Managing Expectations

Like many, I have fell off the grid with many of my previous responsibilities (i.e. blogging) and have engaged in things like Stardew Valley, Korean dramas, and embroidery during this period in quarantine.

Though I would enjoy my time relaxing and engaging in my hobbies, every now and then, I would be hit with a pang of guilt. My internal voice would lecture me, as if I gained a third parent overnight. You should be studying! Why are you playing games? You should be writing! Why are you laying down? Every day was an internal struggle with my own guilt and shame.

As I continue to manage my internal voice and slowly return to previously abandoned responsibilities and hobbies, I found myself struggling with managing my expectations for myself. I was able to write x pages in 1 hour, I should be able to do the same (if not more!) during this quarantine! I could wake up at 7am each day and sleep by midnight before, I should be doing the same during quarantine!

My expectations for myself were based on what I was previously able to do — pre-quarantine, pre-pandemic, and pre-trauma. In forming my expectations for myself, I did not consider that quarantining with my parents and adjusting to a new living situation would affect my productivity. I did not consider that living through a pandemic and managing translations and information for my family would take a toll on my mental capacity for productivity and healing. I did not consider that my abandoning of responsibilities was my own response to coping with trauma and engaging in self care. I was too busy looking outward and blaming myself for my lack of productivity instead of looking inward and examining the reasons why.

Therefore, when forming expectations during this time and in general, I found it helpful to keep the following in mind:

1. Reflect on your capacity for productivity before COVID-19 — and divide that expectation in half.

This is a time of collective trauma for everyone. In order to overcome this and prevent future pain and the transmission of intergenerational trauma, we must allow time for healing. It is easier said than done. Not everyone can afford the time needed to engage in self-care and healing, and not everyone can engage in cutting productivity in half if work expectations remain the same, or if expectations are higher, as seen in the case of essential workers.

What we can do in these situations, then, is to adjust your internal monologue in regards to your productivity. Not meeting expectations? When that internal voice says: Try harder! What are you doing?? You can’t even do these little things? Take a step back. I am doing my best. I am doing what I can. I am trying my best to meet the expectations and that is okay.

2. Reflect on how COVID-19 has changed your current situation. How do those changes relate to your productivity and overall wellbeing?

For myself and many others, we found ourselves moving back to live with family members as fully-grown adults. This may mean new restrictions in contrast with previous freedoms, adjusting schedules and mealtimes to align with our family members’ schedules, and being flexible with working from home in a new environment. Other individuals may find themselves living alone as roommates and friends moved away, and finding ways to cope with solitude and living alone. Some may also find themselves without work and with finances tighter than ever.

Reflecting on the nature of the changes to your situation and how those changes affect you, your wellbeing, and your productivity, take note of what you may need now that you didn’t need before. Do you need more naps? More time to unwind? Do you need shorter blocks of working time with more breaks scattered in between? Checking in with yourself is important in general, but even more so during this time of high stress and uncertainty.

Though it is easier said than done, I am hopeful that these are good first steps towards self care and better wellbeing during this time. Sometimes we are our own biggest enemy, but self reflection helps keep ourselves ‘in check’ and knowing what’s best for ourselves.

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