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Stress Management for Health Course

Realistic Expectations

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Realistic Expectations


Over half the stress we experience is the result of unmet expectations. (Brian Luke Seaward (2000) Emergency Medical Services, Jones and Bartlett Services)


A major, potential source of internal stress in our lives is something called Unrealistic Expectations.  These unrealistic expectations can be about ourselves, other people, or the world in general.  One such example of an unrealistic expectation is connected with the technology of flight.  Flying is a very new concept in terms of our evolutionary span - being only a mere hundred years since the Wright brothers first powered flight, and its an incredibly complex and sophisticated process to get an object like an aircraft off the ground.  There are many potential hitches that can delay aircraft, such as poor weather, unserviceability of the aircraft etc. and many of us don't tend to factor these potential difficulties into the equation when we expect our aircraft to turn up, on time and depart on time, all of the time.  We have become somewhat blasť regarding the technicalities and difficulties involved.  If you expect to go to an aircraft and things to run smoothly all the time then this is an unrealistic expectation and if you have not factored into your plans the complex nature of flying and therefore its inherent risk of delay, then your expectations may not be met.  Hence if your aircraft is delayed you are not going to be very happy to say the least.  These unrealistic expectations do not only apply to technology we can also have unrealistic expectations of ourselves, and of other people and the world in general, when situations don't measure up to our expectations.


Doctor David Posen, who has written an excellent article entitled, Stress Management for Patient and Physician talks about unrealistic expectations.  He remembers one of his patients who stated he felt guilty that he did not love his stepdaughter as much as his own children. Dr Posen suspects that many step parents have problems with this issue.  He asked his patient where he learned of this notion that he should feel as much love for a stepchild as he does for his own children.  He suggested to his patient that his expectation was probably unrealistic, especially so early on in the new relationship.  This helped his patient see that his feelings were normal, his worry was unrealistic and that with time his feelings for his stepchildren would deepen.  This reduced his inappropriate feelings of guilt and therefore relieved his stress.


Another unrealistic expectation could be about stress management itself.  You may have an unrealistic expectation that now you have been taught stress management you should never suffer stress again.


At the same time its important not to go to the other extreme and expect to be let down by everything and everybody its about trying to get a balance between the two.

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