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The road to recovery is a long and winding one. As much as we would love for it to be a straightforward path, the reality is far more complicated. Along the way, we will experience various blocks and setbacks. Some will be minor and take a short time to overcome. Others will be prolonged and more challenging.

I’m experiencing the latter at the moment, which I’ve been finding frustrating. Particularly given this setback struck at a time when I was feeling my best. I always find setbacks difficult. But I find them hardest when they come on suddenly during a good spell. It serves as a sharp reminder that I’m still sick and not quite where I want to be. And that’s tough.

For me, I have been feeling pretty rough for most of August. Though I initially thought I had picked up a virus, I now believe it’s possibly been a bad reaction to an asthma inhaler that I was prescribed. I don’t see my doctor until next week so I guess time will tell on that one.

Lately, as I’ve been feeling poorly, I’ve been finding myself saying to my husband things like, “I’m so sick and tired of being sick and tired.” And while this is true, it also doesn’t achieve much other than to make me feel more miserable than I already am. I am therefore trying to put my focus into coping skills that will help me ride out this latest setback.

Here are 6 tips for working through setbacks, which I hope will also help you during times you feel sick and tired of being sick and tired.

1) Remind yourself that this will pass

This one is a conscious effort because it’s tough to see the light at the end of the tunnel when a setback drags on. There can be a lot of fear and worry associated with flare-ups and setbacks.

“Will I ever get better again?”… “Will I get back to the same level as before?”

I always allow myself to think and feel whatever comes to me. However, I then make a conscious effort to challenge those thoughts. I find it helpful to remind myself that, so far, my track record for getting through setbacks is 100%. After each one, I have also gotten back to where I was previously, before then slowly moving forward again. That’s a pretty successful track record and one to be proud of. I just need gentle reminders to be patient and appreciate setbacks will take time to overcome.

2. Allow yourself to express how you’re feeling

A couple of years ago, I would bottle up how I was feeling and keep everything to myself. I know I am not alone in doing that; it’s far too easy to put on a brave face and battle on.  I soon learned that this was problematic, though; manifesting itself into an even greater physical response. I’ve since realised that the best way to handle my emotions is to let them all out.

Some of the time this means giving myself permission to have a good cry. I find acknowledging, expressing and processing my emotions is the best way to deal with them. It feels like a release. I just ensure that I then work on moving forward positively and don’t allow myself to go into self-pity mode.

3. Give yourself permission to focus on you

When we reach a low point we need to focus on helping ourselves to overcome it. I appreciate that this is difficult when there are other people and commitments to consider. What I want you (and me) to realise is it’s okay to say no. It’s okay to put things on the back burner and it’s equally okay to decide not to do things at all. Put your focus and energy into getting yourself over this hurdle you are facing. If you don’t make that a priority, the longer this setback will go on.

4. Remind yourself that this isn’t your fault

When we feel sick and tired of being sick and tired it’s because we’ve hit a low point both mentally and physically. That’s a really difficult place to be. And it’s worth reminding ourselves that what we are experiencing is, sadly, the course of having a chronic illness. We are not to blame for how we are feeling. We are just dealing with the cards we were dealt. In no way are we are to blame for our situation. It’s a difficult process but we need to let go of any self-guilt we are holding on to.

5. Find something you enjoy doing

When we feel really sick we can be forced to give up the things we normally do. Boredom can creep in and, with it, comes frustration. As I work my way through this current setback, I am trying to do something each day that I enjoy, even if my energy is low.

Sometimes this is as simple as sitting outside in the garden if the weather is nice; enjoying the feel of the sun on my face and listening to what is going on around me. Other times it can be listening to music or an audio book. I’ve also been working on a simple crochet project, which is a low-energy activity I find calming. It’s about challenging ourselves to find enjoyment despite our current situation.

6. Reach out and talk to others

It’s tough going through setbacks alone and it definitely helps to reach out and talk to someone. Opening up to someone close to us gives us the opportunity for emotional support. Sharing our experiences in support groups can also help us to feel less alone. It’s also worth remembering that there’s also no shame asking for help with tasks you are currently struggling with.

When setbacks are prolonged, different to what you would normally experience or you are feeling particularly worried, it’s also worth discussing things with your doctor. I have an appointment with my GP next week to review my asthma. Beyond that, I’ve also made the decision to visit Breakspear Medical for a consultation.

