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Ever want to know what is really on the minds of those around you? Check Facebook. Given limited space, people get to point. A recent common theme — discouragement.

On a single day, 30 of those postings had some comment about “giving up,” “feeling down,” or “why bother trying anymore.” Discouragement swallows people alive. Spreading beyond the discouraging event, like quicksand it sucks hope and joy from any area of life. Given the huge impact discouragement can have on families, how do we cope with discouragement — in our children, our situation, ourselves?

• If married, nurture your marriage. Often discouragement finds its origin in empty emotional tanks. As our spouse encourages on our desires and goals, promotes our endeavors, and walks through difficult situations beside us — they fill our emotional tanks.

Too often children become the focus of the family with spouses giving and receiving the message, “The kids need me; my job needs me; the house needs me — for now you are on your own.” On our own, we wear out; we get lonely; we become discouraged. When spouses instead choose to make their marriage the focus of the family, parents spend prime time and energy nurturing each other. We work together to meet challenges, we affirm each other’s strengths and we scratch each other’s back. Instead of running on empty, we are filled. A full tank is hard to discourage.

• If not married, find a core group of friends who invest in you. No one can meet the challenges of this crazy life without a little help. Pouring into children, meeting work challenges and managing a home drain. You need someone pouring into you. As you cultivate relationships with those who invest in you (and in whom you invest), you build a reservoir of emotional energy that defeats discouragement.

• Identify areas of success. Working for a cantankerous boss, facing a chronic illness, or juggling bills that continually outpace the paycheck all create a sense, not only of immediate failure, but of inevitable failure. Inevitable failure discourages. Though you may not be able to change jobs or escape the illness, you can purposely include and focus on areas of success to balance the sense of inevitable failure. Spend time in your flourishing garden, cook your famous chili, take your comic routine to the children’s ward of the hospital — find ways to put the gifts where you experience success to work and make this a regular part of your life. The children’s laughter may not make your boss any easier to please, but the success in getting a laugh can diminish the discouragement of working for her.

• Take care of the physical. Physical depletion exaggerates emotional issues; health reduces them. A tired mind is easily discouraged. A body in the throes of a sugar low is easily discouraged. An overloaded brain is easily discouraged. Eat good food. Exercise. Spend time away from electronics and in the open air. Get eight to 10 hours of sleep each night. As you meet basic physical needs, you build the resilience your body and mind need to fight discouragement.

• Laugh. As you laugh, your brain chemistry both increases chemicals that make you feel better while reducing chemicals that make you feel anxious. The human mind cannot both laugh and feel discouraged. Laughter wins every time. Seek to laugh.

Listen to silly jokes, focus on the odd or absurd in the situations around you, or make a call to that one great friend who possesses the uncanny ability to turn any situation into an occasion for laughter. Every emotionally healthy person holds in reserve that one movie that makes us cry when we need to let down and that one movie that always makes us laugh. Pop some popcorn and enjoy a laugh.

Discouragement clouds our vision of all the good that is right in front of us. From the Facebook world, discouragement’s ugly head is draining the life for far too many. As we refocus our attention on strategies that fight discouragement, we find the energy to reach out and enjoy the ever-present good in our lives.

Tess Worrell is the mother of eight and teaches parenting and marriage. E-mail her at tess@yourfamilymatterstous.com.

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