How To Recover From Setbacks

How To Recover From Setbacks

Seeking moments of beauty is my self-care routine.

1. Get into the water.

A loss, a small fail, a hurtful thing spoken by a friend — these things nestle inside you and might not show up at the conscious level until some time has passed. In an effort to be resilient and strong, your mind probably pushed them away but your heart didn’t move on so quickly.

When the ripples break on the surface of your peace, let them wash over you. Go to the sea. Go to a river. Got to a lake. Get into the water and float. Water is the element associated with our emotions. Give your hurt to the sea and let the tide take it away.

2. Experience it but don’t dwell for too long.

Worry and upset caused by a loss or a goal not reached can lead to ruminating. You start trying to analyse where you went wrong because you want to learn from the experience. If you learn something, at least you take something positive forward with you, right? But sometimes a loss is just a loss.

The job went to someone with more experience with you. The story you submitted to that publication just wasn’t right for them. The competition is high. Don’t spend too long ruminating and analysing. Too easily rumination becomes dwelling and can lead to depression. Learn to spot when your self-analysis becomes rumination and take action.

3. Do some forest bathing.

The Japanese art of Shinrin-yoku (forest bathing) emerged in the 1980s, promoted by the Forest Agency of Japan as a way to achieve complete mental and physical rejuvenation. You can attend a specialist forest-bathing centre and be treated by a forest therapist but the crux of the practice is to spend time in the forest, going for a walk, drinking from the natural springs, paying attention and immersing yourself in the natural environment.

There’s now plenty of scientific evidence supporting the claim that nature is good for you health and not just a thing for recycled hippies like me to wax lyrical about. You don’t need to spend a few thousand dollars going to the forest bathing headquarters in Japan. My evening walk amongst the trees in the dog park does the trick for me. Trees have magical powers.

4. Drink tea.

My almost-teen son left a post-it note in the kitchen for me one day, in the height of a stressful phase I was going through. It was one of those bright pink heart-shaped Post-its that I can’t live without. He had simply written on it “Drink Tea”, in his boyish, 12-year-old scrawl.

Tea has long been a sign between us of taking some time out to relax and withdraw. He was an exuberant toddler, which followed after a demanding infancy of sleep disruption for over a year. He was the sort of baby that couldn’t be put down. If you could hold him all the time, he was content.

I was a single parent; the only one holding him, feeding him, attending to him at night. I was exhausted.

He walked early, though preferred to run. Once he found his feet, it was hard to contain him. I lost him at the supermarket more than once. He was a ball of energy. Having a cup of tea was my solace, and one of the few boundaries I felt able to defend.

If I sat down with my drink and told him, “Mummy’s having a cup of tea,” he would grant me peace for 10 minutes. I didn’t notice this until much later but he’d picked up on the sanctity of the act of drinking tea and now it still holds a special meaning for us, especially on the occasions when he makes a cup for me.

Of course, I could have just told you that drinking tea is really good for your health, but you already knew that, right?

5. Read poetry.

Watch Stephen Burt’s TED talk, Why people need poetry
Poems can shine a light onto the darkness for you. They can offer you connections to people who’ve been through the same things you are experiencing, and worse. They can be uplifting, or beautiful. They can be playful and wise.

They are ephemeral and yet can stay inside you for many years. They can fortify you, and become a rallying cry just when you need it most, like this famous one:

If you can think — and not make thoughts your aim; 
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster 
And treat those two impostors just the same; 
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken 
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools, 
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken, 
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools: 
If you can make one heap of all your winnings 
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss, 
And lose, and start again at your beginnings 
And never breathe a word about your loss…

Extract from If by Rudyard Kipling

The best poetry is poetry read aloud.

Poems are musical and have rhythm. The best poets choose words as much for their sound as their meanings. This is why poetry is more than just an intellectual exercise: it is a sensory and visceral experience.

Find a local open mic or spoken word night and go and hear people who love poems performing them out loud. I challenge you not to be moved and engaged by that.

Seeking moments of beauty

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that most of my self-care routine involves seeking moments of beauty. I drink tea and I buy myself flowers. I take long bubble baths and light candles. I go out at midnight and gaze at the moon, walk on the beach listening to the surf.

And when I’m ready to come back, I step out of my little cocoon, awake and refreshed. Knowing it’s there for the next time I need it to shelter and enfold me for a while.

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