As discussed in previous articles, mental health is defined as a state of well-being in which an individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a meaningful contribution to their community.
As we try and face life’s various challenges, we may sometimes become discouraged and disillusioned with life and this can have a detrimental effect on our mental well being.
What is discouragement and why do we become discouraged?
- A loss of courage in the face of challenges
- A loss of confidence
- Becoming disheartened
- Dejection and despair
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- A loss of hope
Discouragement can result from:
Disappointment: when the reality we are facing in life falls far below what we had expected, we experience disappointment and if we do not manage this emotion of disappointment we can eventually become discouraged.
Delayed or unfulfilled dreams: discouragement may result from failing to see the fulfilment of your dreams, where life’s challenges seem to be insurmountable and your dreams and vision start to feel unattainable.
Frustration: repeated frustration of our efforts can also result in a loss of courage and hope
Feeling unacknowledged or unseen: discouragement can result from consistently feeling that our work or effort is unacknowledged and our contribution at home or work is inconsequential
Fear and worry: the many worries of life, the constant anxiety about finances or relationships or other needs can lead to stress and anxiety which can then undercut our courage as we face the challenges of life.
Lack of vision, direction and a sense of purpose: if we lack a clear direction, a vision and road map towards a desired future, we will soon lose momentum and motivation and we may become discouraged.
Devastating life events: life threatening natural events or life changing traumatic events such as being attacked, robbed or assaulted can cause us to lose our courage.
Grief: the loss of closed loved one can shake us emotionally and make us question our very beliefs. An unexpected loss can make us question the very meaning of life and cause us to become discouraged.
Betrayal: if someone we trusted betrays us, this will make us question many aspects of our life, we may feel we have lost our support and we may become discouraged
Chronic illness: when we have been unwell for some time or suffer from a chronic illness that may need constant medication or medical attention, we may become discouraged and disillusioned with life.
Fatigue and burnout: we can become overwhelmed with work and responsibilities resulting in physical and mental exhaustion and this can lead to discouragement.
Poverty and lack: severe poverty and lack limit our options in life and can make us feel powerless and helpless. This can lead to a loss of courage in the face of life challenges.
How does discouragement affect our mental health?
Low self-esteem and low self-confidence: a loss of courage will result in a loss of self-confidence and belief in one’s ability to overcome the challenges of life
Loss of motivation and drive: discouragement will affect our internal motivation and drive and willingness to keep on trying
Stress, worry and anxiety: discouragement will cause us to become stressed and anxious about our uncertain future. Anxiety will make us fearful and fear can paralyse us and inhibit our ability to problem solve.
Depression: consistent disappointment, discouragement and disillusionment can cause us to become dejected and depressed. We may feel sad and despondent, fatigued and demotivated.
Alcohol and substance use: addiction to alcohol or drugs can be overwhelming and difficult to overcome. Even when on a path to recovery from addiction, many of those affected may relapse and feel discouraged.
What can I do to overcome discouragement?
- Emotional authenticity and vulnerability: you cannot address an issue that you haven’t acknowledged to be a problem. Acknowledging that we have become discouraged requires emotional authenticity and a willingness to be emotional vulnerable to a trusted friend or a health professional
- Rest: it has been said, when you are tired, learn to rest not to quit. This saying illustrates that discouragement can be a sign of physical and emotional fatigue.
- Speak life to yourself and your situation: positive self-talk is essential for overcoming discouragement. Deliberately choosing to see the positive and speak what is positive about you and your situation can help to tackle discouragement
- Develop a problem solving approach to life: discouragement can be the result of frustration from life challenges. Being mentally flexible and looking for how to address the problems being faced can help in overcoming discouragement.
- Focus on what you can control: every challenge we face in life can be categorised into 2 main groups, things we cannot do anything about and things we have the power to change. The things we cannot control we must develop resilience for and find a way to live in spite of the. The things we can do something about should be the main focus for our energy and efforts.
- Gratitude: Reflecting consistently being grateful even about small things in life will help us manage our discouragement.
If you think that you or someone that you know maybe struggling with mental health challenge linked to discouragement, please contact your nearest health care provider and get help.
*Dr Chido Rwafa-Madzvamutse is a consultant psychiatrist. Feedback on WhatsApp: +263714987729