Dealing with discouragement

Image by Wolfgang Eckert from Pixabay


These are discouraging days we are living in. We’re surrounded by limitations, canceled (or at least radically deferred or altered) plans, and an abundance of uncertainty.

It can easily feel like life is out of our control and nothing is going the way we had planned for it to, and that can spiral down into wondering why we should even bother to keep trying.

I’ve been having a lot of those moments (and sometimes whole days!) lately, and I suspect that’s true for many of us.

Disappointment is not something we can rationalize away or plan our way out of because it’s an emotional response. It’s a mix of grief and fear and anger (or at least frustration) all mixed together in an emotional quicksand that drains our energy away in a hurry.

Just like with quicksand, actively fighting it seldom does much except getting us even more stuck. Fortunately, I have quite a bit of experience in dealing with discouragement, and here’s what I’ve found helps when it’s sucking my dry.

1. First and foremost, it helps to treat discouragement as the emotion that it is. Acknowledge it, allow myself to feel it, but don’t believe it to be the absolute truth either. It may not help to fight it, but that doesn’t mean that you have treat its messages as unalterable fact either.

2. Accept that your are not functioning at your best when discouraged and adjust your expectations accordingly. Trying to push yourself to accomplish too much when you’re feeling this drained is only likely to add to the discouragement you’re feeling when you can’t get it all done.

3. At the same time, don’t quit moving forward either. It may help to lower your goals for daily accomplishments to account for slower progress, but making at least a little bit of progress every day on something that matters to you keeps the discouragement from growing. Baby steps (like doing the dishes or making the bed) count here because they still feel like progress.

4. Make space for extra rest and nourishment. Even though you may not have as much energy for work or chores, it’s better to use what energy you do have on nourishing activities like getting outdoors for a walk, connecting with friends and family by phone, engaging in creative pursuits, or finding a way to do some exercise rather than allowing the energy you do have to be dissipated away on mind-numbing but ultimately draining activities, like watching too much TV or spending too much time online.

5. Seek out more positive and less negative. There are plenty of sources of negative input out there—from the news to social media—that will happily drag you even further into the quicksand. Limit the time you spend on that, and spend more of your time on things that bring you joy. Talk with your positive friends, find things to be grateful for in your days, spend time enjoying the spring blossoms, sing and dance in your living room, or do whatever else that brings you joy.

6. Find ways to encourage someone else. It seems paradoxical, but it’s amazing how much offering encouragement to someone else can lessen your own sense of discouragement at the same time. It’s a gift that gives back!

7. Reach out for help, if you need it. Sometimes the discouragement gets too heavy for one person to carry. If that’s true for you, reach out for help from a friend or a professional who can help you carry the burden until it’s not quite so heavy. You don’t have to do it all alone.

These are strange and unusual times for all of us, and we’re all finding our way through them as best we can. Discouragement is a normal part of the process, but it doesn’t have to be our entire experience.

I hope these suggestions help you find your way through the discouraging moments that pop up in your days and that brighter days are ahead for us all.

What works best for you in dealing with discouragement when it strikes?

Share your suggestions in the comments, on Facebook, or respond by email!


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2 thoughts on “Dealing with discouragement

  • April 29, 2020 at 12:46 pm
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    Discouragement and disappointment both suggest being attached to outcomes. One way to reframe one’s perspective is to let go of expectations. That’s not always easy to do, but burdens fall away when you let go of anxiety about how things will turn out. The truth is that we have fairly limited control over a lot of what happens. Do the things you need and want to do without the judgement and expectation that they ‘should’ turn out in a particular way or that they will have the outcome you want. Let it go. Be present in the moment, not projecting into the future.

    • April 29, 2020 at 1:02 pm
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      That’s a very good point, Jacqueline! Thank you. We do indeed have very limited control over so much, but it’s definitely not easy to have no expectations (or hopes) of outcome, especially when dealing with major financial issues or similar big topics that can radically derail life as we know it. Remembering to come back to the present moment is helpful in the face of discouragement, though. Thanks again!

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