5 Ways to cope with a setback

Forget one step forward, two steps back. Anyone with a chronic illness or recovering from a chronic injury knows that it can take months to make one tiny step forward and then in the space of a few hours, 10 huge backward steps. Or that is how it can feel anyway. It's hard work just to keep your head above water some days so when you hit a set back it can be incredibly tough on both your body and mind.

I had a pretty low baseline of activity before my most recent set back due to a virus which required a hospital admission. Then whilst recovering from that I had a set back within my set back, with both a flare in gut symptoms and then a bladder infection. The combination left me really unwell, unable to leave the house and my usual routines abandoned.


Not only is a set back a physical battle to overcome, it affects me mentally too. Although I would no longer class myself as having depression, some of the thoughts that come up during a setback remind me of the place I was in a few years ago. Life can seem so overwhelming and out of my control, and questions like 'whats the point' float around my head. Now I'm emerging out the other side and recovering, my motivation is back and no longer feel this way but it's important to look out for your mental health during those difficult days.


Here are my 5 tips to coping with a set back:

1. Have a cry

I rarely cry or give myself any sympathy, not because I am particularly brave or stoic, its just a strategy to keep going. Part of acknowledging my set back, involved letting myself feel just how sad and frustrated I was by it and to cry it out (only a small one though because #migraines).

2. Let go of blame

I got a virus and I thought how?! I wash my hands, wear a mask, use hand sanitiser etc. I'm already a hygiene freak so I had to let go of the blame that it was somehow my fault for catching a bug before I set up some kind of decontamination tent for any visitors. Whatever caused the setback, blaming ourselves won't help us.

3. Be patient

Although its hard and so boring, we have to be patient with our bodies. Mine told me it wanted me to curl in a ball and rest 24/7. I think it was being a tad dramatic but when I did get up for an hour or so, I felt really unwell so I had to trust rest was what it needed. There are no shortcuts in recovery.

3. It's okay to feel negative

'Positive' chat is important, I try to keep a sense of hope even on the bad days. But that doesn't mean I can't moan and say I am fed up, as the last few weeks I have been really really really fed up. We don't always have to be grateful it isn't worse.

4. Let go of any pressure

My to do lists on a good day are overwhelmingly long, let alone when I could barely hold my head up. I had to let go of being productive and be okay with leaving messages unread, washing not done and work piling up. My daily useable hours dropped significantly so it isn't logical to expect to achieve the same in less amount of time (my fingers typed that, but my brain still doesn't agree - its still a work in progress!).

5. Believe it will pass When we are in a set back it can feel never ending. For me the cascade of symptoms flaring once I was discharged made me feel like I would be stuck like that forever. I lost sight of what I was aiming for as days merged into weeks. But it did pass, I'm still not back to pre-virus level yet, but I am getting there. My favourite quote 'this too shall pass' hasn't lied to me yet...


How do you cope with a set back? Let me know in the comments below.

Lots of love, Zoe xx

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