The realisation that you have to cope with a setback in recovery can be very disappointing. Especially if you have been doing what you need to be doing to recover well. It’s another piece of bad news.

Someone recently asked me for resources on how you cope with a setback in recovery and although I had written about this topic some time ago, that blog was from the carer perspective. Hence this blog. (and next week’s blog too)

So how do you cope with a setback in recovery?

When we’re recovering from an illness or injury, we often have an expectation that our recovery will be a smooth upward trajectory back to good health. (The meaning of ‘good health’ is subjective. Every person’s version of ‘good health’ will be unique to them, their body and their circumstances.)

Pic of a person thinking their recovery from a serious illness or injury will be an upward trajectory back to normality, i.e. their pre-illness or pre-injury self. The person is standing in a graph where the Y axis is Recovery and the X axis is Time.

It may not have occurred to you that you would have to cope with a setback in recovery because you didn’t think it would even happen. Or the medical and healthcare professionals said your recovery should be straightforward.

But actually, it is very common for the recovery process to be more like this.

Pic of a person thinking their recovery from a serious illness straightforward. Their future self is looking on saying, 'Sometimes it is. But not always.'  The two people are standing in a graph where the Y axis is Recovery and the X axis is Time. The line between the two people, which symbolises the recovery process, is going all over the place to show that recovery from a serious illness is not always straightforward and there can be setbacks. So it is important to learn how to cope with a setback in recovery.

Being able to cope with a setback in recovery is therefore something many of us end up having to do. So I share ten things I think can help you cope with a setback in recovery – five this week and five next week.

How do you cope with a setback in #recovery? Read five tips here #seriousillness Tell a Friend

See your doctor to find out what’s going on

This is stating the obvious but it’s important. The doctor can (hopefully) tell you what is happening, why and what they and/or you need to do medically to address the situation.

Keep a diary of your symptoms and bring it to your appointments. But make sure to look for trends and patterns in the info you keep before your appointment. Giving it all to the doctor and expecting him/her to analyse it for you during the appointment is not the best use of appointment time. Also come prepared to the appointment with the questions you have. This is all about helping the medical and healthcare professionals to help you.

Acknowledge that there will be uncertainty

Picture of a quote: "One thing is certain. There will always be uncertainty." This is true when you have to cope with a setback in recovery.

And potentially a lot of it. Sometimes the medical and healthcare professionals cannot tell you why there is a setback in your recovery. When they don’t know why, then there is potentially less they and you can do. Or they try something but there are no guarantees it will work. This can be a scary place.

You and the medical and healthcare professionals have all this energy to do something but without knowing what to do, that energy kind of has nowhere to go. So you all end up in a scary place with a lot of frustration and feeling powerless to make things better. It’s a difficult place to be.

When the cause of a setback in #recovery is unknown, the uncertainty can be scary. You and the doctors have the energy to sort things, but without knowing what to sort, that energy has no place to go. Feelings of frustration and… Tell a Friend

Although this is stating the obvious, what you can do to help manage the uncertainty is…

Take it one day at a time

Slow down. Be gentle with yourself. Shower yourself in self-compassion. Self-criticism has no place here and won’t help you or your situation.

It’s totally understandable if you are upset because of the setback. And it’s ok to be upset. Acknowledging your upset-ness is healthy. Just remember not to unpack and live there. If you lived in the upset-ness, that would be less healthy. As you come out of it, channel the energy of the upset-ness into your recovery.

A man is trying to cope with a setback in recovery. But he is so upset he is unpacking his suitcase of upsetness. In it are anger, sad, loss and frustration. He is saying, 'I'm so upset I'm just gonna unpack and live here.' His other half, a woman, is saying, 'Honey, I can see how tough this is for you. I can help you sort your suitcase. And I have another suitcase which might be better for this journey.' The other suitcase is near her and written on it is Return to Wellness. The point this picture is making is it is ok to be upset, and that you can acknowledge how upset you are without unpacking and living there.

Focus on what you can control and influence

Focus on what you can directly control and influence. This is how much rest you get, what you eat, taking medication, and doing any exercise or physiotherapy you can for example.

What you don’t want to do is attempt to control things which are not in your control. This could end up with you wasting a lot of energy which you need for your recovery.

There are a lot happening in our bodies that we cannot control. Processes happen on their own that don’t require active intervention from us. We can influence our body in how we take care of it, but otherwise that’s it. We can however control our minds, our muscles and our breath. (Provided the illness/injury we have doesn’t affect any of these.) And this leads me to my next point.

Picture of three circles inside one another. The inner one is Direct Control. The next circle is Influence. The outer circle is Concern. To cope with a setback in recovery, you want to focus on what is in your Direct Control and Influence to do. What you cannot control or influence, and that is in the circle of concern, you need to let go of that. This model is by Stephen Covey and is from his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People which was first published in 1989.

Look after your mental and emotional health too

Your mental/emotional health is equally important. And it could take a knock when you have to cope with a setback in recovery. Mindfulness, meditation, breathing exercises, speaking to a counsellor or a coach, reading books on maintaining your mental fitness, and more can all help you to care for your mental health.

If your physical health isn’t in a place where you want it to be, but your mental health is, that can help stay in the driving seat of coping with your physical health issue.

Picture of a man driving a car and the license plate says, 'My Health.' This is about looking after your mental health so you can cope with a setback in recovery. Your mental health can also be impacted by a setback. But if you look after your mental health well, you can remain in the driving seat of your health.

What’s it like for you?

What has helped you to cope with a setback in recovery? Is there anything which did which is not listed here? Share your thoughts or questions in the comments below or alternatively email them to me (contact form in sidebar).  

If you are living with a serious health issue or are caring for someone who is, and would like support to cope with a setback in recovery or another aspect of the health issue you are dealing with, have a look at how we can work together and get in touch for a free no obligation consultation.

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© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2019

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