Forming Healthy Habits Amidst Setbacks

Living with mental illness can make people feel like they’re failing all the time. Moments of progress can feel impossible to recapture after a misstep. We can be very harsh on our failures, and our reactions can exacerbate those failures. Mental health setbacks happen to everyone, but they can be hard to deal with. Despite our failures, we should still strive to build healthy habits and goals to work toward. So, how can we form healthy habits when we feel like we have constant setbacks?

I’ve always been interested in the concept of habits. Finding habits, forming habits, maintaining good habits. It’s a part of the daily routine I’ve always found fascinating. Habits can be good or bad; they can improve our day or set us back. Whether we fall into them or create them, habits structure more of our day that most of us would care to admit.

Early on in my mental health journey, forming good habits felt impossible. It felt like there were so many barriers in the way. Any positive step I took for my mental health felt lost in the many, many steps I took back. The more I learned about depression and anxiety, the more impossible it felt to deal with. How could I ever get into a groove when I constantly felt like I was failing?

Looking back, it’s easy to see why I felt this way. My filtered thinking created self-fulfilling prophecies where I always always a failure. Not only did these setbacks feel constant, they felt permanent. I felt like I would never get out of feeling depressed or anxious, sad or confused.

In that frame of mind, forming a habit felt impossible. To me, habits were something I needed to do every single day if I wanted to live a happier, healthier life. And while there are many habits that are good to do daily (brush our teeth, eat food and drink water), many of them don’t. In fact, falling out of rhythm and out of habit has taught me much more about myself than adhering to these things. Let me explain.

I love sports for many reasons, but one of the biggest reasons is how people overcome adversity. When I played sports, my coaches always talked about moving on to the next play, the next practice, the next game. It was about building good moments and success around that. Setbacks happen (they always do), but the end goal remains the same. And why can’t we do that in everyday life?

Healthy habits help me stay on track when depression and anxiety throw me off. They help me steer the ship when I can’t always see where I’m going. And even though I don’t rely on them as often as I should, that doesn’t mean they don’t hold value. The setbacks will happen but if the end goal is to be the healthiest version of myself, I’m focused on the long run. And that’s one game I intend to win.

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