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.

Take a Brief Break for Yourself

Say you have recently been through a difficult experience. Perhaps the person you love left you, perhaps your employer had to fire you, or you had to shut down a venture that did not work out as you had hoped. 

The first and most crucial thing you should do, no matter what obstacle life has placed in your way, is take a break. You have just taken a hit, so you will need some time to gather the shattered parts. In addition, you probably feel worn out, let down, and unmotivated.

The key point is that you are unable to take action. At least not just now. It is acceptable to not feel like talking about it at this time. It is acceptable to not want to start again at this time. You can take a break. Shame, rage, disappointment, or frustration are all acceptable emotions to be experiencing. These feelings are intended to teach you something and stop you from making the same mistake again.


Moving Over the Victim Mentality

When faced with difficulties and losses, we frequently have a tendency to make up all kinds of justifications, shift the blame, and adopt the victim mentality. Why? Because making up a tale in which you are the unfortunate victim or the gullible fool who was duped by others absolves you of any liability for how the event turned out. Furthermore, since there is no personal accountability, there is no cause for embarrassment, disappointment, or frustration.

However, whether you like it or not, there are some circumstances in which you do have some duty. You can employ the victim mindset as a cunning (and frequently unconscious) tactic to distract yourself from negative feelings. The main issue with this is that it serves to further your sense of powerlessness and may keep you from developing a positive outlook on failure or hardship.   

Accept the fact that not everything (or everyone) changes

Any severe setback, whether it be a divorce, a health issue, or the death of a loved one, will cause important changes in your reality. Or to be more precise, in the way you view the world.

You have a sense of security and predictability when you become accustomed to something being a specific way. You have the impression that you know exactly how events will go and that there is no need to be concerned or prepare for the worst. But when something or someone dramatically deviates from this cozy and (relatively) predictable reality, this sensation vanishes. And when this occurs, your initial inclination could be to try a remedy, to return things to as they were, in an effort to reclaim that sense of security and predictability. One frequent instance is when you reconcile with your ex just to split up again a few weeks later. Despite the possibility that he or she was the same, you managed to persuade yourself that circumstances would be different this time. It could be better for you to accept that certain tragic circumstances are unfixable rather than “milking a dead cow,” as the saying goes. The good news is that hardship and misfortune can teach you something. And that’s knowledge.


Rewind the Tape – Learn from Your Setback

The following phase in getting your life back together after a setback is “rewinding the tape,” which comes after you have given up trying to fix the unfixable and accepted your new reality. And by this, think about the potential elements that might have influenced your setback. Utilize journaling to find inner peace, understand why things went wrong, and emphasize significant life lessons anytime.

You may sometimes “mine” insight from hardship just by being by yourself, undistracted, and assessing the circumstance from an objective, nonjudgmental standpoint. You might be shocked to learn that several things—many of which had nothing to do with you—had contributed to your setback. To put it another way, there may or may not be a cause to hold oneself entirely accountable (and to feel deeply guilty).

Keep in mind your “why”

The inquiry “Why” is, the one that reveals the motivations underlying our behaviors and attitudes. It is a question that encourages reflection and leads you down a path of self-discovery and self-exploration. There is a purpose behind every objective you seek, every risk you take, and every difficult circumstance you place yourself in. Even those that did not go according to plan or ended in a total disaster were motivated by intensely personal factors. Consider all the gymgoers you observe. Each and every one of them is there to work out. Others work out to be healthy, while some do it to look good. Some people go there to recover from despair, while others go there to get over an ex. Thoughts become deeds, and deeds become outcomes. But when difficulties arise and expectations are not met, it is easy to lose sight of your “Why.”

And that’s when things start to become worse because you are no longer motivated to start afresh. Your “Why” will motivate you to go on a new adventure if you wish to put your life back together after suffering a significant setback.   

adult displeased image

Aim for a New Destination

Adversity offers worthwhile educational chances that can aid you in achieving goals even bigger than those you first set out to pursue. Regardless of how upsetting and unwelcome the experience was, perhaps losing your spouse, career, or home can open up new options for you. It is important to take your time and work through the emotional tempest that comes with hardship when it comes to rehabilitation, but you should also start exploring new opportunities.   

So, investing in personal development is a necessary component of conquering obstacles. You will recover from your setback more quickly if you start concentrating on a new direction as soon as possible. Those entail setting new objectives to work for and traveling to new places. Focus on anything positive that fosters a sense of accomplishment, whether it is a new relationship, an intriguing business prospect, or simply a new talent you want to learn. You should not, and you should not forget about your setback simply because you are going for something new. After all, it was undoubtedly a situation that changed the way you saw yourself.

Stay Positive

Remaining upbeat is one of the most crucial things to keep in mind while coming back from defeat. This does not imply that you should disregard your unpleasant feelings or act as though everything is well when it is not; rather, it suggests that you attempt to concentrate on the positive aspects of your life and have faith that things will improve with time.


Do Not Stop Here!

This is not how your narrative comes to an end. You will bounce back from this failure. It may be how this chapter ends, but you have the last say if you decide to apply all you have learned to guide your future decisions. 

Some strategies for persevering when you want to give up, include:

  • keep breathing, 
  • remember why you are running, 
  • speak with someone, 
  • for goodness’ sake, consume carbohydrates!

You are prepared to overcome your subsequent setback if you keep these suggestions in mind. We are aware that these situations may arise in life, but rather of seeing them as failures, be enthusiastic about using them to further your progress. 

Failures do not have to be our undoing. When the next obstacle course comes your way, use these tools to broaden your perspective and create a new strategy. As you put new techniques into practice, you may get through it more successfully.

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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