How Are You Doing Now?

news image

Balancing the resource budget, adjusting expectations to achieve greater success.

In the coming weeks, CTN’s Neuropsychology Team will be sharing a series of posts to support the mental wellness of the children, youth and families we serve. We hope that these posts and additional resources will provide comfort and encouragement as we adjust to our new ways of working, interacting and going about our daily lives.

The second post in this series is from Dr. Jennifer Saltzman-Benaiah, Psychologist & Specialty Team Facilitator, Children's Treatment Network and Mackenzie Health. Dr. Jen has been supporting children, youth and families with disabilities and developmental needs at CTN for over a decade.

Go on…ask me how I’m doing?

I’m okay. I had a busy day. I did laundry, arranged a contact-free grocery pick up, cooked dinner and tried to help each of my kids with their home learning. I chatted with my mom on the phone and the kids played with their friends online for hours, so everyone has been in a pretty good mood. The toilets still need cleaning, the laundry hasn’t been put away and I haven’t finished writing the new post for work, but tomorrow’s another day, right?

I’m starting to see life in terms of new goals and I am meeting expectations with some success. But it’s still overwhelming. With home education, extra cooking and cleaning, there seems to be more goals than ever and there are still only 24 hours in each day. I’m exhausted by 7 p.m. 

We all have a limit to our energy and mental resources each day. How can we best use these resources to successfully achieve our goals and expectations?

One way to think about goals and expectations is in terms of a budget. Just like a budget, we need to think about what we can manage (or afford) and what we need the most. Anxiety and behaviour often happen when the demands (or costs) are too high for the resources we have. Limiting goals and adjusting expectations can reduce costs and help keep our budget in check. Lowering certain expectations doesn’t mean they aren’t important. They’re just not a priority right now. You can make changes later when you can afford it.

Here’s an example…before physical distancing, the goal of self-care and hygiene involved choosing clothes, getting dressed, combing hair, brushing teeth and showering. There were daily expectations that happened in a particular sequence and at a specific time so that we could all get to work/school in good shape and on time.

During physical distancing, many of us are spending our days at home. Does it really matter if we wear pyjamas or clothes? Is it important to shower every day? Are these things a priority?  Why not simplify these routines to reduce demands? 

In our house we still have a goal of maintaining self-care and hygiene, but we have adjusted expectations to focus our energy and resources on other aspects of life. Here’s an example of some expectations in our home:

Expectation # 1

Don't be naked. Nobody wants to see that! You can choose what you want to wear. It doesn’t need to match. It can be pyjamas. It should be appropriate to the weather if you are going outside.  
Expectation #2
Don’t smell.  It’s unpleasant to be around people are who are smelly, so brush your teeth, wear deodorant and take a bath or shower after you exercise or as needed.
Expectation #3

Be clean. To stay healthy, we should all be clean. Wash your hands often and properly. Change your clothes regularly. Let me know what you prefer to wear so I can make sure to wash it and keep you stocked up.

Everything has a cost – moving, sitting, watching, listening, writing, brushing, focusing, eating, etc. Adjusting expectations helps balance the demands with the resources (time, energy and patience) we have to spend each day so that we can be more successful. 

For more information on balancing resources and expectations, please watch this video or check out these other resources that may be of interest to you and your family.

There were two ways to be happy: improve your reality or lower your expectations.
 - Jodi Picoult