Dealing with setbacks

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As you learn more about managing your pain, there will be times when you face some setbacks. The sooner you recognize setbacks, however, the easier it will be to deal with them. Although they are frustrating, try to accept that setbacks are a normal part of life and not a disaster.

Often, what matters most is not the setback but how you respond to it. What you do in a setback will make a difference in:

  • how severe the setback is at the time
  • how long the setback lasts
  • how often you have a setback.

To handle a setback responsibly, it is important to take control of the situation instead of letting pain control you. For instance, you may need to reduce the demands on yourself for a while and do less activity until you can slowly build up again.

One way of taking control is to write an individual setback plan that you can use when you encounter challenges. A setback plan can include:

  • your activity and some simple goals for yourself until you are back on track
  • examples of relaxation exercises you will use
  • activities that include short rest periods while you work through the setback
  • options for getting help from others (such as friends, partner, family, healthcare team)
  • a reminder to focus on positive thoughts and challenge negative thoughts
  • a reminder to eat well and drink plenty of water
  • a reminder to take any medications as prescribed and keep track of your use of over-the-counter medications
  • a reminder to be kind to yourself and patient while you work through the setback.

Sample setback plan

​Setback ​Plan to deal with setbackWhat could I do differently next time?
​When I try to do everything in gym class, my pain flares up and that keeps me from doing my usual activities.On days when I have gym class, I could still do the activities, but maybe I should take more rest breaks.I did take rests - and that helped - but I didn't do everything I wanted to do. I need to make sure that I pace myself. I can also ask my gym teacher to suggest alternative, lower-impact movements.

Once you have used your setback plan during a challenge, try going back and modifying it based on your experience of what worked best for you.

Last updated: May 2nd 2016