Is your life humming along the way you think it should? If not, are you blaming yourself for this departure from what you think your life should look like? Is this self-blame creating even more stress for you? Here are some stress management techniques to help you establish a new relationship to your expectations.
There are times when life unfolds almost miraculously exactly the way we would like. More often, though, life does not follow our blueprint. When life doesn’t match our expectations, we often feel disappointed and we may feel like we have failed. We may spend so much time trying to resolve why our present doesn’t resemble our imagined future that we fail to notice the rightness and blessings of our very real present. Count your blessings – notice your life as it is, rather than how you imagine it should be. What can you be grateful for this very minute?
Allow yourself to be delighted – rather than annoyed – by surprises that happen to you and that disrupt what you see as your perfect plan. Approach these surprises with curiosity, wondering where they lead. Recall a time in your past when a surprise led to a much better outcome than you could have planned or envisioned.
It is easier to adjust to changes if you maintain an optimistic attitude, a belief that your life is unfolding perfectly and that your experiences are helping you stretch and grow as a person. You might even admit that your imagined ideal way is safe and comfortable and would allow less room for personal growth. Look back on your life at those times when you were challenged in a way that you would not have chosen for yourself. From your vantage point now, would you give up the wisdom you have gained, despite the costs to you?
If you wish your life were different, ask yourself what will it take to change it? Are you committed to complaining or committed to action? Are you using “I don’t know how” as an excuse to maintain the status quo? What needs to happen to move you closer to a life that you love even more?
Being willing to take action will infuse your life with interest, passion, and vitality. Action will bring new options and will open possibilities that may have been unavailable until initial action is taken. Think of your life as a puzzle and each time you take action, you are given a new puzzle piece. Many action steps will give you more puzzle pieces and gradually, your picture will become clearer and more identifiable.
Be especially gentle and kind to yourself when your life is not following your expectations. Release any harsh judgments that you should be able to control each and every outcome. Be a friend to yourself and remember your self-care. Congratulate yourself on your efforts and consider your life a great adventure rather than a life measured solely by defined, planned, and possibly limited, outcomes.
As a personal and spiritual coach, Georgiana Carollus has a keen interest in inspiring people to recognize their brilliance and to treat themselves as well as they treat their friends and loved ones. She offers resources and coaching to help people establish a more caring and supportive relationship with themselves at www.FriendYourselfProject.com. Visit and subscribe to a free Daily Moment of Inspiration!
Are you having trouble coping with any of life’s difficult, stressful, and negative experiences? Noticing something for which you are grateful can effectively counteract negative emotions. Studies have shown that a conscious focus on your blessings can have an immediate emotional benefit and can help reduce your feelings of stress.
What are you grateful for? If nothing comes to mind, it is time to refocus your attention. Even the most beautiful sight can be taken for granted when you see it every day, just as the blessings of good health, close relationships, and comfortable shelter commonly go unnoticed and under-appreciated.
Researchers at the University of California at Davis and the University of Miami conducted a study and found that a control group that was instructed to notice experiences of gratitude as they were happening and to make a list of these, was 25% happier than a group that was instructed to pay attention to daily annoyances and another group that only recorded neutral life events. The gratitude group also reported more optimism than the other two groups in the study. (Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough, “Counting Blessings versus Burdens,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84, no. 2 (2003), pp. 377-389.)
Take a few moments to look at your life with fresh eyes and identify what you have to be grateful for. Instead of just making a list, allow yourself to feel gratitude for each of these blessings. Feeling gratitude allows us to tap into deeper and more sustainable ways of experiencing fulfillment. When we are grateful for what we already have, we banish disappointment and move into a space of contentment.
As part of your gratitude practice, be sure to friend yourself and express gratitude to yourself for your efforts, traits, talents, and accomplishments. Strengthen the bonds with those in your life by moving beyond your inward feelings of gratitude and by verbally expressing gratitude to them.
Start today to establish an attitude and practice of gratitude. Employ gratitude to reduce stress and to be a better friend to yourself and to others.