We all face setbacks, whether it’s an imploding group assignment, losing a job or getting a job rejection. Small or big, they usually come right when things are going perfectly well, disrupting your life and throwing a spanner in the works. There are many trusty ways to overcome setbacks or disappointments, right from reframing losses as opportunities to practicing self-compassion.

Experts have offered deep insight on how to cope, like suggesting shifting your mindset to focus on external causes of a failure rather than blaming it internally on things you can’t control! Even trusty ‘ol Reddit has advice about overcoming failures – of course, they suggest aggressively cuddling your cat and crying in the shower to metal music.

Two cats cuddling

In any case, while it’s important to manage your mindset and underlying attitude toward setbacks, sometimes, it just about finding a way to get through that day before you can tackle deeper solutions. Check out our five-step guide to shake off a setback, student-style!

Step 1: Cry it out

A man crying on a couch

Throw yourself a pity party. Of course, doing this all the time isn’t healthy, but on days where you’re facing a real setback, it’s the most cathartic thing you can do. Crying releases feel-good chemicals like oxytocin and endorphins while reducing stress and anxiety, so let those feelings flow freely (literally). It’s likely that once you let those feels out, you’ll be ready for step two.

Step 2: Officially declare the rest of the day as yours

A man with a sleep mask sitting on a beverage.

Whatever set you back – forget it. Unless it’s an emergency (seriously, an actual emergency), banish those horrible thoughts and throw yourself a celebration. It’s officially your day, where you get to treat yourself to the small things you’ve been ‘saving.’ Your mind deserves that reaffirming boost especially after a failure. It’ll ensure you don’t unfairly criticize or blame yourself when you assess things. As you indulge in self-care and you-time, you’ll reduce stress and boost your energy levels.

Step 3: Pick your treat and indulge

A woman saying treat yourself.

Now, to begin celebrating, indulge in whatever makes you happiest. It could be a comfort movie, a guilty-pleasure book on your reading list, a nice manicure, takeout from the restaurant you’ve been eyeing or even a walk in the park. It may sound counterintuitive to reward yourself after experiencing a failure or setback, but it’s an important part of preserving your self-confidence and self-love in the long term. Indulging in small, affordable treats can really help you weather hard times.

Step 4: Connect with someone you love

Two women embracing each other.

It’s important to spend time with someone outside of the environment you experienced the setback in – for example, if you did badly on a class test, try to connect with family or someone else outside of class. If you did badly at work, meet a childhood friend. You don’t necessarily need to talk about the setback you’re dealing with. Just the act of connecting with your support system during times of self-doubt and failure can be powerful.

Step 5: SLEEP!!

Cartoon character diving into bed.

Perhaps the most crucial step of all: get to bed early and get a good night’s rest before analyzing your situation. Sleep helps maintain cognitive skills, and poor sleep can make it much more difficult to cope with even minor stressors. It can even impact your ability to perceive the world accurately. So, there’s a good chance that if you delve into your failure before sleeping, you might end up blaming yourself disproportionately or unnecessarily, as compared with a more objective recollection and assessment after a good slumber.

To quote former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, “Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” The next time you face a setback, remember that there are a bunch of things you can do to make the experience less painful, and know that no matter what, you have the next morning to figure out what went wrong.

Feature photo by Cole Keister on Unsplash

Wondering what else you can do to cope when life throws chaos at you? Check out how you can change your space to find zen.

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