Lower Expectations to Reduce Stress
Who do you depend upon to help you? Do you have a spouse, partner, or children at home? At the office, are there members of your team or administrative staff that you routinely ask to complete tasks? How many times have you called upon them to help you to get things done that you thought you couldn�t do yourself?
As we see work that needs to be done, we often delegate the work to others. Sometimes this is due to our lack of time or our inability to do the work ourselves.
Since my spinal cord injury, I have relied upon my husband, Mark, to do much more around the house. He does the majority of the housework and all the yard work. I don�t have access to the second floor or the basement of our home. Since I use a wheelchair to get around, he is constantly going up and down steps, retrieving and storing things for me.
When I was first home from the hospital, I was extremely reliant upon him to get me dressed, prepare meals, clean the house, do the shopping, and do all the errands. I expected our house to be as neat and clean as it was before my injury. My standards for cleanliness were very high, and I was imposing my expectations on Mark. I eagerly waited as Mark attempted to get done all that I asked him to do.
I became frustrated when things weren�t being done to my expectations. I wanted it done NOW! All of the things I asked Mark to do were important to me, and I expected that he would drop everything and tend to my requests.
We both felt stress due to the frequency and magnitude of my requests. It was not possible for him to complete the �honey do� list in the limited time available in a day. I realized that I expected too much from him and that I had to let some things go. My expectations had to be lowered in order to lower our stress.
We may be imposing expectations on others that are unreasonable. Resentment sets in. Everyone has their own capacity of work that can be done. Sometimes additional outside services must be purchased.
We need to reevaluate the priorities of each task and be more patient as others do the things that we requested. Jointly discuss the tasks and agree on the priorities. Communicate what tasks are critical and what tasks could be set aside. If timing is critical and deadlines must be met, make sure the person is made aware of these conditions. When you communicate your needs, share expectations, and understand the other person�s constraints, both of your stress levels will drop. The helper will be less resentful if they have input and will feel more appreciated if you are respectful of their time. Allow your helper the freedom to manage their time to complete the tasks.
Make life easier. What really is important? What seemed important one day, may look unimportant the next. In the grand scheme of things, what will it matter if the task were never completed? We have to look at life from a fresh perspective and reevaluate what is, and what is not, important in our lives.
It isn�t easy to lower expectations, since it involves a significant change. Less may be accomplished in a day. Patterns of activity need to be changed and delegation of duties oftentimes need to be reassigned.
Lowering expectations can lower stress. It is a practice that can keep relationships healthier and dispositions happier.
� Rosemarie Rossetti, Ph.D. would like to read your comments about her column and the impact it has made on your life. She also encourages your ideas for future columns. Contact her at: Rosemarie@RosemarieSpeaks.com, or 1008 Eastchester Dr., Columbus, OH 43230-6230.
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Rosemarie Rossetti, Ph.D