How to handle setbacks

Grace Rosko

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Ironically, I was sitting in a church for, at the time, a good friend’s confirmation. It was a random Sunday, at a church that was not of my affiliation; and in my classic, immature eighth grade fashion, I was not paying attention to the service at all. To this day, I think it must have been God’s will that I tuned in for the pastor’s final statement: “A setback is a setup for a comeback.” 

At the time, it was just another quote that passed through my train of thought; however, weirdly enough, it stuck in the back of my mind. I was freshly fourteen at the time, and after finishing up  another successful volleyball, basketball, and dance season; what did I need to know about handling setbacks? 

My anxiety was seemingly in check, my 4.0 grade average was coming together, I had just received several high accolades for sports, and my friend group was finally getting along. I had it all going for me; and at the time, entering high school was the least stressful thing on my mind. 

I was riding pretty high on my horse that I had groomed for the past year. 

Flash forward four months, and there I was standing with no horse; and the feeling of complete failure. 

Entering the high school was much harder than I had intended, and it was not just the different environment or the class schedule; the struggles were much more deeply-rooted. 

I faced setbacks within academics, friends, sports, family, and most detrimental, my anxiety. For some time, I crawled into a deep hole, and secluded myself from people. I struggled with my emotions and how to handle them, it was like I was going through the same day over and over again with a thundercloud hanging over me. 

I could not tell how or when it stopped raining in my mind. When I review what occurred freshman year, there was not one exact turning point that my life turned around. However, standing back on my feet as a junior, I can say that there are three things that helped me turn my setbacks into comebacks, and you can do them, too, if the need arises. 

First, surround yourself with people who support you and who want to see you succeed and achieve your goals. I found myself at the start of the process in toxic friendships, that created more stress and anxiety. It is hard in high school to try and distance yourself from a group of people, especially freshman year, because you constantly see them in classes. However, saying your peace and leaving the negativity and, for me, the constant competition was ultimately what helped me stay afloat. It is never easy, and when breaking off relationships, you may face unprecedented by-products; and sometimes things get worse before they get better. In the end, this is the first step to making a comeback. 

Second, try to distance yourself from social media or other social aggravators. I quite literally have an addiction to my phone and social media; sometimes I find myself on it with no clue how much time has passed. I found it extremely helpful to try and limit myself to how much I use my phone; it not only calmed my anxiety, but it helped me not care as much about what other people thought. This is one of the most difficult parts of the process, due to the overwhelming amount that social media impacts our daily lives; it is hard to just step away from the all of the commotion. However, if you can find a way to limit and make time to enjoy what is happening in the “now,” then you are on a great pathway to becoming a better person. 

Finally, my last piece of advice is to simply do what you love. If you explore your personality and make time to try different things, you can find hobbies and eventually careers that you can enjoy. Doing what you love brings down your stress level, and induces happiness. It is hard to set aside time to try new things, especially because in high school you do not have a lot of free time, but sometimes all you need is twenty minutes. Taking time to yourself to learn what makes you tick is an extremely important part of this process, and if you fail to continue every other part of this, try to see this one to the end. Now more than ever, the world is more accepting to people who want to try new things,  and if you CAN do what you love, you should. 

I will not lie and tell you that this process is easy or by any means short: it takes some time and effort. For some, coming back from a setback is a simple three step plan which they achieve on their first try; for others, it might be more of a fight. Setbacks are something that is continuous through life, and some are larger than others. Though my story is just one of the millions of “comeback” stories out there, I can say that it does get better, and life will go on – whether you are ready for it or not.

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