How to Move Forward When You Feel Utterly Helpless

Want to hear a funny coincidence about this post? I felt utterly helpless writing it.

Yes, this writer learned an important lesson on writing: come up with good ideas first, a snazzy headline, second. Never the other way around.

Too bad I had the formula reversed when I approached Barrie with this idea.

Sitting down to write, the words felt stuck. How ridiculous, really, to feel helpless writing a post about feeling helpless. It didn’t seem possible.

Whether it’s writer’s block or a major life change, feeling helpless is hard. Maybe that’s how you feel today … You're drowning in life and can't get to the surface. No matter how many inspirational stories you read, the helpless feeling won’t go away. You’re wondering, “What’s wrong with me? Why is everyone else so inspired while I’m stuck in the mud?”

That’s how I felt getting this post out, too. I kept thinking, “Is this normal?” then even worse, the negative self-talk began: “How can I call myself a writer? Is this what I’m really meant to do?”

The answer is, yes, but at times, it doesn’t feel like it. At times, I feel like I’m floundering with my titles in life: wife, step-mom, entrepreneur, laundry fairy.

The sinking starts when a full schedule gets hit by one of life’s tsunamis. Like:

  • A job loss.
  • A depressed family member.
  • Kids that turn from children to teenagers.
  • Work problems.
  • Money problems.

  • Ruined plans.
  • Wrinkles, gray hair and a lower-by-the-second metabolism.

The list goes on. No matter how much you read about what you should do or could do, that helpless feeling appears every now and then. Ready to come up for air? Try something new:

Be quiet. Turn down the volume on the voice that’s saying: “Everything’s ruined! I can’t do it!” Then, listen to yourself, your intuition. Don’t let the negative talk block the obvious solution. (For me, the answer was, “just start writing.”)

Let go of control. My kids are quick to prove — you can’t control what other people say and do. This makes me feel utterly helpless! When I give up control and focus on helping them, the situation solves itself.

Give yourself permission to make that decision. Some choices can't be sugarcoated, like filing for divorce and bankruptcy. Is the answer clear yet? Find a quiet place and ponder: “What needs to be done?”

Exercise. Give those endorphins a chance to help. Moving the body forward is good practice to do it in circumstance, too.

Go outside. Fresh air clears the senses. A walk in the park or woods can reveal the next path.

Visualize the goal. Want to quit your day job? Find a photo of your dream office. Draw a time line in your notebook. This can lead to clarity on the next step.

Give your mind some empty space to work with. Try a full day without a cell phone, email, Twitter, Facebook – anything demanding attention. Disconnect.

Read stories about other (seemingly) helpless men and women that created movement. Like:

–         Martin Luther King Jr.

–         Walt Disney

–         Helen Keller

–         Oprah Winfrey

Start an encouragement box. Whenever a kind email or card comes your way, slip it into the box to revisit during helpless moments.

Ask for help. Will your mom, sister or best friend have a solution? Or try my personal lifesaver: Mr. Google.

Ask: what's missing? A college degree to reach the next level within the company? Reasonable childcare so you can get a second job? Professional help?

Lie down in the middle of the floor and stare at the ceiling. Force a new perspective.

Pray or meditate.

If you are dealing with a person, say: “I need some help understanding this.”

Sit down and cry. No one wants to feel depressed, sad or angry. We want to have it all together. We want to be the writer that never gets stuck. I know firsthand – the expectation to be ok or perfect is suffocating.

So take a pass, hit the backspace, start over. Once you clear out the emotion, get ready. That inspired breath of fresh air finally rushes in, and you can start moving forward boldly.
This is a guest post by Melissa Gorzelanczyk of Peace & Projects.

38 thoughts on “How to Move Forward When You Feel Utterly Helpless”

  1. That was a wonderful post. It gave me the perspective I needed at this time in my life. Now I feel relief and not stress.
    .-= Arlene´s last blog ..Five Reasons You Should Stay The Course =-.

    • Hi Arlene – Wow, that’s great to hear! I want to promote that right away: writes to relive stress. 😉
      Thanks for stopping by and cheers to a peaceful weekend.
      .-= Melissa Gorzelanczyk´s last blog ..Free Love Friday- Spread the Love =-.

  2. Melissa, Amazing insight, and I can relate. I almost always come up with a title before a post. And first, the post doesn’t live up to the title, and then it does! From now on I am taking your advice, especially “Lie down in the middle of the floor and stare at the ceiling.” and “Start an encouragement box.” – Love that idea! I think I will start a virtual encouragement box.
    .-= Courtney Carver´s last blog ..Like the Julie and Julia Project but Different =-.

