How to Handle Expectation Hangovers

Have you ever given much thought to how expectations effect your daily life?

Just think...

  • You're going to make spaghetti for dinner but work runs late, you get home, and you're exhausted and it doesn't sound good anymore...
  • You're excited to get started working on that next big home project this weekend but Saturday hits and all you want to do is watch Netflix...
  • You're on your way to that new restaurant everyone has been talking about but when you get there it's not at all like you imagined and they don't even have wine...
  • The perfect idea popped into your head for an art project and you're having a blast working on it but when it's finished, it's not what you thought it'd be...

If you can relate to any of these you've probably experienced an Expectation Hangover, a nagging and disappointing feeling that occurs when something doesn't go "right" or as planned. EHs happen when we build up how things are "supposed to be" or "should" be. When our expectations aren't matched perfectly or even slightly, we can feel upset, grumpy, and even devestated.

Expectations themselves aren't "wrong" but when we rely on them for our happiness and to determine whether or not an experience was "worth it", we usually set ourselves up for disapointment.

I'm a romantic at heart and often find myself idealizing any given situation or upcoming event. Even going to a restaurant with my husband means I'm conjuring up a mental image of perfectly dim lighting, a tall wine glass, and deep conversations. That's fun and all but if we show up and the place is nothing like that - I feel disappointed no matter what I tell myself.

There are a few things we can all do to help prevent expectation hangovers and they can be life changing!

Understand the Power of Your Story and Perception

This was one of my first epiphanies during my Health & Wellness Program. I discovered the distinct difference between the story I was telling myself and the reality of what was actually unfolding. I reflected back to a trip to DC one morning that was full of stress and anxiety -- that was entirely created by me. I really wanted to find the "perfect" breakfast cafe to eat at but nothing was like anything back home. We walked around for almost 30 minutes as I mentally pouted like an eight year old. Then it hit me - I'm not at home. I'm in a brand new city and instead of trying to find whatever expectation I had conjured up, I decided to sit my bum down in the next place we found and take in the atmosphere. Any guesses? I had a great time.

The same things happen when we recollect an interaction with someone we dislike. Ever notice how quick and easy it can be to say negative things about someone you're not too fond of? The stories we create about ourselves and others manifest into the reality we experience. If you go into anything thinking you're going to hate it, chances are you will.

Acknowledge that Assumptions Tend to Be a Thief of Joy

Often enough, I overhear someone complaining about someone else. We've all been there. But when we assume anything about another person, we steal both their opportunity and ours to really listen, engage, and be in the moment. Before you head in to work, go to a party, or interact with a new person, set assumptions aside and focus on being present in the time you're in.

Lean into the Power of Letting Go

Regardless of how hard we all try, expectations erupt in our daily thoughts, hopes, and dreams. There's a difference between what we wish to manifest and visualize and what we hang onto in terms of expectations. When strong expectations arise, acknowledge them and then remind yourself that no matter what happens, happiness is not a rule only allowed if things go one particular way.