My Dad always used to say, “Hope for the best, but expect (and prep for) the worst.”
I think about those words a lot as a caregiver. On the one hand, I am really trying to be mindful of the vibes I put into the universe, and so I feel like I should only focus on the first part of that saying. But on the other hand, I’ve been a caregiver long enough to know that expectations are everything. If our expectations are out of whack, then our moods are sure to follow. And if we prep for the worst, we can usually turn a bad situation into a better one.
I was reminded of this earlier this week when I drove someone to the hospital. He needed something that should only have taken 15 minutes – half hour tops. So I just grabbed my partially charged phone, car keys and wallet – we’d be done in an hour…
How many times will I make that rookie mistake? I do it at least once per year. First, the hospital kept us waiting 45 minutes. And then, the nurse who was scheduled to help finished her shift, so we waited for a reassignment. And then, the new nurse decided to give him a bag of IV fluids. Two and a half hours later, we were done. And in those two and a half hours, I had nothing to do.
I should know better; I’ve got pro status. I wrote the list on what to always have on hand as a caregiver, and yet I didn’t follow my own advice. Expect, and prep for, the worst.
Managing expectations isn’t just about staying productive when you’re a caregiver; it’s about keeping your stress levels in check. What we expect affects our moods. Think about it: if we go to a doctor’s appointment and expect it will only take 30 minutes, or the doctor will actually see us at our scheduled time, or we won’t need any follow on tests or appointments, or our parents will be ready on time, or we won’t have to go to the pharmacy afterward, then we end up stressed when none of those things happen. Because they never do!
However, if we head out to that appointment expecting something good will happen (but having no expectation of what that good thing will be), it will. Maybe the receptionist in the doctor’s office will make you smile. Maybe you’ll have a special moment with your parent. Maybe you’ll relish the down time while waiting, and waiting, for the doctor to see you.
Think about your next “day off” – the one where you only work one job – the non-paying one. If you expect that you can run errands, clean the house, exercise, take a nap, read a book, visit someone and cook a healthy meal, you will most likely be frustrated when it doesn’t all happen. (Or you might trip on your cape, superwoman, if you actually get it all done!) But, if your expectation is that you will have a productive day, you will be productive. Just don’t define productive by a certain number of tasks. What we expect affects our moods.
I’m off to the hospital this afternoon. It should only take two hours…but it might take five!
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