4 Unexpected Ways to Improve Anxiety - Managing Expectations

4 Unexpected Ways to Improve Anxiety - Managing Expectations
This is the first post in the series called "4 Unexpected Ways to Improve Anxiety".

Have you ever felt hopeless about your anxiety? Been frustrated because for whatever reason you can't go see a therapist? Maybe it's your husband who doesn't believe in therapy, or your culture, or maybe insurance won't cover it, or you don't have insurance? Have you ever wondered if you'll ever be able to "get better" and "live a normal life"? I see you, friend!

Not so long ago, my life looked a lot like that too. Not going to a therapist was my own doing, because of the shame I felt (let's please end the stigma that therapy means you are failing!) and because I didn't want to dig into my pain because I felt like if I did, it would be too much and would drown me. I felt hopeless and frustrated, and wondered what the point of life was, if I was always going to be so miserable.

Then, almost miraculously, a new friend shared that she was seeing a therapist and that made the stigma and shame crumble in an instance. Because if this cool lady was willing to not only go to therapy, but share that fact with me out of the blue, then maybe it wasn't so bad after all. So I went, and I healed, and I learned tools to manage my anxiety on my own, for in between sessions and for when I finally felt ok not going anymore. And now I want to share those tools with you, beginning with this one!

Managing expectations
If you are able to really take a step back and look at your anxiety and what has caused it, chances are that the root of it comes from missed expectations. If things don't go how we expect them to go, it can throw our whole world upside down and wreak havoc on where our head is. One of the biggest things that has helped me is to manage those expectations.

For example, the first week of bringing home my newborn was a breeze. He was so easy and slept great at night, waking up to nurse and have a diaper change and then going right back to sleep. I was so thankful that he was so much easier than my first, and came to expect that of him. So when, about a week and a half in, he started to wake up fully in the middle of the night, staying up for hours at a time, and only sleeping during the day when held, it through me for a loop! It didn't help that I was completely exhausted, getting maybe 3-4 hours of interrupted sleep every night, and I could hardly function or form coherent thoughts at that point.

We made some adjustments that helped a bit, but there were still many mornings that I was up at 4am rocking him for 3 hours until the rest of the fam woke up. At first those mornings were total misery. I resented my husband, and my son. But then something clicked and I realized that the problem was my expectation. I expected to be able to sleep all night, and I expected that my husband would come to my rescue, as he often does. So I verbally adjusted those expectations, telling myself, "Ok, tonight I expect him to sleep for 3 hours, wake up for an hour, sleep for another 3 hours, and then be up at the crack of dawn, and I will be the one to get up with him because my husband needs sleep so he can go to work and drive safely." And literally overnight, the mornings were no longer something I dreaded, but instead something that I enjoyed. I put on a sunrise video on Disney+ and rocked the baby in the rocker while the house was calm and quiet and dark, and it was a beautiful thing. All because I chose to adjust my expectations to something more realistic in that short season.

Now maybe the thing that is causing you so much anxiety is something unpredictable so you can't adjust your expectations the way I did. But you can still adjust to expect that things will be unpredictable, and remind yourself that everything has a season and this season won't last forever. Think outside the box if you need to, but please ask yourself how you can adjust your expectations in order to live with a little more peace. I promise you won't regret it.
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