Whether you’ve experienced minor setbacks or life-altering failure, we all feel discouraged from time to time. That said, relying on healthy coping strategies and using our failure to motivate improvement is really all we can do when things don’t go our way. Today, I’m sharing 6 ways I handle it when life gets me down.
Start with realistic expectations
First of all, it’s important to be harshly realistic with yourself when setting goals/expectations. This is unique to each person; a realistic goal for you might not be a realistic goal for me, and that’s fine. But being honest with yourself is important in determining what can be defined as failure. If you’ve never exercised before, and you want to get six-pack abs in 2 months, you can’t really be shocked when you fail to do that, nor do I think it’s fair to consider that ‘failure’ because it was never realistic in the first place.
As a personal anecdote, I usually try to read 10-15 books (for fun) each year. I read 10 in 2018, even as a medical student. But this year, I’m doing my rotations through the hospital, and it’s the busiest year I’ve ever had. I’m not even setting a goal related to reading this year, because doing so would just add on extra mental stress. I’m consciously making a decision to allow myself to focus on school this year.
Don’t make excuses
Don’t get me wrong, I love complaining just like every other person on this planet, but I think I’m honest with myself. People are experts at making excuses, and I really try not to delude myself/make excuses to myself. The ‘myself’ part is key. I don’t think what you say to others think matters as much as what you believe. People who lie to themselves about why they failed are the people who don’t ever improve. If something went wrong because I didn’t put in enough effort, I try to commit to doing better in the future, but that really only works if I first recognize that my effort was lacking.
Look into plans B-Z
One of the key things I do when something doesn’t go as planned is pushing myself to get energized by the fact that I can make up for a missed opportunity. If I didn’t get in to XYZ internship program, I try to find 15 other internships that I can still apply to. I try to get excited about all the other opportunities that are still available, and to be honest, this is probably the most effective coping strategy for me. As long as I know there are other options out there, I can deal with anything.
Talk about it
People tend hide it when things go wrong. I do understand the mentality behind protecting your reputation or ego, but I definitely share my struggles with those I’m closest to and it really helps. Those who know you can help you gain perspective and give honest advice on how they think you should proceed. There’s also something therapeutic about talking about feelings and whatnot, so this is key.
They say that the definition of delusion is doing the same thing and expecting different results. When I experience some sort of failure, I always make a change, no matter how small. The goal for me is always to consider whether I have too many things on my plate and what I should remove.
A recent example is that I was feeling a stressed out when looking at my to-do list during the week. I didn’t quite experience failure, but I was working long hours, going to the gym, studying, doing blog work, etc., and I felt SO tired all the time. I recently made a change in that I decided that I will only study for board exams on weekends from now on. That means that after I get out from work (hospital/clinic), I only have to do work for school, go to the gym, do Instagram/blog stuff, etc. It took a HUGE mental load off of me to just accept that I will not be studying for board exams during week days. That said, I do dedicate a lot of time during my weekends to study, but this sort of compartmentalizing really helps me feel less overwhelmed. It gives me some breathing room mentally.
Sleep helps in every situation, except narcolepsy. I live by this and love my sleep and naps. Enough said 😂
All views expressed are solely mine, and are not endorsed by my academic institution. This post is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, and this site should not be relied upon as health advice. I am a student, and share my opinions and experiences through this platform, but am not qualified to give medical advice, nor am I seeking to do so.