Combatting helplessness

Combatting helplessness

It’s natural to feel helpless during this time where there is so much out of our control.

When we feel like we have no control over what happens to us, we start to think, act and feel as if we are helpless.

Studies on learned helplessness found when we are made to feel helpless, we’ll often not be able to see a way out and surrender to the feeling, even when an alternative is presented. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

In December my mom and I listened to the audiobook version of The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor. Here’s my interpretation of some of the tips he offered for combatting helplessness.

Change your explanatory style

How would you describe the current situation? The answer to this question will differ from person to person and is often not completely based on fact, but also on perception.

Is the world on the verge of a Mad Max-like apocalypse? Will everything be looking better or worse in a year? As there is no concrete answer to this, you get to decide what you think. What would be more useful to you?

Find a counter fact

I often hate it when people tell me “it could be worse”. Or remind me to feel grateful for what I have. It feels like a way to brush aside my feelings when I possibly need some empathy.

The worst part is, they are right. It could always be worst. It’s a helpful thought to remember that this virus could have been way more contagious and deadly. It’s beneficial to think about the things that have most helped during this crisis and be grateful that you have them.


At the beginning of the lockdown we might have imagined it would impossible to be inside and stay sane for weeks on end. In South Africa we’re on day 35 of the strictest lockdown most of us have ever experienced.

The thing is, we often overestimate how hard things will hit us and for how long they will affect us. When you find your heart palpitating at the thought of the global economic meltdown and future of the human race, just stop and pause. Take a deep couple of breaths and come back to the present. Take it from a ten to a two. This moment right now is all you need to be present in.

Make a list

List the things that are in your control and things that are out of your control. Then blink three times and remember your body is a wonderland and you’re the chief.

Hold on tight

Times like these test us in ways we couldn’t have imagined or predicted. Hold on tight to the people you love (virtually and in-person if you can). The resilience we build up here will serve us for the rest of our lives.

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