Down but Not Out: How to Bounce Back After Major Setbacks in Life

Life is like a play without a script. Despite your best efforts, you can’t control the outcome of all events in your life.

When you have trouble adjusting to major setbacks in life, you are at risk of suffering from situational depression. To avoid falling into a rut, follow these strategies for keeping yourself inspired while going through a tough time.

Don’t Point Fingers

Accepting the pain of a setback in life is hard. There’s a natural tendency to want to know the exact root cause so that you can assign blame.

Blame is attractive because it allows you to feel more in control of the situation. If only person A hadn’t done B, then I would have achieved my goal.

The other option is immediately blaming yourself. While it’s important to take responsibility, it’s counterproductive to beat yourself up.

Reflect on the incident as you would if it happened to a friend or colleague. Think of the advice you would give them if they came to you to vent over the issue.

Would you see their life as ruined or their goals as unachievable because of a temporary loss? We often give our best advice in situations where we aren’t emotionally conflicted.

You can give this same advice to yourself when you have time to move past the initial hurt. Get your brain back into the driver’s seat once you’ve accepted that your pain is real, but it’s not in charge.

Accept Your Limitations

According to Psychology Today, less than 20 percent of people achieve their goals on the first try. Billionaire investor Warren Buffett accumulated most of his wealth after the age of 50.

There is no way to predict outcomes even most of the time. You can control the amount of effort you put into an activity and how persistent you choose to be.

Knowing you will need multiple chances to accomplish a personal goal helps to keep your expectations realistic. Patience with yourself is key.

There will be situations around you, like unpaid bills after losing a job or friends who side with your ex-spouse after a divorce, that seem to pick at the wound. Know that the pile-up of hurt will eventually subside.

Bill collectors still need to be paid. Former friends will continue living their lives.

Take baby steps through your situation praising yourself for the smallest improvement to help boost your daily motivation to keep going.

A Slip, Not a Fall

One of the biggest challenges when experiencing a personal setback is making comparisons. If most people don’t experience success after their first attempt at a goal, then why are your expectations so high?

Avoid blowing setbacks in life out of proportion. Many times the issue is a slip, not a fall.

This means the problem is not as large as it appears to you in your mind. Outside influences like social media and your friend’s new six-figure job can make you feel like a failure for the smallest infraction.

Remember that you can recover easily from a slip if you avoid the trap of comparing yourself to others. You can’t see the bumps in the road your friend experienced on her many job interviews before landing that job.

Push past the grief over small mistakes to keep yourself mentally and emotionally strong for the major setbacks that are sure to come into your life down the road.

Even embarrassing situations like getting caught drunk driving isn’t the end of your story. Legal trouble can persist in major situations, but smaller infractions can be helped by visiting lawyers like

Don’t Terrorize Yourself

Are you your own worst critic? Practicing meditation can help you calm down negative self-talk.

Telling yourself that you or your situation is worthless or hopeless is one way to prolong the effects of the setback. Negative self-talk steals your motivation by distracting you from solutions.

Find positive affirmations to fill the space instead. Listen to a song or podcast daily that helps your brain find new perspectives on life.

This might be a time to avoid friends who offer a pessimistic outlook. If you’re already feeling anxiety over your situation, the best support is someone you can talk to who helps you heal your hurt.

If you don’t know anyone like this, consider talking to a counselor or therapist. Therapy is helpful in providing you with practical strategies to overcome challenges in your life.

The next time your mind begins to wander into negative territory, take a deep breath and recall your affirmations. They won’t feel true at first, but consistent repetition will quiet the other thoughts preventing them from invading your happiness.

Practice Gratitude

When you feel like you’re the only person suffering in the world, the burden can be too much to bear. Every man thinks his burden is the heaviest, but remembering there are others in worse situations can bring on feelings of gratitude.

Do community service with a charity you believe in. Direct service has the greatest impact because it puts you in direct contact with other people.

Seeing their situation and knowing you have the power to make an improvement in someone else’s life releases endorphins, a chemical associated with happiness. Many people start gratitude journals during setbacks in life.

A gratitude journal forces you to confront what is going well in your life. This is important in keeping your mind from ruminating on the negative.

Take 10 minutes each morning and evening filling your gratitude journal to help you gain inspiration.

Recovering from Setbacks in Life

The time it takes to recover from setbacks in life depends on your commitment. Remember that time is your friend.

There is no race to heal your situation. Deal with each day as it comes using practical strategies to clear your mind and find your way back to motivation.

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