Whether you don’t get the salary bump you were angling to snag, fall just short of acing your training plan, or realize your relationship isn’t as #goals-worthy as you previously thought, dealing with feelings of disappointment can start to feel like a part-time job. So when you do face situations in which the results don’t quite add up to what your expectations measured out, a game plan for moving forward is just what the doctor ordered.
“Often [disappointment happens] because you’ve had very little practice with it, or have high expectations, or don’t have the proper toolbox for managing those feelings,” explains Gail Saltz, MD, a psychoanalyst with the New York Psychoanalytic Institute. The upside? This particular not-so-fun feeling gets easier to deal with over time as you find effective, tailored-to-you strategies for coping, accepting, and moving on from whatever situation made you feel subpar in the first place. Below, Dr. Saltz offers a starter pack of mental-health TLC tips to help you do just that.
Scroll down for 5 doc-approved methods for dealing with disappointment.
Strategy 1: Self-soothe in whatever (healthy) way works for you
Before you make a move, check in to see if you identify with this statement: “I feel acutely bad in the moment.” If the answer is yes, then the expert advises seeking activities and patterns that you know tend to make you feel better. This could mean taking the most relaxing shower of your life, booking an acupuncture appointment, or cozying up to watch one of your all-time favorite flicks. “Something has actually happened, and that means it’s okay to sort of give yourself some TLC,”says Dr. Saltz.
There’s also nothing (repeat, nothing) wrong with taking a mental health day from work if you feel like that’s the best move for you right now.
Strategy 2: Give yourself a problem assessment
Dr. Saltz says to ask yourself, “Is there something here that I can actually take apart and problem solve?” Once you’ve taken a moment to consider whether there are actionable steps you can take to change the outcome of the scenario, you can stop looking at the disappointment as a dead end. Instead, you’ll be at a crossroads where you can either attempt to reverse the situation in question or accept it and move forward.
“Often, disappointed people will say to themselves, ‘This is because I’m terrible. I’m a loser. I wasn’t good enough.’ They’ll condemn themselves entirely. Maybe they weren’t good enough at something or somebody else was better, but people tend to globalize and condemn all of themselves,” the psychoanalyst points out. So remind yourself that even though this particular feeling can feel all-consuming, it doesn’t define who you are. You simply have to accept your own apology sometimes.
Strategy 3: Recall a time in the past when you were disappointed…and got through it
While dredging up past obstacles doesn’t sound like a feel-better strategy, Dr. Saltz explains that it can serve as a reminder that you are more than capable of overcoming whatever life throws at you.
“There will be disappointments in life, and it doesn’t meant that it doesn’t feel bad. It feels bad, but at some point you’ll process that and it’ll be another day.” —psychoanalyst Gail Saltz, MD
So go ahead: Recall that time you had a job that totally sucked or passed up a really cool opportunity. Because chances are, you’ll be surprised by how truly over it you are. “There will be disappointments in life, and it doesn’t meant that it doesn’t feel bad. It feels bad, but at some point you’ll process that and it’ll be another day,”the mental-health pro says.
Strategy 4: Talk things out with one of your besties
“It’s good to have people you feel you can trust and confide in and people with whom you’ve built enough intimacy to share those kinds of feelings,” says Dr. Saltz. Before you vent though, make a point of telling your friend what you actually need from them. Do you want to be comforted? Do you want a hug? Or do you just want to say your piece with a really good listener tuning in? “Sometimes you have to let them know that you are not looking for a fix,” she explains.
Dr. Saltz also notes that even though these heart-to-hearts can be cathartic every once in a while, leaning on your loved ones too much in times could earn you the title of “emotional vampire” in your friend group. So just make sure you’re returning the favor of lending your friends an open ear.
Strategy 5: Seek out professional help
If you just can’t seem to dig yourself out of your emotional rut, Dr. Saltz says booking some face time with specialist is your best bet. “Once disappointment begins to impair your ability to function, or if it chronically will not go away, one can consider therapy,” she concludes.
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