How to Bounce Back After a Setback

Life is rarely a smooth ride. Just when you’re feeling good and making progress, a setback can get in your way. Maybe you made a mistake at work, didn’t get the promotion you deserve, or are dealing with a tough personal issue that is affecting your job performance. Whatever setback you’re facing, how you react can help you recover more easily and quickly.

Dealing with setbacks successfully is all about resilience. The ability to bounce back is what will keep you productive, positive, and strong when your personal or professional life isn’t going according to plan.

What can you do to overcome a setback and move forward?

Let it out

Bottling up your emotions can make you feel worse and make it harder for you to find the energy to persevere. Give yourself permission to feel emotions while finding healthy ways to vent and manage your feelings.

If you’re frustrated, write down what’s going on (though keep it private to avoid creating other problems). If you’re angry, hit the gym. If you’re sad, have a good cry. But don’t let the emotions take over your life. Give yourself a discrete chunk of time to feel your emotions, then move on before you’re overwhelmed. Consider getting the help of a career coach or therapist if your emotions are exhausting or out of control.

Be kind to yourself

You need to take care of yourself if you’re going to have the stamina to conquer life’s latest challenge. Take time to practice self-care strategies that can reduce your stress. Get sleep, eat healthy meals, and work out. This is not the time for deprivation. It’s time for a few healthy indulgences. Seek out plenty of distractions you enjoy to take your mind off the setback.

And remember, you don’t have to do this alone. Take a few trusted friends and family into your confidence to get their support and hear their perspective.

Be kind to those around you

Taking your frustrations out on your coworkers, friends, and family will only cause more harm. The potential long-term damage to relationships is not worth any short-term relief these kind of outbursts might give you. Being unkind to others can also isolate you from your community of support just when you need it most.

It may feel odd to have to comfort other people when you’re the one dealing with a setback, but keep in mind that they’re in pain because they care so much about you.

Get ahead in another part of your life

When part of your life has gone off the rails, gaining control over other parts can be a great comfort and stress reducer.

If your career isn’t working out the way you’d hoped, accomplish something personally significant. Clean out your garage, sign up to volunteer, learn an showstopper recipe, or take a self-defense course. If it’s your personal life that’s out of whack, put extra effort into your career. Hone your writing skills, attend an intriguing conference, become a mentor, or take on a new and exciting project.

Start living your new normal

Whether your life has experienced a small setback or a big one, you’ll have to adapt your plans, goals, and priorities. A setback can put your life on a different path than it was before, for better or worse. It’s up to you to be resilient and do the best you can in your new normal.

You’ve got this.

How have you bounced back from a setback in your personal or professional life? Share how you stayed resilient and strong in the comments.

Lauren Girardin is a marketing and communications consultant, writer, and speaker based in San Francisco. She helps organizations engage their communities and tell their stories. Her website is laurengirardin.com and you can connect with her on Twitter at @girardinl.

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Mike Fitzgibbon

Some of my best breaks have unexpectedly come from big setbacks. Try to be open to the world really taking care of you if something fails. It can be a creative time.