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If You Are Feeling Helpless, Help Someone

“If you are feeling helpless, help someone”~Aung San Suu Kyi

Are you feeling helpless or even have a sense of despair? Are you worried that you or a family member will get sick or even worse, die? Are you worried you will lose your job and won’t be able to pay your bills? Are you concerned your children are not getting the support they need to grow and develop as you had hoped they would? Are you wondering what you can look forward to in the future? Are you feeling isolated and alone? You are not alone! You are loved and you are supported!!! There is so much we cannot control right now, and our sense of power has been lost as a result. When we start to lose the sense of power and control, we can start to worry and this can also lead to the feeling of hopelessness and even helplessness. We as humans try to gain the control and power over our lives to feel safe. Sometimes people who feel out of control will exert more power over their lives or even over others. Some people derive power from external sources such as seeking it through a job, by gaining money, by being in authority, by controlling our household or even controlling our loved ones. The truth is, this grasping onto power to regain control is an illusion and if (or maybe when) those things we hold to attain power are taken away, what are we left with? A sense of powerlessness and loss of control, which can then lead to more helplessness and even hopelessness. When this illusion has been stripped away, the result can be devastating. I know I sound very doom and gloom but stick with me, there is optimism and positivity coming your way! Hopelessness or Helplessness is not a new societal problem and in fact it has been studied heavily in Psychology. Dr. Seligman and Steven Maier performed studies on animals in 1967 to understand this sense of helplessness and they discovered that it can be a learned behavior. Learned Helplessness is a phenomenon observed in both humans and other animals when they have been conditioned to expect pain, suffering, or discomfort without a way to escape it. Eventually, after enough conditioning, the animal will stop trying to avoid the pain at all, even if there is an opportunity to truly escape it. When humans or other animals start to understand (or believe) that they have no control over what happens to them, they begin to think, feel, and act as if they are helpless. There is Universal Helplessness and Personal Helplessness and both types can lead to depression, phobias, anxiety, shyness, loneliness, burnout, emotional exhaustion, frustration, low self-esteem, passivity and more. While there are many studied approaches to help with Learned Helplessness, my hope is that by identifying that the situation we are in currently is not permanent, we can create more hope and optimism, and therefore prevent Psychological disorders in the future. I understand that it is difficult to consider optimism when there is so much uncertainty in these times, but it is something you can learn and Meditation & Mindfulness are great tools to support a healthy mind, body and spirit. (see below for other resources). I would also like to explore this concept of lack of power and give you a great tool that I feel could empower you to feel you have more control of your life and regain hopefulness, fulfillment and a sense of purpose. We can often try to find our own power through positive inspiration, such as reading an inspirational book to seek out a higher purpose for ourselves. Self-help book sales have never been higher, and they are expected to grow to $13.2 billion by 2022, yet people are feeling less powerful and less purposeful than ever before. Although I feel it is wonderful that our society is looking for more Mindfulness, Self-Improvement, goal setting, finding better time management skills and more, the truth is, the real power comes from having a greater sense of purpose. Right now, during this Pandemic you don’t have to seek out your purpose by looking for your “grand soul plan” and feeling deflated if you haven’t found it yet, but instead you can help yourself feel better by taking a few simple, approachable and actionable steps now. How can I do this you might ask? You can find purpose by being in service to others!! I am not saying that you shouldn’t work on yourself and find ways to be a better person internally, however often people get stuck in the self-reflection when really the external view of being grateful for what you have and offering your service to others is deeply soul fulfilling. The good news is that if you are feeling helpless, help someone and you will feel better!! Tips on combating Helplessness

  • Feeling Lonely? Check in on a friend, reach out to a neighbor, initiate a phone call, organize a zoom date or even go old school and write a letter. You never know when someone might be struggling themselves and are too embarrassed to reach out to you.

  • Give your time by picking up your neighbor’s leaves, shoveling snow or offering to hang their holiday lights.

  • Offer to help someone do a task at work that you normally do not do.

  • Offer to go grocery shopping or the pharmacy for someone who cannot leave their home.

  • Cook a dinner, deliver medical supplies, or even buy a small gift for someone else.

  • Volunteer your time or money to local community services. (see below)

  • Donate blood! It is free

  • Collect coats and blankets for the homeless

  • Donate unused household items (it is a great time to clean out your closets, cupboards, and storage sheds)

  • Help our innocent animals by donating to your favorite cause, whether it be your time, money or even an adoption or foster care.

