You are your own worst enemy. If you can learn to stop expecting impossible perfection, in yourself and others, you may find the happiness that has always eluded you.
― Lisa Kleypas
The topic of expectations is one that shows up a lot in my counseling sessions, and in my personal life as well. These expectations may take the form of us looking forward to an event because we’re sure it will turn out a certain way. We may be expecting people in our lives to change for the better before we see them again. We may also be returning to a place we’ve been before with the expectation that the same highlights will show up again.
On a recent trip to visit family, I had a bout of unmet expectations show up for me quite unexpectedly. These expectations brought lots of feelings too such as anger, frustration and sadness to name a few. Why? On this particular trip, there are certain traditions that we’ve gotten used to over the years, and many just were not possible this year for one reason or another.
Seemingly small things to someone on the outside looking in were a bigger deal to me. That’s because I was the one with all the feelings and emotions attached to these experiences (or lack there of in this case). There are also memories and shared histories with other people attached to these places and activities as well.
What ended up happening once I was able to feel all these feelings and move on, was that it opened up space in my life to experience new things in the void where my old traditions used to be. I was able to stay in the present moment and simply let it unfold, which meant I got to run a new running route, experience a new restaurant and eat new foods, to name a few.
There were also expectations that were met such as the beauty of our favorite beach and the fun we all had playing in the ocean (dog included!). So, while some things were shifting and changing, I was also thankful that other things were staying stable and consistent for me as well as for my family.
What also helped me stay present in the moment was to continue my daily self-care routine, even though I was on vacation and not in my normal self-care space. For me this included my daily run outside, being mindful and focusing on my five senses, as well as getting enough sleep each night. What’s your most helpful form of self-care? If you’re feeling stuck, below are some pointers to help you take good care of you!
**The following is a list of 15 self-care ideas:
(This list is an excerpt from my book Life Transitions: Personal Stories of Hope Through Life’s Most Difficult Challenges and Changes)
- Write in a personal journal– try to write at least one page everyday.
- Exercise– even a quick walk around the block can help.
- Go outside– look at the beauty all around you.
- Meditate– start with two minutes of stillness everyday. Focus on your breath (and anytime your mind wanders, refocus on your breath).
- Mindfulness– pay attention to the moment you are currently in. It can be helpful to focus on the five senses: what are you hearing/ smelling/ seeing/ touching/ tasting?
- Eat healthy, nourishing, body healing foods– preferably whole foods
- Make sure you are getting enough sleep– you can use a mindfulness app (such as Relax Melodies) to help you relax before bed.
- Be vulnerable and ask for help from others– go to therapy, find a local support group, look to your church community for help, etc.
- Spend time with your family pet– a comforting presence you do not have to talk to.
- Read– fiction if you just need something light and fluffy to get your mind off all the changes. Non-fiction- something deep and heavy if you need to feel a connection to people who have gone though what you are currently experiencing.
- Participate in activities you have always enjoyed– often during and after a life transition these important activities get pushed aside by other things.
- Educate yourself on the transition– read books, surf the Internet, and talk to others, especially people who have been in your shoes.
- Volunteer your time– helping others can help you feel better too
- Start each day doing something small– even making your bed every morning will give you one small accomplishment before you even leave the house.
- Do things you find relaxing– take a bath, go for a massage, take a yoga class, etc.
What would you add to this list?