Stress-pectations: The combination of the weight of expectations and the crippling anxiety that you might never live up to them.

So, super breezy post today…

Last week, I had the pleasure of partaking in my beloved tradition of watching The Game (Ohio State v. Michigan for those who don’t care about college football) at the best Ohio State bar in Chicago.  The plan for the day was pretty simple – Buckeyes would win and I’d drink my weight in Bud Light.

What I did not count on was the life-crisis/therapy session with my sister that took place during our two-mile walk to McGees.  Previous to the holiday, I had been having terrible trouble trying to muster up a blog post.  Days turned into weeks and then suddenly my last post was over a month old.  Nothing I wrote seemed to matter enough.  It was easier to just give up.

This sentiment is not unique to a 26-year-old trying to wield words into something funny and meaningful.  We all have goals and expectations for our lives.  I like to think that most of us try to set the bar high.  That is a respectable way to live.  You should think highly enough of yourself that you aspire to achieve great levels of success.

What hampers you while working toward your goals is the tendency to beat yourself up when you get off-track.  When you know what the ultimate goal is, it can be quite difficult to navigate the journey.  Slight missteps or shortcomings can appear more detrimental than they really are.  Talking it out when this happens is key.

Bottling it all up is what leads to an impromptu Saturday morning sob-fest where your sister is forced to reassure you that you are not, in fact, the biggest failure to walk the face of this earth.  She also (rightly) encourages you to halt the dramatics and toughen the f*ck up – the expletive was necessary.

Of course stress and high expectations stick together.  If you have lofty goals, then there is likely a considerable amount of hard work necessary to achieve them.  Even if you love what you do (and hopefully you do), the effort you put forth will take its toll.  Acknowledging that stress is a nonnegotiable when it comes to achieving your goals is the best way to begin managing it.

Personally, I experience the worst stress when I choose not to deal with difficult situations.  I’ll inevitably go from zero to doomsday scenarios in about .6 seconds.  If I didn’t turn a blind eye, then I wouldn’t have missed kickoff because I was wiping away mascara tears brought on from my emotional eruption.  I mean, I did prescribe myself some tequila shots in the aftermath, but I know there is a better way!

Stress doesn’t have to be this looming monster just waiting to derail your plans.  If you’re going through a tough patch or creative drought, you can schedule in a “minor anxiety attack” just as you would a writing session or a meeting.  If you can look past the slight exaggeration there (man, I really need to take my sister’s advice when it comes to my dramatics!), you might see that it can actually help.  If you expect stress, then you can plan to deal with it.  No, it won’t (unfortunately) erase it altogether but it can ease the severity.

So here I am writing a post.  It might not be great.  It might not even be good.  Hell, you might not even read past the first sentence!  But I’m putting it down and moving forward toward my goals.  That’s the most any one of us can ask of ourselves – work hard and persevere through the adversity while always keeping the ultimate goal in sight.  Expect the best and accept your best.

Now I turn to you:

  1. How do you manage stress?
  2. Do you have someone to talk it out with?  Who?
  3. If you keep your expectations high, do you find you’re disappointed more often?
  4. Is it helpful and worthwhile to keep your eye on the big picture when you hit an obstacle?

Comment below or chime in on Twitter and Instagram with #stresspectations!

Published by Collette Reitz