  • Help our planet by collecting trash for recycling and do this with friends or your children.

  • Donate or volunteer at our local farms

  • Offer kindness proactively with simple gestures, such as letting a car pull out in front of you, hold the door for someone (with your gloves or your foot!) or buy the next person in line a coffee or tea.

  • Ask people to support a charity in lieu of giving you a Holiday Gift this year.

  • Sing a song outside someone’s house to bring them some Holiday Cheer!

  • Find a neighbor or ask a local church or community service about a family in need and buy them some holiday presents so they will not feel the sting of a child having a vacant holiday tree this year.

  • Start a Gratitude Journal (I have mentioned this many times before) but it truly helps to write this down. You can be grateful for water, for your eyes to see, for your lungs to breathe, for your heart to beat and it is boundless, believe me!

  • If you are struggling to keep food on the table, ask for help and utilize our community resources, as they are here for you.

When you help others, you have a sense of purpose, you will feel rewarded and you will feel less hopeless and more helpful in the end. Even small acts of service can go a long way and they don't even require a lot of extra time. Of course, continue to practice your own self- care, because if you are not resourced, you cannot help others. I think one of the biggest lessons from COVID is the fact that we are communal beings and we depend on connection and love to fuel our spirit. Even if you identify as an introvert, there are very few people who can feel nourished and blissfully happy living alone in isolation from others. This is not a time to isolate or recoil internally, ask for help and you will receive it! And please, also get your children involved! Teaching your child that giving back will not only empower them if they feel helpless but it is a life lesson for years to come. Unfortunately, our collective stress, anxiety and feeling of loneliness and isolation are becoming a mental health crisis for our children too. If we do not address this, we will have years of children growing up not feeling safe and scared of this life and of community. There is an excellent article explaining how pervasive this has become and how historically it is not new to societies under duress. I encourage you to read this and consider engaging your children in a positive, meaningful way instead of focusing on fear and anxiety. And of course, being of service in all ages is helpful to everyone! “Be the Change you want to see in this world” ~ Ghandi If these tips do not help you and you are still struggling with Hopelessness, Anxiety, Depression or worse, suicidal thoughts, please contact your therapist for support. If you do not have a clinical therapist, reach out to the office for suggestions, as I have a list of amazing local resources to help you. If you cannot afford a therapist out of pocket, go to your insurance website for a list of in-network providers. Carrie can also prescribe natural Nutraceuticals or even medications if you need additional support during this time. Free feel to call for an appt anytime. A simple reminder, just because we are spatially distancing, this does not mean we can socially distance. The time is now to connect to others as we are all one!!! No gesture is too small but the reward is big!!! ~Carrie December 8th is Colorado Gives Day! This is an excellent opportunity to feel a sense of purpose and help out in any way you can! Below are some organizations who’s mission is to help others and would be a great way for you to get involved and find the hope and usefulness you are looking for. Local Resources The Community Food Share (Louisville, CO) A local organization where you can get food if you are in need You can donate money, time by volunteering and much more! Boulder Food Rescue Facilitating redistribution of healthy fresh food from local grocery stores within 24-48 hours to help people in need gain access to fresh food that would otherwise be wasted. They will compost the food that is not of quality to distribute to feed others. This is all done by using bicycles too. Very cool! You can donate, volunteer and get in shape in the process! Metro Caring (Denver, CO) This is a beautiful organization that I learned about this year where they feel food is a right, not a privilege. They help meet people’s immediate food needs where there is a nutritrious grocery store for people to shop at no cost, but they also have educational classes to teach people nutrition, how to cook and share in community service together. Metro Caring also owns a hydroponic container farm to help with growing food, as well as two community gardens. every dollar donated on December 8th will be matched up to $100,000!! Other community resources There with Care Safehouse Progressive Alliance for Nonviolence (SPAN) Meals on Wheels Boulder Emergency Family Assistance Association (EFAA) CU Boulder Buff Pantry Bridge House Boulder Shelter for the Homeless Articles/books/Mindfulness Learned Helplessness Dr. martin Seligman and Steven Maier 1967 (Dr. Seligman and Maier's study on Helplessness) Cognitive behavioral Therapy is a form of psychotherapy that is excellent for Helplessness / Hopelessness because it helps identify the negative thoughts and replace them with optimistic thoughts. The book Learned Helplessness: A Theory for the Age of Personal Control was written by psychologist Christopher Peterson along with the first researchers to study learned helplessness, Maier and Seligman. Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life by Seligman 3 Positive Psychology Exercises for free


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