    • Hi Courtney! I am really trying to break that habit. It just doesn’t work for me as a writer.
      Virtual encouragement box – even better. I love your “be more with less “philosophy (and your blog, too). You prove how easy it is to apply it to everything in life – even things like encouragement boxes.
      Thanks for stopping by!
      .-= Melissa Gorzelanczyk´s last blog ..Free Love Friday- Spread the Love =-.

  3. Melissa I enjoyed your post.

    What a great expression – “one of life’s tsunamis”. It really sums it up.
    I use an encouragement box. When I started coaching, my mentor coach told me about it and it has worked wonders for me. I keep every thank you letter I have received from clients in it and reminders about things that I am proud and happy about. If I have a day when I am asking “why” “what is the point” I look at it and it reminds me that I can make a difference.
    .-= Marion Anderson´s last blog ..The Amazing Benefits of Procrastination =-.

    • Hi Marion – It’s easy to forget the success we’ve had when we feel stuck. Even the fact that your clients took the time to write a thank you note says a lot – how many people do that anymore? That alone is very encouraging.
      .-= Melissa Gorzelanczyk´s last blog ..Free Love Friday- Spread the Love =-.

  4. Wow, you were speaking directly to me in this one!

    I’m working a demanding 40+ hour job that I feel helpless to give up, while trying to launch my own creative business. I’m exhausted and I’ve starting to consider giving up my dream to maintain my sanity.

    This post gave me some great action items to try to deal with these feelings. I’ve already started to visualize what it would take financially to reduce my schedule to part-time over the the next year.

    Thank you for the lifeline today!
    .-= Marie Young´s last blog ..Making a Wine Bottle Stopper =-.

  5. Hi Marie – I can totally relate to that feeling. I quit my day job on June 18, but up until then I had worked full time and started this blog, published guest posts and tried to keep my family in order at the same time. It’s hard! But keep working at it. There are hard days, but the reward is so worth it.
    .-= Melissa Gorzelanczyk´s last blog ..How to Turn Ideas into Actions =-.

  6. I have found that no matter how helpless or overwhelmed that I feel, I can think of something to write/blog about and have a post within an hour.

    My secret is what I like to call the hour of power. 10 minutes to brainstorm ideas (kitchen timers are great) and 50 minutes to write a post on my favorite idea brainstormed. The net result is getting something done and moving forward which makes you feel much BETTER!

    Another key is to worry ONLY about things that are under your control. At times it can feel like little is under our control, but find one thing that is, and do it. Accomplish it!
    .-= Michael Mindes´s last blog ..21 Simplified Steps To Build And Spread An Awesome Blog Brand =-.

  7. Hi Melissa,

    I think that this is such a common human condition. We all feel overwhelmed at different times of our lives. Sometimes it’s just the one more demand from us that sets us over the edge. When I’m feeling like this, I try to take any step forward that I can – just complete one small act that gets it off my list. It could be as simple as vacuuming the living room or cleaning my fish tank or other small acts. I think that you have to take action and move your body to disrupt the overwhelming feelings and to get on with it. Nothing lasts forever, either. I keep that in mind, too.

    Thanks for sharing these tips,

  8. So I just want to write–I don’t know if it’s your wonderful post, but in the process of reading it, I went from feeling YIKES to deciding that I am now going to sign up to lead a meet-up for other singer-songwriters, even though I have no idea how that could even work (I am the least social person I know and am totally overwhelmed with a new language and a new city).
    .-= Adena Atkins´s last blog ..Inter-Galactic Artist Kindness Day =-.

  9. These are really useful suggestions. Sometimes just reading a post like this relieves some of that helpless feeling. I like the idea of just going outside. A walk is healthy in more ways than one.
    .-= CherylK´s last blog ..Homemade Buttermilk Pancakes ala Betty Crocker =-.

  10. Hi,
    I like the idea of an encouragement box. I have a prayer box where I keep my favorite affirmations, quotes and prayers. I’ve also kept every card my mom who is 90 sent me for the last 15 years and of course the ones from my adult children and grandchildren. One could call them boxes of happy. Hey I think that’s an idea for a post…
    .-= Tess The Bold Life´s last blog ..Endless Summer Memories =-.

