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Adjusting Expectations When Your Body Lets You Down: 5 Tips

“What’s the matter Baby?” I asked this because my husband was sitting on the couch with a look on his face that I couldn’t quite read. “I’m angry. This couldn’t have happened at a worse time” he said. As I mentioned in Wednesday’s post, he’s had a relapse with his pericarditis, which leaves him short of breath, exhausted, and generally unwell.

My husband absolutely loves Christmas.

He loves putting up the decorations, hosting our neighborhood Christmas party, attending Christmas programs at church, driving around looking at the lights, and family gatherings – basically, he loves everything about it.

The return of this illness means that he won’t be able to do most of those things this year, and he’s having a hard time dealing with it. His body has let him down.

Does this sound familiar? If you live with fibromyalgia or another chronic illness, I can almost guarantee you’ve been there. Maybe not in this particular scenario, but I’d venture to guess that most of us have been disappointed and angry that our bodies let us down by keeping us from doing things we wanted or needed to do.

When this happens, we have a choice: we can let these feelings of betrayal ruin things for us, or we can adjust our expectations. Making adjustments to our expectations helps us avoid those feelings of ‘missing out’ that can come along with not being able to do everything we’d like to do.

5 Tips To Adjust Expectations

  1. Realize that ‘different’ does not mean ‘less than’. Yes, sometimes ‘different’ may mean fewer activities, less running from place to place, etc., but that doesn’t mean things have to be less enjoyable. For example, although we won’t be able to participate in many of our normal Christmas activities, we still have plenty of avenues for enjoying the season. In fact, it may be even better because we have the opportunity to actually slow down and reflect on our reasons for celebrating.
  2. Reevaluate what’s really important. When our energy reserves are low or we have to make adjustments to our activity levels it’s helpful to take a look at what’s really important to us. What are our non-negotiables? What are those things that absolutely make or break it for us? Using the example of our Christmas activities again, what’s really important to us is the reason we celebrate: the birth of Christ. That means that our non-negotiables are continuing our tradition of reading the Christmas story on Christmas Eve (I’ll definitely be the one reading this year), and setting up our nativity sets as a visual reminder. Another non-negotiable is setting up our Christmas trees, mainly because we’re both big kids and love looking at them all lit up and decorated.
  3. Get creative in finding alternatives. When there are things we can no longer do, sometimes we just have to find alternatives. It can actually be fun to get creative with figuring out what we can do as a substitute for the things we usually do. Once those creative juices start flowing, we may find new things that we enjoy even more.
  4. Realize that others’ expectations belong to them. In other words, we can’t allow others’ expectations of us to rule – we may have to set boundaries, even with our close family members. So often (and yes, I have to admit I’m guilty of this) we allow others to set expectations for us. When we do that, we end up frustrated and disappointed when we can’t meet them. People really don’t understand chronic illness, and honestly, we shouldn’t expect them to if they haven’t experienced it for themselves, but that means they also don’t understand what we are and are not capable of. We have to determine that for ourselves.
  5. Understand that it really is okay to simplify things. Whether it’s Christmas celebrations or everyday life, it really is okay to keep things simple. So many times we think that in order for something to be ‘good enough’ or ‘special’ it has to be fancy or complicated, but when we remember special times, are our memories of the elaborate decorations and fancy food, or are they of time spent with those we love and cherish?

Adjusting our expectations is not easy and it won’t happen overnight. Sometimes they’re so ingrained it’s a struggle, but if we can change our expectations of how things ‘should’ be and work within the parameters of how they really are, we usually find we’re able to have more enjoyable, fulfilling lives.

How do you deal with those times when you feel your body has let you down? How do you move forward? Please share!

Blessings,

~Terri

10 comments

  1. Sandy and I are telling this to ourselves on a daily basis, as we see the neighbors going overboard on Christmas decorations. Sometimes simpler is more in keeping with the style of our home. Thanks for putting this into organized words to share.

    1. Thanks so much for sharing George! My preferences run more to simplicity anyway. I’m not one for a lot of stuff sitting around. I do put out more at Christmas time just because I have so many things that hold special memories for me, but I still keep the decorating simple. I hope you and Sandy enjoy this holiday season!

  2. I’m so sorry about your husband, Terri, and a difficult time to have to be struggling heath-wise (not that there’s ever a good time!) I do hope things can level out for him, is there any idea as to how long such a relapse could last, when things are expected to improve a little..? I think you’ve done brilliantly with this post because adjusting expectations is a huge part of my ‘new normal’, as I’m sure many here will agree for them, too. Realising that others’ expectations belong to them is a powerful thought! Simplifying things and finding creative ways around are both really important and I find it helps to think outside the box a little, and also to break things down into more manageable tasks with rest being higher priority. Sending love to you both xx

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words Caz! Hubby is starting to see some results from his medication kicking back in now, so hopefully he’ll be feeling better soon, though he’ll have to be on his meds for 3 more months now. He’s breathing much better now than he was on Monday, so I’m hopeful. I’m not going to say he’s better anymore though – I’ve said that twice, and both times right afterward he got worse again. I told him I must have cursed him by say it….😊 Thanks for sharing some excellent suggestions also. We really DO have to think outside the box, don’t we? When we have health challenges we just can’t continue to do things the way we’ve always done them (not with positive results anyway). I’m like you – I’m big on breaking things down into manageable tasks. That’s been key for me in finding ways to get things done and not wear myself out in the process. Sending love back to you, sweet friend!

  3. I am so sorry for what your husband is going through right now. I know this isn’t the best time of year to be experiencing difficulties with an illness, but I guess unfortunately our illness don’t listen to what we want and only does what it wants. This was a beautiful and brilliant post because adjustments are often necessary. I am also that crazy person that believes strongly in the power of the mind and if we all just think positive thoughts, great things will happen! Please know that I am sending you and your husband lots of love and positive vibes and I hope nothing but the best for y’all!

    1. Thank you so much Alyssa! You’re right; we don’t get to choose when we have to cope with an illness. We just have to determine how to cope with them in a constructive way. Most times that means making adjustments, and having a positive instead of negative attitude about it certainly helps. Thanks so much for your well-wishes dear friend. Sending love back!

      1. You are so welcome! It isn’t always easy adjusting our life to an illness, but we just must make the most out of it! I am going to keep you and your dear husband in my thoughts and sending y’all LOTS of wellness and positive vibes as I do believe they help!

    1. Thanks for reading Don! I know exactly what you’re talking about. I’ve experienced it both with the limitations of my fibromyalgia and with getting….let’s just say….more seasoned ha ha. Sometimes we just need to embrace the new normal and make some adjustments to those high expectations we have. Blessings to you!

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