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I love tabletop role-playing games for two reasons: the fun game mechanics and collaborative storytelling. At the table, the dice determine how well you do. It creates moments where a character made to be brilliant can fail while the person who threw a roll for the hell of it can succeed. In life, like at the table, we have setbacks. When you live with a disability, those setbacks can have a bigger impact.

A prime example is this blog. I felt so proud building up the website, and then I got Covid-19. I was so excited to get started but I could barely function, let alone write blog posts. That’s why I want to share how I handle setbacks when my disability or health prevent me from doing what I had planned. These tips might help you the next time you experience a setback.

Give Yourself Grace

Giving myself grace has been one of the hardest lessons for me to learn since I became disabled. My brain wants to do as much as I used to do. The truth of the matter is that I can’t. I can’t do writing sprints and pump out 3000 words during a session. I’m lucky if I get 2000 words a day. When you let go of old expectations and forgive yourself for not living up to them, you can unlock the mental energy to make meaningful progress towards your goals.

Reflect On Where You Deserve Credit

As a former gifted kid, I’m used to discounting the things I do. When I’m noticing that I’m exhausted, I often find I do a lot of little things that I didn’t give myself credit for. As I write this, I’m preparing for a writing conference. I’m working on a few projects to prepare for the conference, but if I don’t work on the project, I put in my planner, I can forget to count it. This creates weird moments like not accounting for the fatigue of signing my kid up for school or discounting the energy it takes to put together a page for my site and wondering why I’m so tired when I finish. While we may not all discount the bigger wins, we often discount the smaller wins, like getting dressed or taking a shower. Look at what you’ve honestly accomplished in the day. It may surprise you you accomplished so much just because you were expecting more out of yourself. So drop the expectations and look at what you did.

Listen To Your Body

If you have a setback that isn’t related to your health, the last thing you want to do is make things worse by compromising your health to deal with the setback. Listen to your body as you work through things and do what it says. If you feel your tummy rumbling, stop where you are and go make some food. Drink from a water bottle if you feel thirsty. If you are feeling tired, step away from what you are working on and take a break or a nap. Listening to your body is one of those basics that you are great at as a kid but gets harder as you get older and society puts expectations on you. Reconnect with your body and give it what it needs instead of trying to mold it to what you think society needs of it.

Ask For Help

In our society, many of us struggle to ask for help for anything. There is a huge emphasis on pulling yourself up by your bootstraps or being self sufficient. When you live with a disability, your disability may force you to ask for help when you desperately need it. We sometimes forget that we can ask for help for smaller things because we worry that our disability is a burden to others or feel we need to prove ourselves. When you take a step back and give yourself permission to get help on all levels, you allow for connections to form along with taking some of the load off your plate. While I was sick with Covid, I struggled to do one of the few chores I’m still able to do. Because I could ask my sister for help with the dishes, we could have clean dishes in the house even when I didn’t have the energy to unload and reload the dishwasher. It can be a hit to our pride, but in the long run, it helps us to be more honest with others about what we need and be able to have needs met instead of festering under that pride.

Give It Time

Most setbacks are temporary. While it can feel overwhelming while we are in the thick of it, if we remember it will end, we can often take the steps to take care of ourselves during the setback. While I had Covid, I was in no shape to write, but since I knew I should eventually get better in some form, I could let go of my burning desire to get going and let myself take the time I needed to recover. Because setbacks are temporary, the effects of dealing with them are usually also temporary. If we keep that in mind, we can speed up the time until the setback has passed by not adding problems to the setback pile.

I hope you find this helpful the next time you have a setback. Do you use any of these tips? Can you think of any I forgot? Leave them in the comments below.