I briefly mentioned Breakspear in a past blog post. It is a private medical clinic that specialises in treating environmental illness. I know a few people who have been having treatment there with success and I have actually been considering Breakspear as an option for a while now. However, I had put it on the back burner considering I was going through a good spell with my health.

However, I’ve now decided I want to go for a consultation. Simply to get a better understanding of my remaining health problems. I will, of course, blog and share my experience. Wish me luck!

I hope you have found this post useful and would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

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6 tips for overcoming setbacks caused by chronic illnesses such as fibromyalgia or ME/CFS


Hello, I'm Donna. I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia in 2013 and started this blog shortly after. After my health declined significantly the following year, I decided to become my own advocate and searched for answers. It took two years but, in 2016, I finally discovered I had Lyme Disease. On February Stars, I share my personal journey back to better health; discussing what has helped me and the mistakes I've made along the way. I also cover topics on self-improvement, managing symptoms and living life to the fullest with chronic illness.



    • Sorry to hear you’re having a rough time Terri. I hope you get all your tests etc organised soon. Best wishes

  2. Great tips for flares and setbacks. Talking to people who understand always helps me when I’m flaring or in a set back.

  3. Thanks, Donna, for the reminders. I’ve been living with numerous chronic “invisible” conditions most of my life, and yet I still need to re-visit the points you raise whenever I have a set-back (especially #s 3 & 4). It’s good to know I’m not the only one that needs to do this. ????????. Namaste.

    • Hey Joni, I’m pleased to hear you found this post helpful. I think number 3 is hard because so many of us have been, or are, so used to putting others first. It’s a difficult adjustment learning to put our own needs first. One thing I find helpful is to think about it like this: by looking after our own health first, we are placing ourselves in the best possible position to then help others. I think this can help with the blame/guilt too.

  4. PS Lol. Have no idea where all the question marks came from.☺️

  5. Fantastic post Donna! These are all so important, but also so easy to overlook. Particularly when you’re in a flare. I hide how bad I’m feeling as a coping mechanism. I didn’t realise I did it until one of my consultants pointed it out to me. Recently I’ve been wondering if this is actually a helpful coping mechanism, so I’m going to discuss this at my pain management appointment, when the referral comes through. Xx

    Tania | When Tania Talks

    • Thanks so much Tania. I tend to hide things too. One thing I always find hard is rating my pain because day-to-day I just don’t tend to think about it. I think it’s good to be aware of how we are physically feeling but it’s also good to shut off from it. I think so long as it’s not a “bury head in sand” strategy it can be useful. Would be interested to see what your pain management have to say about it though 🙂

  6. I’m very sorry you have hit rough patch. Your tips for handling it were wonderful, and a great reminder/encouragement. I’m looking forward to hearing about the trip to the new clinic! I hope it is a fruitful trip that provides some answers and solutions.

    • Thank you so much for your comments Jen. The appointment at the new clinic went well but it may be some time before I write about it as I think it makes sense to wait and see what test results bring first 🙂 Once I get my head around it, I’ll be sure to share.

  7. Thank you Donna. It’s only now I have read this while going through a setback, I was feeling better and the last few weeks have been horrid. I really like your posts and the way you write, I can really identify with your experiences and it’s so helpful. Like keeping this post bookmarked til I need it! I don’t identify with being unwell at all which makes it difficult to cope with sometimes. Thanks for being a coping mechanism for me ☺️

    • Hi Jenny, sorry to hear you are going through a setback. I always find them especially difficult when they follow a period of feeling much better. It’s good to know that you can relate to what I write; we are definitely not alone in our experience 🙂 It’s such a difficult adjustment and I feel it’s an ongoing process. I hope you continue to enjoy what I write and I hope you start to feel a little better again soon. Take care.

  8. Thank you so much! I really needed this today! I can feel autumn is coming to Denmark… I hope your tough time will be short and the next good period long!
    Stay positive and enjoy life.
    Hugs Marianne

    • Hi Marianne, sorry that you are having a tough time and I am glad you found this post helpful. The changing of seasons can definitely be challenging and I hope things settle for you soon. Thank you 🙂

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