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Getting Back Up When Life Knocks You Down
Life is filled with unpredictable ups and downs. One day you feel like you’re riding high, and the next you get hit with a major setback that leaves you stunned and defeated. A sudden job loss. An unexpected divorce. A serious medical diagnosis. The list goes on. These jolting setbacks can shake even the most stable lives and knock the wind out of our sails before we even see them coming.
In times like these, when adversity strikes out of nowhere, it is completely understandable to feel overwhelmed by grief, uncertainty, anger, or despair. After the initial shock subsides, the sadness may set in, and you just want to pull the covers over your head. But while wallowing in the pain is normal at first, it is important not to let it defeat you forever. There are ways to pick yourself up, rebuild your emotional strength, and get back on track after a major setback. It takes courage, resilience and a step-by-step action plan, but you can recover and thrive again.
9 Ways to Rise from a Setback
Accepting the Reality of the Setback But Not Letting It Define Your Worth
The first step in bouncing back from a major setback is to fully accept and acknowledge the reality of your challenging new circumstances. You may need to grieve the loss of your previous life or plans before you can move forward. Allow yourself to really feel the swirling emotions – disappointment, confusion, loneliness, fear – rather than bottling them up. Talk to supportive loved ones who will listen without judgment. Let yourself cry, vent, journal or do whatever you need to process this transition.
However, be very careful not to let the setback define your whole identity or self-worth. Make sure to maintain perspective that this is only one piece of your life story – not the entire narrative. The adversity does not dictate who you are as a human being or what the next chapter holds. Give yourself affirmations like “This setback is temporary – it’s not who I am.” Have faith in your strength and ability to reinvent yourself. The power is still within you.
Reframing the Major Setback as a Catalyst for Growth
Once the initial sting has passed and you have gained some equilibrium, work on reframing the setback as a growth experience rather than a permanent defeat. Ask yourself introspective questions like “What hidden strengths will I uncover through this challenge? How can this catalyze new positive changes?” Reframing your mindset allows you to turn obstacles into opportunities for self-improvement and progress.
For example, a painful divorce could motivate you to reflect on the type of romantic partner that truly aligns with your values. A job loss could push you to finally pursue a passion that gives you more fulfillment and joy. Though the setback is unwelcome, you have the power to derive important lessons from the struggle. Having an emotionally intelligent and empowering narrative propels you forward.
Leveraging Setbacks to Build Your Resilience Muscles
Part of reframing major setbacks is realizing they provide invaluable opportunities to build your resilience. Resilience is like a muscle that must be trained and strengthened through adversity – and setbacks give you a chance to exercise that muscle. Ask yourself “How can I use this challenge to become more adaptable, self-reliant, patient, and courageous?” Reframing your thinking allows you to use setbacks to cultivate grit, maturity and wisdom.
Create a Roadmap to Rebuild and Recover
Once you have begun reframing the setback as a growth catalyst, it’s time to start mapping out a plan of action to get back on your feet. Break down the large, daunting picture into small, manageable steps. Develop a weekly schedule with concrete goals to reestablish stability and control. For instance, after a job loss setback, you may set goals like:
- Update resume and LinkedIn profile
- Reconnect with professional contacts and networks
- Search job boards and apply for 3 new positions per week
- Schedule informational interviews to explore options
Having structured systems, short-term goals and daily routines creates order amidst the chaos of a disruption. It also empowers you and restores hope that you can rebuild.
Celebrating Small Wins and Milestones After a Major Setback
As you work through your step-by-step plan to recover from a major setback, be sure to celebrate small wins along the way. Meeting an initial goal, no matter how minor it may seem, symbolizes overcoming inertia and getting the momentum going again. Whether it’s nailing an interview, signing up for a class, or decluttering your home, acknowledge each small accomplishment. Track your progress. Seeing forward motion revitalizes your spirit and belief in yourself.
Maintaining Perspective During the Journey to Rebuild Your Life
In the midst of slogging through the difficult work of rebuilding after a major setback, occasionally zoom out and look at the bigger picture. Maintain perspective by reminding yourself that this is just a chapter in your life story – not the whole story. Reflect on other hardships you’ve overcome in the past, which gives you confidence that you will persevere again. Count all the blessings still present rather than just dwelling on losses. Spend time visualizing the day when you will feel joyful and strong again. This too shall pass.
Leveraging Support Systems to Help You Regain Your Footing
During the arduous road to recover from a major setback, be sure to rely on your support systems for help rather than isolating yourself. Talk honestly with trusted friends and family about what you are going through. Allow loved ones to provide practical support like meals, childcare or help finding a new job. Seek out support groups, therapy or other mental health resources. There is no shame in asking for help when you need it most. Both giving and receiving support cultivates resilience.
Getting back on your feet after a huge stumble requires patience, courage and belief in yourself. After a major setback knocked you down, the journey back up will look different for each person. But you have strength within yourself, even if you can’t feel it right now. Have faith that your comeback is on the horizon. This storm will pass. And you will rise up again, wiser and stronger for it.