How to rebound from a temporary setback and keep going

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This pandemic year involved temporary setbacks for just about everyone.

For nurses, common themes included job opportunities lost while the health system focused on Covid-19 response, educational possibilities denied because of quarantine, and financial setbacks caused by reduced hours, medical bills or a partner or a family member losing their job.

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Maybe your specific experience wasn’t even tied to the pandemic. It could have been a breakup with a partner, for example, a bad performance review, or a trip or home purchase that failed to materialize.

But no matter the area of your life affected, there are common strategies you can use to bounce back. “By establishing a realistic and grounded perspective of yourself, your achievements, and the situation at hand, you can ... come out the other side better positioned for personal and professional growth,” registered nurse Richard A. Ridge, who holds a master’s in business management and nurse executive certification, explained in the Nursing Management journal.

Ridge and other management, nursing and psychology experts shared these tips for responding to a temporary setback:

Don’t wallow in betrayal and discouragement. “Of course it hurts when our dreams get derailed,” Polly Campbell, the author of How to Live an Awesome Life, noted in Psychology Today. “Allow yourself to experience the frustration and disappointment that comes with failure, then get up and get going again. Don’t deny your emotions, but make sure that you also come up with another avenue, activity, or interest to pursue so you don’t get stuck in the despair.”

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Avoid isolation and dramatic friends. It’s so tempting to retreat to lick your wounds. But “when you’re trying to push through a roadblock, solitude is your enemy,” William Arruda, CEO of Reach Personal Branding, explained in Forbes.”You need support. But not from just anyone. You don’t want to reach out to the person who will turn this into a pity party. You need to surround yourself with people who are objective, positive and focused on solutions, not problems. Seek out the can-do people in your network. Confide in them, and enlist them to help you overcome your obstacle.”

Don’t play the self-blame game. “It’s OK to feel the negative emotions that come with the setback,” Arruda added. “In fact, it is essential. Pretending you aren’t disappointed, frustrated or angry won’t make it go away. Acknowledge how you feel, but steer clear from blaming yourself or others.”

It’s common to feel like you could have altered the outcome of a bad situation if you had just done something differently, particularly with financial upheaval, Rachel Schneider, a senior vice president at the Center for Financial Services Innovation, noted in Forbes. “People often feel ashamed and alone and that they should be able to manage money problems on their own,” she said. “The sooner you realize you’re probably not at fault and financial setbacks are just part of life, the better off you’ll be.”

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Pace yourself. Don’t expect to power through when a negative experience disrupts your life. It may take awhile, and you only pile on more trauma when you set arbitrary timelines to be “over it.” “Take the time you need to process,” Arruda advised. “For some setbacks you will need more than just a brief pause to recover. Acting in haste may lead you to choices you soon regret, so resist the temptation to immediately send that blunt email or turn in your resignation.”

Schneider applied similar advice to financial setbacks. “Many shock victims continue to struggle a year after the event, Schneider noted. “Embrace that it takes awhile to recover, so you don’t blame yourself when you don’t bounce back quickly.”

Recognize the extra pressure when the situation affects only you. “Setbacks in which you’re alone are often emotionally more intense than those in which a large group may be affected, such as a significant organizational downsizing,” Ridge explained. “When you’re singled out for your performance or because of a change in the organizational direction of the organization, the immediate shock will feel more personal.”

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Remember your value.”Don’t allow others to define how you think and feel about your accomplishments and professional contributions,” Ridge added. “Considering others’ feedback and reflecting on your past performance are certainly important, but in the middle of a professional setback, the critical feedback shouldn’t become all-consuming and all-defining.”

It’s absolutely critical to keep your self-speak upbeat, RN and NEA-BC Rosanne Raso advised in Nursing Management. “Use reflection and find the positive about yourself and the situation you’re facing,”she said. “Sometimes it may seem that everyone else is looking for the negative — go high when they go low. Rising above doesn’t mean that we aren’t learning from mistakes and looking for ways to improve; rather, it means we’re moving forward.”

Seek feedback and support from colleagues. After a setback at work, reach out to colleagues from your past schools, employers and professional associations, Ridge advised.”This group is likely to have a greater level of understanding about what you’re going through. During a professional setback, the ones making the decisions aren’t in a position to give you much positive feedback or advice. This must come from within and from trusted, positive-minded colleagues and mentors.”

Put an action plan in motion. Instead of vague notions, commit to a step-by-step procedure for moving on, Ridge recommended. “Creating an action plan increases the likelihood of attaining your goals and overall achievement of purpose. Write an action plan that relates to your immediate, intermediate, and long-term professional goals, and incorporate personal goals that relate to self-care and work-life balance.”

The outline should include only goals that target a specific area for improvement, and that are what Ridge refers to as “assignable — goals should be written with you as the assignable party,” he said. “The results should be achievable using available resources (and) should always have a time parameter to ensure measurability. For example, ‘Meet three contacts in person per week.’”

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Don’t waste energy on things out of your control. “Yes, we should persevere for what’s right and aligned with our values, but at the same time stay centered on what we can change,” Rado added. “This includes our emotional responses.”

Let go of a “this or nothing” idea. “We can become so attached to a single desired outcome that we feel lost and devastated when we don’t get that one result,” Psychology Today’s Campbell noted. “If there is only one way to succeed, then disappointment will inevitably loom. Focus instead on the process..If you are growing and learning and living close to your values and passions all along the way, any outcome you achieve will feel worthwhile — even if it is not your ideal.”

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