Break patterns of helplessness and step into hope
A hard time for hope
I’ll be honest – this is a hard time to be an optimist. With one hit after another, it seems like we can’t even pick ourselves off the ground and take a breath before being hit again by the reality of the next injustice. It’s an authentic, human thing to react to the events happening in our personal lives and the world. But these repeated stressful traumas can make us feel like we cannot control or change the situation – even if the opportunity to do so arises.
This is when optimism (i.e., hope) is needed more than ever, and we must break these patterns of helplessness and step into hope.
patterns of helplessness and hopelessness
Since practicing mindfulness, I’ve realized when I fall into patterns of helplessness and hopelessness, which have never served me in the past. These cycles often lead me to inaction, stagnancy, and depression.
Granted – there are instances when initial feelings of helplessness have led to powerful movements – but those movements ultimately were driven by hope – not lack thereof. Hope that there is a way out of our current situation. Hope for a better future that grants us the safety, security, and peace to realize our dreams. To break these thinking patterns and step into this hope – you have to shift your perspective.
An exercise in perspective
Perspective is a state of mind. It’s an awareness that can be cultivated and honed by our thoughts, like any other skill. To practice perspective, you must learn to see things differently standing in the here and now – at this moment.
This may sound a little abstract, but hopefully, these exercises will help illustrate what I mean. Use these as a journal prompt or talk them through with a trusted friend.
When you feel anxious about something that hasn’t happened yet (or even if it has), ask yourself:
- What are my options?
- What can I do?
- Am I powerless, or am I just thinking of myself as powerless?
When you look back on a painful and regretful event and wish it hadn’t happened (or think it shouldn’t have), ask yourself:
- How does looking back with regret serve me?
- Does it alleviate my pain? Or does it add new layers of suffering on top of old ones? If so—why would I want more suffering than necessary for myself or others involved in this situation?
- Is there another way to think about this situation that might make me feel better about myself/them—and perhaps even contribute positively towards healing wounds caused by what happened before?
When you feel helpless, ask yourself:
- What thoughts led me here?
- How have I reinforced these thoughts and feelings through my behaviors?
- What thoughts can I replace these with that will better serve me?
To break our negative thought patterns, we must be aware of them and their origins so we can be better prepared to stop them in their tracks. It might help to think of yourself as a third party looking in. And as always, please seek professional support and encouragement if your feelings become too overwhelming for you to carry.
Break patterns of helplessness and step into hope
Here are a few guiding mantras that you can use to break your patterns of thinking
Choose to believe that the future is bright.
One of the most important things you can do when feeling hopeless is to choose to believe that your future is bright. As I said earlier, everyone goes through times when they feel helpless or hopeless. It’s part of being human and not a sign that you’re defective or a failure. It’s just a normal part of life.
Believing in yourself is the ultimate medicine that can help overcome feelings of helplessness and hopelessness because it gives you energy and motivation to keep going even when things are complex or challenging.
You can’t do everything, but you can do something.
The world can be overwhelming. There are so many things to do, and it’s easy to feel like you’re not doing enough. But you can’t do everything, so break patterns of thinking that say otherwise.
Instead, focus on one thing at a time. If you can’t do everything, what is one small thing you can do to get you closer to where you want things to be? If you decide you need to take a break to take care of yourself first, that is doing something! Don’t feel guilty about it later (or even worse – as it’s happening). Accept your action as worthy and lean into the ways it will serve you and give you your power back.
Pause and breathe.
You’re not alone. It can be hard to change your thinking patterns, especially since they’ve been ingrained in you since childhood.
Taking a pause and breathing is a helpful way to slow down and take a break. Breathing is also an effective way to refocus on what matters most in life, calm down when we feel stressed or anxious, and tap into the present moment.
Ultimately, mindset matters and YOU are in control of it. You are the mastermind of your reality. You control the narrative of your own life. Once you believe this – your mindset has the power to change everything around you – including the things that felt impossible before.
Your outlook on life is a choice, not something that just happens to you.
And no matter where you find yourself on this journey, don’t give up. The world needs your unique power, and you deserve to be happy and hopeful!