Bouncing Back After a Setback

Bouncing Back After a Setback

Life can throw you for a loop when you least expect it, and you may have the most extreme reactions to a setback when everything is going great.

For some, maintaining a positive attitude and bouncing back is fairly easy. Others lack the resiliency to quickly make the transition from feeling life will never be right again, to not only seeing that there is a way out but having the ability to establish a plan of action to make it happen.

Plant growing in crack of brick walkway

What do some have that others do not? The key to bouncing back after a setback may well be how we live our lives before a setback, and with guidance and practice you can develop the skills and habits of mind you need to handle setbacks more positively.

Building Resilience

Not everyone is created equal in terms of being able to manage a setback. Some come from supportive family backgrounds where resiliency occurs more naturally, others do not. However, this doesn’t mean all is lost for those who grow up in a less than positive environment. Facing adversity may help you learn and build resilience skills that can help you manage better when faced with both large and small setbacks.

The expectation of getting back to normal after life knocks you down implies that “normal” is a stable state of being. We all know that person who gets hit with bad news and then comes to work in a few days, just thankful to be alive and seemingly able to go on as usual.

For people who seem to take whatever life hands them in relative good stride, the odds are they’re able to do that because they’re living a positive lifestyle every day:

  • Eating a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, and lean protein
  • Getting regular exercise
  • Spending time outdoors going for a walk, playing a sport, gardening, or enjoying good weather
  • Taking down time to relax and refresh by putting down their phone, turning off the TV and computer, and just taking it easy
  • Getting enough sleep every night
  • Enjoying time with family and friends
  • Investing in “me” time doing something relaxing like reading, meditation, or a hobby


Video: What is Mindfulness?

Knowing Your Limits Can Reduce the Risk of Reaching Your Limit

Man volunteering, woman lifting weights, woman sleeping

We all experience days when we just do not want to take part in life, work, even family. It’s not easy to take a break from our responsibilities, and even when we can, we may feel guilty. Before you find yourself at your mental limit, consider taking a mental health day. Being aware of your limitations is healthy and necessary to building resilience.

Setbacks happen, and most of us find ourselves feeling let down or even depressed when they do. But rather than focusing on the setback, focus on strategies to integrate the experience and understand your new reality. In time, depending on what the cause of the setback was, you may be able to move past it.

See more Strategies for Self-Care and Resilience (PDF) from the Navy’s Civilian Employee Assistance Program.

Getting Help

If you or someone you love seems to be unable to manage after a setback, it may be time to make an appointment with a licensed mental health professional who can help you get back on track.

More Mental Fitness Topics

7 Strategies to Improve Mental Fitness

Self-Talk and Self-Image

Avoiding Mental Interruptions

Post-Traumatic Growth

Practicing “Learned Optimism”

Supporting Troubled Loved Ones

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