Discouragement: it’s the icing on the cake of disappointment, isn’t it? Like disappointment, discouragement can also be found when something hasn’t worked out (or doesn’t seem to be working out) the way we had hoped or expected, and yet it has that extra layer of a damper that has us finding it difficult to maintain our enthusiasm for continuing or starting again with whatever it is – project, plan, moving forward with an idea, etc.
Having described myself as feeling discouraged a number of times over the past 18 months and at other times throughout my life, it’s sort of a generalized feeling of things not working out and having lost one’s mojo, typically including an inability to see the way forward in a very positive light. I looked it up in a few resources, and a summary of my readings found that to be ‘discouraged’ is to have lost confidence or enthusiasm; or to feel dispirited, disheartened, or hopeless, particularly after much effort has been put forth toward an endeavour.
However you want to define it, here are a few tips and tricks I wanted to share that have helped me find my way when I’ve found myself in bouts of discouragement. May they be a source of inspiration for you, or at least offer you some food for thought.
Give yourself permission to be just as you are & honour yourself by accepting your experience of these feelings so far
Similar to the statement that’s come to the forefront in the past 18 months on social media: ‘It’s ok to not be ok,’ I prefer giving permission because there’s a sense of taking action. It’s something you are offering yourself. Give yourself permission to be just as you are, and to feel just as you do right now – even if you find yourself in the depths of discouragement.
When we feel down, our self-critic can tend to get even louder, reminding us not only about perceived failings, but also criticizing us for how we feel and for how long we’ve felt that way, such as: ‘what a waste of time this has been’ or ‘I shouldn’t have let this get me down’ or ‘why am I not past this and feeling better by now?’ or ‘what’s wrong with me, that I can’t fix this part of myself?’
They may not even be conscious thoughts. Those words might not be going through our mind in full sentences or questions. They might just be operating as an insidious undercurrent of self-disparaging feelings hammering away at our well-being.
Particularly for those in helping professions, or even parents or managers or other types of leaders – anyone in a role where you help others when they are struggling – it can be hard to admit, even to ourselves, that we’ve been stuck for awhile. We might feel embarrassed or ashamed for not being able to ‘fix’ ourselves on top of already feeling bad about whatever it is that started the spiral. I’ve been there, too.
The thing is, it often seems much easier to help others than ourselves. When we are helping someone else, we have that separation, and are able to observe the person’s experience without living it – without being immersed in all the thoughts and feelings that comprise their experience of their life as a whole. We are in a clearer place from which to offer support, encouragement, or even advice.
When we’re in the thick of it – whatever ‘it’ is for us – it feels far more challenging because we have all the things going through our minds.
I get it. I really do.
But you can help yourself and begin to see a glimmer of positivity and motivation once again. It’s just so important to start by putting out that fire of criticism by throwing that thick fire-retardant blanket of acceptance onto it. I urge you to honour yourself with acceptance of your experience for however long it’s been that you’ve been feeling this way. Trust that the time you’ve spent mired in the muck of discouragement has simply been a part of your journey.
Remind yourself that you are here in the present moment where there is always a fresh start. Resist the temptation to keep looking to the past. Start wherever you are. Start fresh in this moment.
Bring yourself back to the present moment frequently
Consider this: what continues to bring you down are the thoughts that bring your energy back to:
- the past – to the circumstances surrounding [or to what you believe contributed to] whatever it is that isn’t working out; imagining scenarios of what you should/could/would have done differently; and
- the future – looking ahead with doubts, concerns, even fear or hopelessness around how things might turn out; creating imagined scenarios of the possible negative impacts of whatever hasn’t been working out.
Our energy goes where our thoughts go. If we are spending a lot of time thinking of the past and future, our energy and focus is there instead of here in the present moment. On top of it all this is likely adding to a sense of world-weariness and just plain exhaustion.
If that all makes sense to you then it stands to reason that bringing our awareness to the present moment – if even for a few seconds at a time – might offer a reprieve. When we do this, we will interrupt the thinking and find some relief.
Some simple and quick ways to do this: notice your physical surroundings of where you are, what room, what floor of the building, are you outside, where is your physical body situated (e.g. as I write this I’m sitting in my home, with my feet up on the couch, big pillow behind my back and a blanket on my legs, feet having created a pocket to keep warm, etc. etc.) – get as detailed as you can. Perhaps bring your attention to your breath for a few breaths – notice yourself breathing in, and then out, notice the rise and fall of your chest or your belly. If you take a sip of water or coffee – how does the cup feel as it touches your lips, how does the liquid feel going down your throat?
Note that this is observation only, without judgment or feeling. We often bring judgment and emotion into what we observe, but this can create an unhelpful tie back to the source of the discouragement. For example, here’s what NOT to do: ‘I’m sitting here, at home, in this desk chair, but I was supposed to be on vacation right now. I should be in Maui but that didn’t work out, etc…’ Yeah… NOT that. I’m talking about simple observation here.
