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The Stress of Expectations

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We all have certain standards by which we like to live our lives. These standards vary from person to person, but there is no doubt that we each have them.

Many years ago the family took my grandmother to a restaurant where a bowl of free peanuts (in the shell) was served at each table as an appetizer (to make us thirsty, no doubt, but free nonetheless). It was tradition at this particular restaurant to throw the peanut shells on the floor. It was great fun because, after all, how often is it okay to throw trash on the floor? We all crunched up our shells and threw them with great gusto… except for my grandmother that is. She had them in her hand but just couldn’t do it! She wanted to be part of the fun, but it was so against her “standard” of cleanliness that she just made a face and put them back on the table!

When you are going through a challenging time such as a serious illness, you have demands on your time and energy that can make it impossible to do everything the way you normally do it. Let’s say you simply cannot go to bed with dirty dishes in the sink. You’ve tried it but end up getting out of bed to clean them up after all.

There is nothing wrong with this; in fact I personally find it admirable and I’m glad my wife and I both feel this way about dirty dishes. But if you are dealing with serious illness you won’t always have the energy to meet that standard. You just won’t. And you can’t do anything about it: it is what it is. Imagine the stress, though, of trying to meet that standard when you aren’t up to it.

This is the time in your life when you need to give yourself a break, and lower expectations of yourself. So what if the dishes stack up? Or the laundry piles up? Or the lawn grows too long? Are these things really worth all the stress you will generate by trying or wanting to do them when you can’t? My guess is “no.”

Consider asking someone to do some of these “important” things for you. This may not be a good option because you might have to “train” them to do things your way and that too will take a lot of energy.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.