Authored by Dr. Michelle Murray on April 9, 2020

One of the most important things we can do to manage our emotional and mental health is to be realistic - it’s all about managing expectations.

Because of this pandemic, none of us are living the same life we were just 4 weeks ago. This means there is no guide book, expert advice, or model to lead us through. Remember, nobody has ever done what we are all doing right now.

Approaching this new way of life cannot be managed by using old skills that no longer apply. This means we need to develop new skills. These new skills might include handling changes in work patterns or joblessness, supporting our children with distant learning, changing the way we support and care for our sick loved ones, and the list goes on. One of the new skills we might need to develop now more than ever is to learn to manage our expectations.

When we don’t know how to do something this creates stress and self-doubt. Developing new skills requires time, trying new things, learning from our mistakes, and patience. Patience is about managing our expectations, not only the expectations we have for others, but the expectations we have for ourselves.

If we are feeling overwhelmed and stuck, we need to evaluate if our real problem is the situation we are facing or if the problem is the expectation we have around the situation. Managing expectations is about changing our own preconceived thoughts and feelings about how something should go or the way something should be. When we change our expectations, the situation will look different and new solutions will emerge, solutions that in most cases, we already know how to apply.

During a time of uncertainty, the one thing we all have control over is ourselves, and we are the only one that can control and change our expectations. This is a time for managing expectations and being kind to ourselves, and to stop “shoulding” and adding pressure.

A perfect example of managing expectations is to change how we define success. If we need an extra boost of positivity, we can identify the 2-3 things that we did well that day. We can all find at least one good thing we did in a day. It is time to remind ourselves that we are doing the best we can, and to identify all the ways we are in fact managing successfully.

With just a little bit of time, like everything else in life, we will evolve from having underdeveloped skills to having advanced skills and self-mastery over handling this new life style, and in the end we all have the opportunity to be better for it.