Dealing with Setbacks

Oh, setbacks. They are inevitable. And completely unavoidable.

I have been frustrated with myself and a few situations out of my control lately. When I get busy and overwhelmed, I have a habit of shutting down, hermiting, and waiting out the storm. Perhaps it is my Capricorn nature, but I much prefer to crawl under a rock or in my cave and wait. Oftentimes, it is the exact opposite of what I should be doing and what needs to be done in the moment.

dealing with setbacks

Smiling anyway. Sort of.

In planning Jim’s big birthday I got a surprise from our landlord that upset both of us and made us reconsider whether we should even stay in our new home. All has since settled down and the party went smoothly and perfectly but to say that that rattled my cage is an understatement.

Jim has had quite an adjustment to this big birthday as well. He is still very much mourning the loss of his best friend who died shortly after we moved. That, coupled with simply getting older and experiencing a workout setback that comes from aging (you just can’t run like you used to) has provided me with some shoring-up to do of my spouse and his needs.

Then there are my own setbacks which are constant in my chosen profession. There is no predicting sustainable work and whether or not auditions will work out the way you think. I have signed with a new agency at the same time as I am waiting in limbo on another and have been freshly rejected by yet another. It’s a game of one step forward and three steps back. I’ve also had some continuing medical fun that renders me somewhat incapacitated every 4 weeks. There is an end in sight to that, so long as my feet cooperate and heal. The icing on the cake was the nasty cold that was going around that socked both me and Jim. I spent the past weekend lying on the couch feeling miserable.

And so explains the short radio silence here. I’m working on learning to write through these things instead of hermiting. It’s a process. The first step is to write about it afterwards; eventually I might be able to write real-time. I hope my lessons in coping, however small, might help someone else. :)


In the midst of all of this, it was easy to lose perspective and feel sorry for myself and sorry for “us.” Occasionally I’d slip up and do so. However, I happen to believe that that is a mistake. While it’s ok to feel crummy and sad and miserable, at some point there is a need to shake it off, snap out of it, and start counting blessings instead. No one can tell you when it’s time, in fact, telling someone who feels badly to “feel better” or to “count your blessings” ranks as one of the most insensitive things to say. Tricky business indeed!

Feeling grumpy.

Feeling grumpy.

Luckily for me, I have been down this road before. I have had challenges before and the best part about challenges and setbacks is the ability to LEARN FROM THEM. My brain (and heart and everything else) have learned when it is time to stop moping and feeling sorry and to press on. A little tough love and self-discipline is the key and also the part that is no fun at all, at least until you are on the other side.

Perspective helps.
Choose to take the long view rather than the short. Remember that everything is temporary and nothing is guaranteed. Keep the attitude of gratitude for the here-and-now and what you already have. Someone else, somewhere else certainly has less going for them and greater challenges. Perspective.

With every negative thought, I tried to replace it with a positive alternative.
The more negative the thought, the harder it is to do and the more practice it takes. Examples:

  • This SUCKS. I hate everything about this.  This is an opportunity to learn something. Keep your eyes open.
  • WHY is this person being this way? This is terrible!!  This person is only acting in their own best interests, same as you. Try to understand their position and have compassion. There is something to learn here.
  • I will NEVER figure this out and succeed!  You won’t with that sentiment. Let’s try again, or regroup and visit this another time.
  • My body won’t cooperate! I hate this part!  I send this part love and compassion instead and ask it to heal. I accept my body as it is and love it.

This can be exhausting, especially if you are in a particularly tough spot where these thoughts pop up every few seconds (or more!). I’ve slept a lot and meditated to try to balance the load, which throws off the balance between down time and work time. It’s worth it, though. I find that I am no good to anyone, including myself, if I am not actively working to be my better self and my healed and healthy self.

Be gentle with yourself. Accept less than perfection.
As Winston Churchill said, “When you are going through hell, keep going.”  Note that Churchill doesn’t say how you are supposed to keep going. He doesn’t say “Keep going and demand perfection and then get mad at yourself when you can’t keep up with everything at once.”  When you are going through a rough patch, keep up with what is necessary. That might be more than you can manage already, so give yourself some kindness and don’t beat yourself up in the meantime. If you went to work and paid your bills and made sure you fed yourself and your kids today, Congratulations! You did what was necessary. Everything else is negotiable.

Final step: Work to get OUT of the rough patch.
No one can tell you how long this lasts or how long it should last. You decide that for yourself, or factors out of your control do. The important thing is to move on and get up. If you do the bare necessities forever when you had the ability to do more, the guilt will catch up and stare you in the face and steal your sleep. Not that I would know about that. *ahem*  The ascension out of rough stuff could mean a major life shake-up with permanent change. It could mean getting up a little earlier or working harder. Whatever the answer is, it is out there and it could be the very thing you are avoiding doing. Not that I’d know about that one, either. :)


The challenges that Jim and I faced of late were really not that bad. We’ve had worse. We will have other challenges in the future, too, and some will be harder than this. There will be loss and adjustments down the road because there always are. But the better we get with working through them, the less painful the small stuff is. It becomes easier and faster to brush it off and keep going.

What are your current challenges and how are you coping?

Spill It!!