I heard the other day that if you are depressed, you are thinking about the past, and if you are anxious, you are thinking about the future.
Many times, that is true. So, what do you do if you find yourself battling depression and or anxiety? One thing I tell my clients is that the amount of stress you will experience in your life is directly related to how far away your expectations and hopes are from reality. For example, let’s say you want a special Christmas celebration with your family. You think it’s a reasonable expectation. Other people get together for Christmas and enjoy spending time together.
However, the reality of your family is that your adult child and his spouse are in the middle of pretty major marriage issues and are considering divorce. We can just stop right there. You are going to have to adjust your expectations. Hopefully, they will work it out, but Christmas is probably not going to be warm and fuzzy. Does that mean it’s all ruined and you have to be depressed and or anxious about it? No. You may not like the situation, but you can accept it. And you can probably even enjoy whatever there is to enjoy about Christmas.
If that’s not a realistic expectation, then let yourself off the hook.
You’re not going to enjoy Christmas this year. That’s okay. You may not like it, but you can accept it. At this point, I usually draw two circles. One circle is expectations and one circle is reality. If they are very far apart from each other, the space in between is the amount of stress you will experience. And stress is involved in both depression and anxiety. If you can adjust your expectations (It’s easier than adjusting reality), and bring that circle closer to reality, your stress level will go down. If you want to live peacefully, and get rid of as much depression and anxiety as you can, bring your expectations circle so close to reality that they interlock. Now, live in that space as much as possible. There are other things that can help with depression and anxiety, but adjusting your expectations so they are as close to reality as possible is one of the most important things you can do. You are not “settling”! You don’t have to like reality. But if you can practice accepting reality, and adjusting your expectations, you can experience more peace, and surprisingly, more joy.