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When You Feel Helpless

Focus on one small thing you can do. It can make a huge difference.


I was feeling helpless, which is one of my least-favorite sensations. I felt an urge to flap my arms and run in circles gaining steam, but I caught it just in time.

Think small, I told myself. You feel helpless but you are not. You are helpless to do the big thing you wish you could do, but you are not helpless to do little things.

So I took a deep breath and refocused my attention on small things. I find that when I zero in on what I can do, my sense of helplessness diminishes

Little things matter. Think, for example, about a time you were grieving and a friend saw you needed a tissue and got it and held you as you cried. That was a small thing. Think about when you were over-the-top stressed because of a family crisis and someone brought dinner without being asked. That made life easier. Think about how a text or email or phone call or card out of the blue helped you remember you weren’t alone.

When I want to wail, “But all I can do is…!” it helps to remember that the one thing I’m able to do may be huge in the eyes of the person for whom I do it. It may be the one gift she needs more than anything else in the world right then. 

So I focus on small things. Things I can do. For it would be a crying shame to let despair over being unable to do big things prevent me from doing all the little ones that can make a huge difference.

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