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Motivating Myself After a Mental Health Setback

Everyone experiences setbacks. Setbacks in life are to be expected. Worse, though, is the mental health setback. I work so hard to ensure that my mental health is the best it can be every day that a setback feels devastating.

Additionally, it can feel so hard to get back on course once a setback has knocked me off. Here's how I motivate myself to improve my mental health after a setback with bipolar disorder.

Why do mental health setbacks occur?

Mental health setbacks can happen because of something completely outside of your control or even things within your control. For example, you might experience the death of a loved one, and your mental health suffers.

On the other hand, you might decide to go out drinking with your friends, and your mental health suffers. In either case, you must motivate yourself to do the healthy things that can help your mental health get back to where it was.

Bouncing back after a bipolar depression relapse

For me, a setback usually pushes me into depression. Depression is like quicksand – it wants to suck you in deeper and deeper.

It actually fights against your motivation to do better and be better. This means that I need an extraordinary amount of motivation to fight not only the depression itself but also its awful pull.

And no matter how your mental health suffers, it's tempting to just give in to it. You've fallen off the horse – it's harder to get up and try again than it is to just lie on the ground.

Helpful reminders for motivation

All that being said, it's possible to motivate yourself after a mental health setback. I find it helpful to remember these things:

  • Even if I made a poor decision that led to the setback, the setback itself is not my fault. My brain is different than others, and it experiences setbacks that others wouldn't. I don't need to judge myself for experiencing a setback.
  • It's okay to feel sucked into staying in a setback. This is normal.
  • I worked hard to maintain my mental health for a reason – it's far superior to be mentally healthy than not. It helps me, it helps my loved ones, it helps my life. It's worth the hard work to get there.
  • Returning to my previous level of mental health is not a one-step process. It takes time, but I have done it before, and I can do it again.

One positive step forward at a time with bipolar

Then, I work on making positive changes that will get me back to my previous level of mental health. This doesn’t mean I can "pull myself up by my bootstraps" and bounce back just because I want to. This means I can make one small change today that will work to improve things.

This might mean seeing a therapist or doctor. This might mean ensuring I get a good night's sleep. This might mean getting some fresh air and exercise. I start with just one thing that is reasonable and attainable.

From there, it's about incremental change and recognizing incremental progress. Celebrating small improvements wins the day here. Each step forward is positive, even if the step is tiny.

Relapses and setbacks happen

I think about motivation after a setback is about:

  • Recognizing the setback has occurred and not being judgmental about it
  • Realizing that regaining my mental health is important and possible
  • Taking small steps forward and celebrating each small win on the way to bouncing back all the way

By following those three tenets, I find I can get my mental health back after a setback.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.