    • Hi Tess – It must be nice to go through the cards from time to time. It’s also a good reminder to send some notes of encouragement, too. I better get on that!
      .-= Melissa Gorzelanczyk´s last blog ..Free Love Friday- Spread the Love =-.

  11. Great idea, Melissa! I especially like the encouragement box.

    I want to add that for me, cleaning (washing dishes, putting laundry back, vacuuming – anything physical and time-limited) is also a good way to get move forward because it distracts me enough so that my mind is quiet; it is physical just like exercise; it gives me a sense of accomplishment and mastery that makes me feel better.
    .-= Adventurer 101 (Maria)´s last blog ..A Letter to God – On Human Time Perception =-.

  12. Thank you so much for this post, Melissa. It came into my inbox at just the right time today, when I was feeling a bit helpless and in need of some inspiration! Sometimes “stuckness” just happens. When I just let go for a while, the flow naturally comes through me again. People do say that some of the best ideas are revealed in the shower or during a long walk…not during our typical “sit down and think about it” times. 🙂 Love this post!

  13. I needed to read this post, at a time when I’ve hit the wall and have been feeling pretty helpless. Thanks for the tips. I think I might go lie on the floor and look at the ceiling (I’ll have to ignore the cobwebs in the corner).
    .-= Topi´s last blog ..Its never too early to learn to live in the moment! =-.

  14. This is a great post. What a wonderful set of tools to keep handy when you feel helpless – in any situation, not just writing. I find that the same tool does not work every time for me so having multiple options is a must. The exercise tool is one of my favorites – love those happy endorphins! Another to add to the list is – laugh! Sometimes I just need to walk away from what I’m struggling with and really change my mood. I love watching movies or just chatting with a friend that makes me laugh uncontrollably. I know there are endorphins at work in that scenario as well.
    Thanks again for the great post!

    • Hi Linda,
      Exercise is quickly becoming my number one way to feel good. I just finished my second ever 5K run this weekend, and I felt SO GOOD all day on Saturday. It really works wonders.
      Speaking of running – I need to head out for one now. Thanks for stopping by and propelling me with your encouragement.

  15. Hi Melissa,
    Thank you for writing this post. I have been really having a hard time lately. I love to write, however I have gotten away from doing for a long time. I have so much going on in my life but no matter how much I talk to the people around me I dont really find any answers. I actually had one of my friends hold on to my cell phone for a whole day. It was nice, however I realized that I was being very childish in the ways I was handling my problems. I don’t want to be negative or sit in the backseat anymore.

    I still have some things I need to work on, but I fee much better now. Your post has really encouraged me to keep moving forward to find myself. I really don’t know who I am. I am ready to change though.


  16. Hi Sumi,
    I’m so happy to hear this post may have helped you move forward. That’s really the best compliment I can hope for.

    We all have things to work on – that never changes! I wish you peace as you begin to discover what you want in life. One of my favorite quotes is this:
    “Start to write your own life. The story gets so much better.”


  17. Thank you so much for taking the time to write this and post it up on the internet. I’m only 17 and it’s the second week of summer. I’ve been pretty much stopped from experiencing the outside world and maturing from a young age. And now that I’m getting older my parents are forcing me to look for work even though I very easily get scared of people because I’ve never been fully exposed to regular life. That stress on top of summer school, and just me trying to keep my old personality has made me a mess. One little thing to knock me off balance and I turn into an emotional wreck. This will help me a lot. Thank you.

  18. First of all I would like to say excellent blog!

    I had a quick question in which I’d like to ask if you do not mind. I was curious to find out how you center yourself and clear your mind before writing. I have had a difficult time clearing my thoughts in getting my thoughts out there. I truly do take pleasure in writing but it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes tend to be lost simply just trying to figure out how to begin. Any suggestions or hints? Many thanks!

  19. Hey,
    I m in a situation and I really need your help sooo Badly, please for the sake of anything good listen to me and help me, I have been trying to study abroad And applying in different countries for an year but I have got zero output 🙁 I m feeling sooo insecure as I have wasted an year of my life and My friends have foster leaving me behind, I am alone in despair and can’t see no chance of getting out of this place in near future, I have stopped eating and started cutting myself for the past one month and now everyone even my parents are hating me, so please if you give a shit then help me 🙁 else I have no option left other than to commit suicide 🙁

    • Hi Harris,
      You really need to find a professional counselor to help you. I strongly encourage you to research counselors in your area or call your primary care doctor and ask for referrals. Please don’t put this off.

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