Each time you bring yourself back to the present moment, you interrupt your thinking and dwelling.
Remember – just a few seconds, whenever you think of it. Maybe put a sticky note somewhere, or put a reminder in your calendar at a few points in the day.
Change things up in small ways
Do something different – make a change to your routine. I’m not talking about a monumental change, here – just minor temporary shifts.
When we’re feeling unenthused or uninspired, the normalcy of an everyday routine – especially when we’d hoped for something to be different and yet we find ourselves still doing the same old things – can exacerbate our negative feelings. (Unless your routine is bringing you comfort – if it is, then just continue with what feels right for you.)
You don’t have to change jobs, move to a new city or start running marathons. Don’t underestimate the value of really small changes.
It can be as simple as picking up a different book from your bookshelf – perhaps one you haven’t read yet or something you read long ago. Read a page, or read the back, maybe put it into rotation on your bedside table. Maybe you haven’t been in the habit of reading, so maybe that is something you could try to insert into one day, but without grand expectations of yourself – just a few paragraphs to start, on one day, at one time.
No big commitments of ‘everyday from now on.’ Just for today, just for this moment.
Try going outside when you wouldn’t normally do that. Add in a short walk or take a different route if that’s possible.
Reach out to someone you haven’t talked to in awhile, or to someone new you’ve been meaning to connect with. This isn’t necessarily (although possibly) with the intention to talk to them about how you’re feeling, but it’s primarily to learn how they’re doing. Shifting the focus away from yourself from time to time also offers a reprieve for your busy mind. They’ll likely be happy to hear from an old friend or make that new connection, so you’ll both feel better for it.
Watch a different show: watch an old show if you normally watch the latest movies, or vice versa.
If you normally spend a lot of time on social media, close it for a few minutes and do something else, or simply search for something else online instead. Maybe turn off your phone/computer altogether for a few minutes. Notice I’m suggesting ‘for a few minutes.’ I like to do and suggest things that are reasonable and actually doable. A few minutes = likely doable (even set a timer, if that helps). Turning off the phone or avoiding social media for the whole day = likely not so doable and possibly not even practical for many folks. Maybe work up to that, if that’s a goal. But start with easy stuff. The successes will buoy you and give you confidence once again.
Pick up a new/different item at the grocery store – something you don’t normally get but that you’ve been curious to try.
There are infinite ways to switch things up. Doing this serves to interrupt the thinking, and injects some inspiration by adding something new and different into your experience.
My spiritual connection has served as a great solace. What I mean by spiritual connection is that direct line to spirit through my intuition: the often quiet, yet unmistakably strong, steadfast and calm voice of support within me.
When I feel unclear or have lost my direction, asking for guidance or a message of support opens up space for my intuition to come through and be heard. However quiet that intuitive voice is compared to the loud bellowing voice of the ego, it remains solid in its guidance and it lifts me up and helps me keep going.
If my ego is full of criticism, or making me aware of all possible problems, wanting me to do the same old things to stay [what it perceives as] ‘safe’ regardless of how well it serves my sense of joy – my intuition continues to guide me with messages of support that buoy me along and keep me moving forward.
Intuitive messages may be general, but always come with a sense of calm rarely found in the voice of the ego. For instance, when my intuition says ‘keep going, you’re on the right path,’ my ego is still quick to jump in wanting to know the details: ‘but HOW will it unfold? WHEN will x happen?’ etc. Consciously reminding myself to trust the intuition, and focus away from the specifics helps create an openness. This returns me to a space of trusting and allowing events to unfold, and shifts my attention away from expectations and grasping to control the outcome.
If you’re reading this and you say: ‘but I don’t get any messages, I don’t think I have an intuitive voice telling me anything’ – I am 100% certain that you do, too. You are likely just not registering them as intuitive messages, and they’re likely also getting drowned out by the ego’s loud voice.
You are just as intuitive as me or anyone else.
With this spiritual connection has ultimately come a trust in all that is happening for my highest good. Sometimes I have to consciously remind myself of it; for example if I’m being prevented from doing something I wanted to do, or something just isn’t going as planned – I get disappointed just like anyone else; but I eventually remember to remind myself that it simply isn’t the right time or the right experience for me, and things are unfolding in a way which will ultimately get me to what is best for me. Releasing the tight grasp on trying to predict and control the outcome offers a great sense of ease.
Above all, I encourage you to hold onto the trust and knowledge that this will pass. You will feel better and come out the other side of this experience with even more compassion and patience – for yourself and others.
I offer one-on-one intuitive coaching and energy work to help you get tuned-in to your intuition and connect to spirit. If you’re struggling with something and looking for a helping-hand, or if you’d just like to connect, I’d love to hear from you: carla(at)intuitioncontinuum.com – or – on Facebook or Instagram: (at)intuitioncontinuum