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4 Ways to Re-Evaluate Your Expectations and Cope Better Right Now

By Pam Dewey • mental health, anxiety, coping, how to cope, taking care of your mental health, re-evaluating your expectations, self care, covid, covid-19, covid anxiety • February 24, 2022

We’ve just nearly completed the second year of the pandemic. While vaccines and other treatments are available to an increasing number of people, the pandemic isn’t over. You may feel like the days are too much the same, and you may be struggling to cope with the continued uncertainty. You’re probably tired of the ever-changing restrictions.

First, know that you’re not alone. Many, many, many other people are struggling too. So maybe it’s time to re-evaluate how we look at our feelings, responsibilities and expectations.

Stop chasing happiness as the ultimate goal

You’ve likely heard of the power of positive thinking. This belief suggests you just need to think positively, eat right, sleep a full night, exercise, meditate, hydrate and you’ll be happy. While many of these things are good for your body and can make you feel better, none of these things guarantees your happiness, particularly during a global pandemic.

During the continued pandemic, Greater Good Magazine writer and editor Jeremy Adam Smith suggests, “You don’t need to chase after happiness or see unhappiness as a sign of failure. You don’t need to be grateful or mindful or even compassionate. You don’t need to be or do anything.” Maybe you don’t feel exactly happy, but a mix of emotions that changes throughout the day. That’s completely understandable, given that we’re all navigating an entirely new situation. You’re probably doing your best, like much of the rest of the world. Rather than worrying about being happy, maybe you should learn to appreciate the pockets of joy where and when you find them, like a bright sunny day, a sweet text or something silly your child does. Even a bad joke about the current situation can give you a much-needed laugh.

It’s okay to admit you’re not okay

Along the same lines, it’s okay to not be okay right now and to admit that to other people. You may think that these feelings will go away eventually, but that’s generally not true. It’s much better to talk about your feelings of sadness, anger or frustration.

“It’s really important to identify your feelings and have others you feel safe sharing those feelings with. Sharing with others helps you better acknowledge these feelings for yourself, provides validation and, oftentimes, relieves you of the weight of holding those feelings inside,” says Aric Jensen, Fraser Director of Mental Health.

What do you need right now?

Think about what your mind and body really need right now, not what your job needs, your boyfriend needs or what your best friend needs. Greater Good Magazine quotes the founding teacher of the Spirit Rock Meditation Center, James Baraz, as saying, “When you’re depleted, often changing the channel will involve nourishing yourself and shifting your internal system in some way. You take a mental break, not out of avoidance or with any tinge of guilt, but rather with the intention to give yourself a loving, rejuvenating reboot.” That could mean taking a day off of work or even allowing yourself to do nothing on your day off. Or maybe that means going for a hike, doing your favorite creative activity or spending the day reading. Remember not to feel guilty about taking time for yourself. As Baraz suggests, nourishing yourself will re-energize you and allow you to cope better. 

Offer yourself forgiveness and compassion

Many of us are feeling guilty about all the things we haven’t done in the pandemic or the things we could be doing better. Maybe you are a teacher or healthcare professional, and you’re feeling frustrated that you can’t do more to help your patients or students. Perhaps you’re feeling bad because you’ve been neglecting the dishes or ordering takeout several nights a week. Or maybe you feel anger toward people who aren’t being as cautious about COVID-19.

All these feelings are understandable. However, it’s also important to acknowledge there are many things you can’t control. You can’t control other people’s behaviors. As a healthcare professional, you can’t save everyone. There is also a limit to what teachers can do and take on. Everyone has limits. Greater Good Magazine quotes school psychologist Rebecca Branstetter, “And if all else fails. I just tell myself, ‘You are doing the best you can…in a global pandemic,’ and that helps me give myself grace.”

 The COVID-19 pandemic is an entirely new situation to all of us. With a new challenge, we need new tools. That’s why you should re-evaluate how you look at things. Let go of the urge to chase happiness as the ultimate goal and appreciate joy when it comes to you. Talk about when you’re not feeling okay. Acknowledge when you need to take a break and reset. Be kind to yourself.