Life is associated with uncertainty and challenges that are inevitable. There are going to be times when difficulties arise unexpectedly, and this may lead to feelings of frustration and disappointment. However, it’s important to acknowledge that recovery is not a linear process. It’s normal to experience ups and downs or twists and turns along the way. A setback can be an opportunity for self-exploration and growth on your mental health journey. You may ask yourself a few of these questions during and after a setback: “What have I learned from this?” and, “How would I deal with this differently next time?”

It can also be a reminder that you’ve made progress before and you’ll make it again.

The next time you experience a challenge or a setback, try these strategies to help you get back on track:

1. Remembering that setbacks are normal

Once you are in the midst of a setback, it can be difficult to acknowledge what might be happening and panic can set it. It can be helpful to say statements to yourself, such as “I am having a set back and this is why I am feeling this way,” “setbacks are a normal part or recovery,” and “I will feel better again – I have recovered before.”

2.Reframe your thinking

A setback can trigger negative thoughts which can make you feel worse. For example, the thought of “I’m never going to get better” can lead to feelings of hopelessness. A beneficial alternative, then, is to think flexibly. These are the kind of thoughts that can be challenged using a thought diary. Think about the evidence for and against the thought or consider advice you may give to a friend who is experiencing a setback to develop a more balanced and helpful pattern of thinking.

3.Stay Active

If you’re are having a bad day, you may avoid your normal activities. This can make you feel worse, as you’ll have more time to think about negative things and less opportunities for pleasure. Try to maintain your daily routine as much as possible. Eat healthy food and get a good night sleep. Plan some enjoyable activities that may help increase your mood. Make time for self-care and relaxation.

4. Plan Proactively

It’s easy to feel helpless during a setback. However, if you plan ahead, you’ll be better equipped to handle any challenges or difficulties that arise. It can be helpful to remind yourself of techniques that you have found to be helpful at the beginning of your recovery. Create a personal list of your preferred and most effective coping strategies (e.g., gratitude list, journaling, mindfulness, thought challenging) and record them to have them readily available for whenever you need them.

5. Seek support

It’s important to minimize isolation and increase social interaction to maintain your wellness. Try reaching out to family or friends that can provide you with positive social support or consider attending a support group online or in person. A sense of belonging and connection with others can reduce negative emotions and instill hope to continue forward on your mental health journey.

By Marisa Leib, M.S.