B+ is the New A: Why Managing Expectations Is Critical To Managing Frustration

managing expectations

Who isn’t losing a bit of patience during the lockdown, and now the phased reopening that has many of us feeling uncertain and anxious once again? It was easier to stay at home than face the many complicated decisions now about what is actually safe for us amidst our hope to have things back to normal already. It can be hard managing expectations when patience is low, and guess what else creeps up? Frustration. Anxiety. Anger.

The lockdown might have been novel at first. Whatever Zoom you’d want, you could have: Work meetings, classes, workouts (‘Zoom’ba, anyone?). Maybe you played board games with your family or roommates, cleared out 15 years’ worth of files, or repainted your kitchen cabinets the color you fantasized about for months. You binged watched tons, and you read a few novels. Or maybe you just kept your head down and kept working.

But working on three months in, and hello? It’s not hard to want things back to normal already. You want:

  • To sit down in a restaurant (nope, only take-out/delivery and limited outside seating)
  • A salon blowout (they’re starting to reopen, but blow-outs are off the table since they might transmit the virus)
  • To go to church/synagogue already (empty pews)
  • To go to the office and have meetings with people in the same room (so done with Zoom!)

On top of this, anytime housemates, whether family or roommates, spend too much time together, it can bring out the worst in us. There’s no balance of space and time – it’s all one big house arrest, and one long day. (How many times have you heard people joking that they have NO IDEA what day it is anymore?:)

It’s not that we can’t tolerate more of this “new normal,” it’s that we’ve gone back to expecting our previous normal, even though nothing is back to normal. 

The novelty’s worn off, and it’s hard to manage expectations when we want our lives back. To make matters worse, along with our aching desire to return to routine comes all the differing, and politicized opinions about the best way to reopen. So much chatter. It seems like no one really knows, especially since what’s best for one state might not apply to another state. So many countries have had different experiences with lockdowns and reopenings, we also can’t easily compare them to the US.

We’re left in limbo. Inpatient, frustrated, anxious, and angry. Because in part we’ve slipped into wishing things weren’t as they are, no longer wanting to accept what’s actually going on. It’s hard to keep accepting something you don’t want, especially when you are frustrated waiting to get your life back to where it was, and don’t even have an end date.

Yet somehow we need to keep going. To work from home – or for many of us – to search for a new job. To find new ways to let our hair grow out, eat take-out, and rely on YouTube for yoga. Things aren’t going back to normal anytime soon, and things will likely remain suboptimal for the near future.

Lately, I have adopted a refrain in talking with people about this low grade annoyance and managing expectations: the concept of people’s best being more like a B+ than an A. Not just with those around us, but for ourselves too. Almost all of us have “dropped a letter grade” in handling life in some way, shape, or form.

Managing expectations about ourselves and the people around us can go a long way in helping manage our frustrations in general. If we can accept and remember that B+ is in fact an A during these tumultuous times, we can help keep ourselves ahead of the game when it comes to adjusting.

When hope masquerades as expectations, there is no winning the fight against reality. Wishing things were different will ALWAYS be a setup for frustration.

No matter how much we wish it were otherwise, we are not out of the woods yet on this COVID-19 thing.  Keeping expectations realistic can help keep our moods more stable.

B+ is the new A.


For more help managing anxiety and learning to use it as a tool, check out my book Hack Your Anxiety and the online digital tools I’ve developed here, or sign up for my free mini e-course here.

Alicia H. Clark, PsyD