put your head in the sand or if you want to learn and engage.

While it may not feel like you’re in control when you rather want to be hiding; you actually do have that choice.

Let’s look at how this might look in practice.

This has nothing to do with business - but I think it illustrates the point well!

It’s my dogs. I do keep a tight regime with them; walking them three times a day, so that they have plenty of exercise and plenty of stimuli. And they’re pretty chilled for the most part.

However, when they spot someone in the distance (human and / or dog), very often they race towards those people/ dogs to see who that is and whether it's a threat or not.

If you're on the receiving end of two fairly large dogs hurling towards you, possibly growling, it's just not a pretty picture.

I'm mortified. I'm standing about a hundred yards away, paralyzed, just watching what's happening and not in control whatsoever. Yes, I whistle and shout at the top of my lungs, but in fact I’m helpless and completely out of control.

What do I do to overcome this helplessness?

First I signed up to dog training. Acknowledging that I could only do so much on my own and asking for help. We’re learning loads (me possibly more than the dogs), and on every walk we practice.

I also know that this isn’t going to be remedied in a matter of days; we’re in for the long run! So, another strategy I use is mindset: I have a little mantra for when we go out. Safety and Understanding.

Lastly, I reflect on each situation. What went well, what didn’t? How did I feel? How did the dogs react? What changes could I try next time?

And then I go out again. And I put myself in the situation again and again, because I know only through repetition and practice will we get better.

Another Example

Sudden changes to your business trip itinerary. Remember, we talked about the importance of cleaning up your itinerary in session four; so you have time between meetings to catch up on the notes, do the action items, get your head cleared up from the discussion you've just had to be prepared for the one that's going to follow.

I remember one of my trips to Atlanta for meetings. I prepared a presentation, and I was super excited that I got the appointment with the C-Suite. I was ready to go, and then: there was a change. That meeting got canceled. It was postponed indefinitely.

I didn’t know whether my chance would come again. The presentation content was timely, so it wouldn’t be worthwhile talking about it in a couple of months.

I was out of control. Helpless. And felt really devalued.

Obviously, I was heartbroken. I had worked hard on getting everything together, it was a last minute request which meant a lot of ‘out of office’ hours were spent on it. My emotions took over as I wasn’t sure whether to cry or get very angry.

Have you been there?

We've prepared, we've shown up, we've done our best and then - nothing.

That can really get to us and also make us feel less worthy of ourselves.

Because it goes directly into our emotional center that we feel lacking in some way that we're not good enough for them to see us. We don’t engage our logical brain to think this through and find a solution.

I often remember the Star Trek episode when Captain Pircard tells Data to turn off his emotion sensor! I wish I could do that, too (in certain situations).

In the absence of a switch, what can you do?

Observe. Raise your level of awareness. Find your triggers.

You need to discover your own way of how you best deal with emotional breakouts that are triggered by unforeseen circumstances.

Some strategies that work for me are journaling and talking things through with my coach.

Journaling helps me pinpoint what it is exactly that derails me in that moment. It’s often down to something that’s fairly petty, like ‘she doesn’t like me’. I have to be super honest with myself to see that, and also remember that it’s okay not to be liked by everyone.

Talking a situation through with my coach helps me see the angles that were hidden from me. You know the saying ‘can’t see the woods for trees’? It’s when you’re blinkered in some way, and I can certainly say I am blinkered when it comes to my own weaknesses.

And that’s okay, too!

It’s really important to remember that taking charge of your thoughts in highly emotional situations takes practice; and that means you’ll have to go through a lot of discomfort to understand yourself better and find your own way to cope best.

Remember, you’re human!

You’re born to learn and improve and develop yourself. That’s a huge gift!

So, set yourself up for success with observing when you react and how; raising awareness to be in front of the reaction and knowing that everyone goes through this discomfort - but not everyone wants to use this as a learning experience.

So, as always: Be Clear. Do Your Magic.

And reach out to me if you need someone to talk to.

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