Setting Realistic Expectations During Challenging Times

Setting Realistic Expectations During Challenging Times

Line of people walking along a curve graphWith all the restrictions that we are currently facing due to the coronavirus, our personal freedoms, our routines and our general way of living need to be adjusted. These restrictions are placed upon us for the safety of one another. It’s almost as if a new set of laws have been put in place for us to abide by. Laws and rules exist to govern our behavior and maintain a sense of order.

Unfortunately, there are no specific guidelines put out to guide our attitudes and way of thinking during this time. Maybe in the future there will be some standards for coping that will be communicated to the public, just like we have a set of standards for coughing and washing our hands thoroughly to reduce transmission of the coronavirus. With that in mind, I would like to suggest one idea to help us cope with the new way of living we are now facing.

We need to adjust the expectations we have towards ourselves and others.

In general, unrealistic expectations can increase feelings of anxiety and unhappiness. While, having more realistic expectations can lead to greater emotional stability. During times of uncertainty and times of challenge, we must be mindful not to create unrealistic expectations. And, we must remember that we will need to adjust our previous expectations for ourselves and others.

It is vital for people’s emotional health to set realistic expectations for themselves and their family. Obviously, we want to maintain some sense of order, and we need to be flexible, not rigid with our expectations. This can first be done by identifying any unrealistic expectations you might be having and then adjusting that expectation to fit your circumstances.


One unrealistic expectation might be:

“I must maintain structure/routine and continuous daily educational activities for my children now that they are not in school. If I don’t, then I’m failing them and myself.”

A more realistic expectation could be:

“I will do my best to maintain some structure and educational activities. I will accept that my energy/time is limited. And, I will remember that my number one priority is to be loving and flexible toward myself and my children.”


Another unrealistic expectation:

“I must show strength, no emotion, and courage at all times.”

A more realistic expectation is:

“It is normal to feel vulnerable and afraid. Showing emotions means I’m being authentic and modeling to others that is alright to feel this way.”

When our own personal expectations for ourselves and others is not met, we feel disappointed, guilty, anxious, upset and more conflict is likely to increase. The challenge today is to remember to adjust our expectations to align with our new reality (that things are difficult right now, that doing less might be wiser than striving to do more). Then, we will find ourselves confidently enduring this most challenging period of time that our world is facing.

Kevin Neuman, LMSW, CAADC

Kevin Neuman, LMSW, CAADC, is a clinician at the Pine Rest Retreat Clinic and is available through teletherapy during the current stay at home order.

A fully Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) and Certified Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor (CAADC), Kevin has worked in the social work field since 1999. He received his Bachelor of Science in Psychology and his Master in Social Work from Grand Valley State University. He has completed training as an acupuncture detoxification specialist.




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